This past week, this site carried links to two very well-written stories about baseball cards published on some very high traffic websites. Both were written by guys who grew up in the late 1980’s or 90’s and offered some fantastic– and very diverse– memories of collecting. Both stories avoided the “my cards aren’t worth what I thought they’d be” angle and focused on the great times of their youth. One writer for SBNation discussed the fun he was having collecting vintage cards now after getting back into the hobby. Another mentioned how cards helped him fall in love with baseball while his rodeo cowboy dad traveled from town to town.
This has actually been a recurring theme lately. As I’ve mentioned, Nick and Debbie Redwine of Nick’s Sportscards tell me new customers come into their store, looking to get back into the hobby they enjoyed as kids.
Other than being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of modern cards available, they know it’s possible to collect again at reasonable price points. If you want to recapture your youth, cards from the overproduced era can be had for a song. If you want to collect vintage, there are still plenty of low-cost options. While some complain about the cost of high-end boxes, there are plenty of products that are much cheaper. Of course, you can also go the pack buying route.
At the shows I’m involved with, we have a reasonably wide assortment of vendors who, for the most part, have items at very reasonable price levels. Almost everyone who comes into our show walks out with a nice grouping of cards. When I’m not too busy at the front, I will chat with people as they depart to see what they bought and to ensure they had a good time finding what they needed or wanted.
This hobby is still mainstream, but a bit more diffuse than it was 20 years ago so we need to continue to be creative in searching for ways to get the word out and tell our story. And just as we did in the hobby’s glory days, we really do have a good story to tell. There are plenty of serious issues and concerns for ‘serious collectors’ but for the vast majority of people, it’s still just something we do with whatever disposable income we want to allot.
For those who want to disparage the ‘overproduction era’, just remember there were a lot of young people and their parents who were having a ton of fun back then and would love to recapture those moments. It’s a massive audience that loved the collecting experience just as kids in the 1960s, 70s and 80s did. Most of the cards they loved aren’t worth much but that’s not the point. It’s the feeling they had then that’s most important. Getting them to recapture some of that says not only a lot about the draw of a tangible connection to sports, it’s a hugely important demographic for the continuing health of the industry.