Seeing the link to the story about the Tim Wallach collector (and I have sent him cards in the past and will send more) reminded me about one of the great underrated parts of our collecting base, what we now call the “super collector”. Most aren’t looking to collect every single card of a player ever printed, but they are a dedicated lot nonetheless.
I’m sure back in my 1980s dealing days we had tons of collectors as I evolved my business from commons and stars to a large percentage of what we call “oddball” cards of featured players. I even met an Oddibe McDowell collector along the way. Yes, in those days, it was easy to build up a nice collection on any player and yes some of the tougher cards one might have to dig very hard for, but the collectors mainly knew what cards were difficult and usually could play along.
In fact, I’m not sure how many “super-collectors” were featured in Baseball Hobby News but they even had a collectors “:who’s who” where one could create their template and then a writer would pen a brief biography with some of the more cogent facts or interesting stories.
Since I read about her recently, the saga of Merle Branner is one where many people she dealt with via mail-order were shocked to discover Merle was not a man. In fact, she is still collecting baseball publications today. I’m sure this was way before the term was invented but many people like Merle were super collectors long before that term became popular. And those BHN ‘Who’s Who’ columns were a great way to meet and understand other collectors.
In the early part of the 1990s, the idea of super collectors may have faded a bit as the constant flow of ‘oddball” sets started to decrease and most of the cards of any player were reasonably accessible to all hobbyists. Ah, but after the 1994 strike and hobby retrenchment, the idea of player super collectors returned with a vengeance. After all, we were not going to be able to chase down all the insert and parallel sets in totality but many collectors realized the best way to stay in the game and continue to be active was the focus on a team or even better just one player.
We knew who several of the most active player collectors were on eBay as we would either see their name come up as buyers or one of the major dealers would pass along the collector’s identity.
Many collectors gave up their pursuit of chasing down one of every card on a player’s card checklist when the 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold print run was announced as 30. Even more left the following year when Rich Bradley, then of Fleer, created the idea of the “1 of 1” card. It’s easy to say those moments “ruined” player collecting but if Rich had not thought of the idea, someone else would have considering where the hobby was headed in the mid-1990s.
Still, there are quite a few mega collectors left and some of them have very deep pockets. There are apparently two really dedicated Omar Vizquel collectors out there and if they both need a card which appears on eBay, a major bidding war often breaks out. In some ways, this is reminiscent of what happened with the PCL Hage’s Dairy cards of the 1950s and early 60s. There were two very advanced collectors (I remember the late Larry Fritsch was one of them) who, if they both saw a card they needed, would go up to $500. If on the other hand, they both had the cards being offered, a third collector would scoop up that card for less than $50. They were not afraid to spend what they had to for a card they needed.
There are other super collectors who are a bit quieter as I know of at least one Mark Teixeira collector (I see him occasionally) and I believe he mentioned he does have to compete with others for certain cards.
The same passion people had for chasing down elusive cards 35 years ago is still in evidence today. Even though great changes have come to the hobby, that collecting gene is still very much alive and connecting us to collectors of the past.