This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles written by readers who tell the stories of the sports memorabilia they collect and why.
Like many of you reading, my baseball journey started as a child. I was captivated by the game, and one player in particular: Jose Canseco. His violent swing, and titanic home runs were addicting. Collecting baseball cards was like owning a piece of my childhood hero. I LOVED being able to pick up new cards of his. From his 1987 Topps, to his 1989 Score to his 1991 Mother’s Cookies cards, I have so many stories and memories attached to each one.
My story likely continues in the same fashion as yours does as well! As a teenager, “life” distracted me from collecting. I became more interested in hanging out with friends and going to my church’s youth group events than I was opening up packs of cards. The strike didn’t help anything, either. I still kept an eye out from time to time on how Jose was doing. Each time he signed with another team, it felt like part of my childhood was slipping away from me. I remember crying my eyes out when he got traded to the Rangers, and I also remember being incredibly excited when he came back to the A’s (though I wasn’t paying nearly as much attention to baseball at that point).
During the “lost years”, my collection found its way into my closet, and stayed there. The only time I would touch them would be whenever I moved. Baseball cards were a huge part of my childhood, and while many people would sell off their collections, I never could bring myself to it. That is, until I became an adult.
In my early 20’s, I got married to a wonderful woman and we had an amazing son. My life filled up quickly with family time and work as I also started up a small web design firm. In 2005, Hurricane Rita hit our area, and we found ourselves without power for a while. Without any ability to work, I decided to pull out my baseball card collection – particularly, the Jose Canseco portion.
I brought them downstairs, and started sorting them, looking through the binder and had a fantastic time doing so. It really turned something on in me again to start collecting. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go with collecting, but I knew I wanted cardboard back in my life again. Eventually, I decided to try collecting every single set of baseball cards from 1980 to 1993. I was shocked to find out that the shipping in most cases was more expensive than the actual set itself. A 1989 Topps set for $8? Yes please! Shipping for $14? C’mon!
The game-used baseball card crazy absolutely captivated me. I ended up buying each and every one I could for under $2, no matter who the player was. There was something about them that just felt so high-tech. Next level stuff.
I ended up becoming bored with this directionless way of collecting, and sold everything- except for my Canseco collection, of course! I found out that selling cards was just as fun for me as collecting, so I decided to buy cards with the intent of selling for profit. Over the next 10 years, I ended up doing deals involving approximately 10 million cards. Anytime I would see a Canseco card, I would mindlessly toss it to the side and keep it, with the plan of one day sorting through everything and building a master checklist. After having gone through so many cards in my past, surely I would have one of the best, if not the best Canseco collection on the planet!
I tried hanging onto the crazy patch cards I’d run into, the autographed baseballs of Pujols & Mantle, the 93 SP Jeter, etc. but I always found myself more interested in selling them than keeping. Fast forward to 2013, I ended up selling everything, where only my Canseco collection remained. I figured the timing was perfect to dig into it and see where I stood. I was disappointed.
While I could probably corner the market on 1991 Donruss Canseco cards, I didn’t have a single Elite. 1997 Topps? You bet! Refractor? I never even saw one. While I had amassed a large quantity of his cards, I found out that I didn’t really have anything special. As a matter of fact, the best card I had was probably worth $10. It is funny to think that the crown jewel of my card collection back then was a card I had a double of that I just gave away to someone on Twitter a month or so ago!
Frustrated, I decided to sell it all. If I could go through millions of cards and not come up with anything special, how could I expect to build anything great? After a few short months, I found a buyer, and he ended up purchasing my entire Canseco collection, aside from a few I kept.
After the collection sold, I started thinking. What if I started up my collection again, but be intentional about it? Instead of mindlessly getting every Canseco I could find, what if I targeted the refractors, die-cuts and serial numbered cards that I could get my hands on? It had to be organized though. I had to have a checklist, and do it right from the beginning, so that is what I did.
Throughout the next year or so, I found myself targeting cards that I loved and bought out a few collections from some previous big time collectors. I probably spent more time working on the checklist and sorting than anything else. This checklist transformed from a Word document, to a speadsheet, to an online spreadsheet to eventually a full-blown searchable website with every card pictured & documented at www.CansecoCollector.com .
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point, I noticed that I already had most everything that hit eBay. My criteria shifted from looking for cards that I thought were cool looking to simply looking for cards I did not have. My checklist has proven to be invaluable for this reason.
Currently, I sit at nearly 4,600 unique items in my collection, with over 900 game-used, autographed and 1/1’s combined. While it has been very time-consuming, it has also been an exciting and rewarding ride.
This is where my collecting habits veer off the beaten path quite significantly from many others. In 2015, my family and I had the pleasure of being invited to Jose’s house for a private signing. We were able to hang out with him for the afternoon while he signed several things for me, tried on jerseys, gloves, etc., chatted, fed his animals, ate cupcakes, played cards and even traded gloves! It was an absolutely amazing time. You can read all about it here.
To make things even better, they put me and Jose on the cover of the August 2015 Beckett Monthly magazine doing the bash. I was given a six-page full color feature in the magazine, and they even made a baseball card out of our cover for the 2015 National in an exclusive NSCC chase set.
If you have never heard my story before, you may wonder why I had Jose try on various jerseys, gloves, hats and more. The reason for this is because I make my own custom baseball cards for my personal collection, and wanted to have my own player-worn cards that no one else could have. Here is a triple booklet card that I have recently made for my collection out of a jersey, cleat and glove that he wore. The bat piece is from a game-used bat that I cut up.
My collecting experience has been greatly enhanced by the online community who takes time out of their busy schedules to notify me of rare Canseco cards that they have, or know about. I am very grateful for everyone who tells me about what shows up. So, for those of you who have helped me or plan on helping me in the future, THANK YOU! Without your help, my collection wouldn’t be nearly as large as it is. Please keep the help coming! It makes the entire collecting experience that much more meaningful to me.
Do you want to tell the story of what you collect and why? From players to teams to complete sets, autographs, game-worn material and anything else that has kept you busy for years, we’d love for you to share your story in your own words and photos. Send us an email: [email protected].