I met recently with a reader who’s an avid collector of baseball cards, a pursuit baseball fans along with avid collectors of all manner of items can relate to.
When it comes to baseball fans, many people who follow the sport closely have, over the years, picked up baseball cards here and there — perhaps buying them in bunches or simply focusing on specific favorite players.
I still have a mini-collection of Greg Maddux cards stashed someplace. I picked them up years ago at a going-out-of-business card-and-collectibles shop in a small town in Alabama.
The shop had purchased an advertisement — promoting its final sale before shuttering for good — in the local newspaper, where naturally I was toiling away, deadline to deadline.
I wasn’t and am not really a collector, but the ad caught my eye and I had a little free time — so I headed to the shop with the specific intention of checking on the availability of Greg Maddux cards.
From his debut with the Cubs through his years with Atlanta (and later back to the Cubs for a short stint) Maddux was far and away my favorite player.
My cobbled together backup plan if there were no Maddux cards? Pedro Martinez.
But there were a few Maddux cards, so I snatched up the ones I could afford and stored them in plastic sleeves the shop also sold. Along the way like many things, they wound up in a box. None of them were or are especially valuable — but I’ve certainly never considered tossing them out. Over the years, through a few relocations, I’ve always found room in the moving truck for that box.
That’s the high point, more or less, of my experience with baseball cards and sports collectibles in general. Not much, but enough that I understand the pull of collecting. It’s easy for me to see how someone could really catch the bug.
Another thing that’s easy to see? The reason people with large and valuable collections don’t always publicize their hobby — or its location, which is very often their home.
Right here in Roswell a thief recently made off with an unspecified number of valuable comic books, according to police reports, which were stolen from a residence. The police report didn’t specify the editions stolen — and who knows whether that mattered to the crook or crooks involved? The comics weren’t the only things taken, as a handgun and various pieces of sports memorabilia also went missing. But the report specified the books taken were “rare comics.”
Whether chosen carefully by a serious collector, bought on a lark by an amateur obtained by some other means (hopefully short of a break-in), what makes something purchased as a collectible is, obviously, how rare and difficult to find it is. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, things like baseball cards and comic books were vastly overproduced — largely in response to demand by would-be collectors — which led to the creation of a lot of nice, innovative collectibles that were so plentiful they could never really be valuable.
Many years prior to that, I read comic books as a kid and held on to enough of them that I wound up with a collection of sorts. After they’d gathered dust for enough years, I passed them along to a much younger relative who wasn’t worried about dog-ears or whether the books even remained in one piece through multiple re-reads — and that was fine, because him having fun was the whole idea.
I didn’t think of that collection again until years later, when I got wind that something called eBay had been invented.
I couldn’t help but look up some of the editions I remembered from my childhood collection … but quickly wished I hadn’t. Wow. Live and learn.
In the end, collecting collectibles — for all but the most avid enthusiast — is much like choosing other things we gather around us throughout our lives. It’s sometimes hard to know in the beginning what will end up being “valuable” at the end of the day, so pursue the things you enjoy and that interest you. Maybe that develops into something of real worth or maybe not, but along the way, it’s mattered to you regardless and there’s fulfillment in that.
And when you stumble across the rarest, hardest-to-find things that really do matter, be careful to hold on to them.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.