The holiday season is upon us, and the collectors in your life certainly deserve something fun and interesting, right? What about if you’re in a Secret Santa exchange with other collectors? If you’re running short on ideas, here are a few to consider … even if you’re just buying a present for yourself any time of year.
Most of these options are inexpensive, whether you send away for autographs, collect sets, like to read about cards or are just a practical sort. Here’s a list of ten ideas.
1. Membership to online TTM (Through the Mail)/Collector sites
Through the Mail (TTM) autograph collecting is like searching for gold in the Old West. You know that treasure is there but you are not quite sure where to locate it. In the world of TTM, you want to find who is signing and strike while the iron is hot before the well runs dry. The face of the hobby changes daily on the whims of players and celebrities whose signing habits change at the drop of a hat. Keeping track of the ebb and flow of autograph signers has become the life blood of the three primary players in the TTM information spectrum: Sports Card Forum, Sports Collectors Networks and StarTiger. Every collector should be a member of at least one of these online communities.
These online hubs for discerning collectors are constantly updated by site members with minute-by-minute posts on TTM successes, failures and address changes. These sites offer a variety of features and benefits at a wide range of prices but ultimately all offer similar core features, including keeping TTM collectors abreast of who provide the best chance of success and how to obtain that success, the opportunity to manage their collections and the ability for collectors to interact with others in the hobby on a variety of subjects. A few include:
Sports Card Forum (https://www.sportscardforum.com/)
Sports Card Forum provides sports and non-sports card collectors a place to discuss, buy, sell and trade. Sports Card Forum maintains tools that allow collectors to manage their collections online, information about what is happening with the hobby, as well as providing robust data to send out for autographs through the mail.
With thousands of active collectors posting each week, Sports Card Forum provides collectors of everything sports an easy to use online meeting place to manage and build their collections.
1 week trial – Free, 1 month for $4.99, 6 months for $23.95, 12 months for $34.95
Collecting Autographs? StarTiger can help you locate tons of addresses, manage and showcase your collection, discuss TTM with other collectors and more. Members will find lots of autograph feedback from a very active membership group for both sports and celebrity.
Sports Collectors Network (http://www.sportscollectors.net/default.aspx)
Basic Membership – Free, Premium Membership – $14.99/year
The sports autograph collector resource and community. This is a true collector’s paradise. Autograph resources, manage collections, shop and trade and interact with collectors.
Basic membership provides you limited access to most of the site’s resources while premium membership gives you a complete run of the site.
2. “Junk Era” unopened boxes
Most card producers (such as Topps, Fleer and Donruss) flooded the market with product in the 80s and 90s giving birth to the “junk era.”. Thirty years later, this has resulted in a bonanza for lovers of cheap, old unopened wax boxes. Most junk era boxes can now be found for less than $20 each with some as low as $5. No, what’s inside isn’t likely going to be worth a ton, but opening old packs of cards is still fun.
Check out your local card shop, antique marts, or second-hand stores and you may be lucky enough to stumble upon some of these boxes that are now close to 30 years old or older. While shipping costs do bring the overall cost up, eBay, and Amazon both offer a large selection of junk era boxes of baseball, football, basketball and hockey cards.
Some of my favorites include 1992 GameDay Football for $15-$25 (shipping included). These cards are large format and perfect for sending out to get autographed (see my article on the 1992 GameDay set) or getting them signed in person. I recently purchased a box which had cards of numerous Hall of Famers including Montanta, Marino, Thomas, Taylor, E Smith, Rice, Kelly and many stars from the early 90s. Heck you can buy a whole case for $125 plus shipping.
A 1991-92 Fleer basketball unopened box is another cheapie. You can’t go wrong with this underrated basketball set. You are certain to score Jordan, Bird, and Magic Johnson cards.
Lastly, the 1989 Topps baseball box can be yours for $20 (shipping included) or less. Take a chance and you are almost certain to find pack fresh cards of rookie cards of Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, or Craig Biggio, or vintage Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens and Tony Gwynn.
3. Books, Books, and More Books
There are a plethora of books focusing on cards and collecting that have been written over the past 50 years. But, if your discerning collector is looking for exceptionally good reads, here are three fun books I have recently read that every collector should enjoy.
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book – Paperback (April 1, 1991)
Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris provide readers of The Great American Baseball Card Flipping Trading and Bubble Gum Book with a look at baseball in the 1950s through more than two hundred cards, with amusing bios on some of the game’s most colorful characters and observations on the baseball card phenomenon.
As a kid, I loved this book when it was first issued and it still holds up today. The blurbs that accompany the images of vintage 50s cards still make me laugh.
Available on Amazon – Price starting at $3.46 (hardcover) and $1.95 (paperback)
Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection (A 35-Year History, 1951-1985) – Hardcover (1985)
This book dates to the mid-1980s so you won’t find anything it in older than that, but it’s great for anyone who loves vintage Topps baseball cards. Organized by year, readers get over 21,000 full color reproductions of Topps cards from 1951-1985. There are the lifetime statistics of over 4,000 baseball players-information on virtually every member of every team from 1951-1985.
This is a coffee table book that offers a fun and informative trip down memory lane.
Available on Amazon – Price starting at $33.84 (hardcover)
Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict – December 18, 2018 by Tanner Jones
Featuring humor, baseball cards and Jose Canseco stories, Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict is a relatively new book that’s a lot of fun for collectors.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy baseball cards. When Tanner Jones came back to the hobby as an adult, he instantly fell in love with baseball cards all over again. In his signature comedic tone, Jones retells his adventures in acquiring millions of cards, how he became a custom card creator, and the day he spent with his childhood hero, Jose Canseco, landing both of them on the cover of Beckett Baseball magazine.
By popular demand, he shares the strategies used to assemble his world-famous collection, and how he quickly sold it for profit, while managing to keep several of his favorite pieces. Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict is an entertaining and insightful read for anyone who collects, buys or sells cards or just remembered when they did.
Available on Amazon – Price starting at $12.95 (paperback)
Autograph Collecting Secrets: Tools and Tactics for Through-The-Mail, In-Person and Convention Success by Troy A Rutter | Oct 4, 2016
TTM legend Troy Rutter opens his playbook and reveals his secretes of obtaining autographs through the mail. This is the perfect TTM guide for the new collector or the person reentering the hobby. It’s a fun quick read that will become a valuable reference for any TTM collectors.
Available on Amazon – Price starting at $14.95 (paperback)
4. eBay gift card
This is a ticket to Disney Word for any sports collectors. Available on eBay, at Target, Walmart or anywhere gift cards are sold, eBay gift cards can be purchased from $25 – $500. You can even buy a digital version. Your recipient will need a PayPal account to use the card but once the PayPal account is set up it is quite easy to use. eBay keeps a running balance of what funds are available on the card once the card has been entered into the system after the first purchase. This is a great stocking stuffer for any collector.
5. Vintage Sports Games
A favorite of mine growing up, All Star Baseball by Cadaco (no longer in production) allows the player(s) to insert player discs into a spinner on the game board and spin to determine what happens in that at bat. Numerous versions were produced from themed 40s to the late 80s so there are lots of player discs available. Games from the 70s and 80’s with 60 or so player discs can be had on secondary markets for $30-$75 and discs from various editions are also available. There is even a spreadsheet that you can download to build any player disc you’d like. Send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll send it to you for free.
Of course, there are tons of various games that would be fun to play at the holidays or any time. You can find a bunch here.
Who needs video games? This is old school fun in a box.
6. Card Storage and TTM Supplies
Every collector needs supplies. Toploaders, card sheets, storage boxes, and binders as well as stamps and envelopes for your favorite TTMer.
Most supplies are very inexpensive and there’s no need to worry if you’re buying the “right” thing for a fellow collector. eBay has a special section for them.
7. Vintage Food Issue Sets
Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Drakes Cakes, and most recently Utz chips have all produced card sets that are small but a lot of fun. I’m partial to the classic Kellogg 3-D sets from the 1970s and 80s. The sets are fairly common and can be found for very low prices on eBay. These sets feature all stars of the era and are packed with Hall of Famers. Many are available via Buy it Now.
8. Card of the Month Club Membership
There are a few sites that offer card of the month club programs. Most provide you the chance to select baseball or football, choose your favorite team and select your commitment level. They all feature plans where you can pay by the month or pay for six months or a full year and save.
If you like the fun of opening a pack of card, these mystery boxes can be a lot of fun.
Baseballcardsofthemonthclub.com offers two nice gift options to choose from.
- Kids Club ($12.99 a month). Members receive a 10 card Hot pack featured with their favorite team at least one special autograph or relic card as well as a pack of unopened cards
- Slugger Club ($24.99 a month) – Members receive a 10 card Hot pack featured with their favorite team at least one special autograph or relic card as well as a 10 packs of unopened cards.
9. Trip to Atlantic City July 29, 2020 – August 2, 2020
The 2020 National Sports Collectors Convention is in Atlantic City July 29-August 2, 2020. The National is a must for collectors of all levels. If they collect it, it most probably can be found on the show floor. At the show, collectors will find lots of autograph guests, all the of hobby’s biggest companies displaying their most current offerings and millions of cards from every major sport.
If you know a collector who wants to go or if you’ve never been to the National yourself, this is a good time to make plans to do it. And there’s plenty to do outside of the show. You can head to the boardwalk and feast on the world’s best salt water taffy, take a dip in the Atlantic, suntan on the beach or try your luck at a number of casinos.
10. Custom Topps cards (https://www.topps.com/cardbuilder)
If you’ve ever wanted your own baseball card, you’re in luck. Topps allows you to create your very own official card in one of their past designs. You can add your favorite team’s logo or upload your own and then customize every detail. 20-card Packs are $9.99 and feature official Topps card specs: 16-pt-clay-coated glossy stock featuring a protective UV coating. They typically deliver in less than a week.