Tired of greed in the hobby? Do what makes you happy and you don’t have anything to worry about.
I remember the first two card shows I attended–sort of. The first was, I think, sometime between 1974 and ’76.
It was held at a church hall or something similar, a small number of local sellers set up offering primarily baseball cards. I was toward the end of my kidhood collecting days but still interested enough to go. I recall buying a few 1965 Topps cards that were just tossed into a big box for 50 cents each. One was Warren Spahn and the others were guys I had at least heard of. Since I was curious about older cards but more interested in putting together a set out of the current year packs and ‘value’ wasn’t really a concept back then, those cards somehow got lost.
The next show was in 1978–and the hobby had grown a little. More people had gotten into cards and there were more sets being issued with various products. The Yankees were hot and that always helped drive baseball memorabilia on a national basis. This show was in Milwaukee and had a few dozen dealers set up. I remember being overwhelmed by what was available and how little I could buy with the money I had, but still managed to buy a 1970 Topps Super Glossy football set, a complete set of 1978 Topps and a few other things. I was 16 then and although my Dad later got interested in the hobby, he was anxious to get me out of there and wanted me to ‘save my money’.
Card shows were a simple deal then. Some guys sold programs or yearbooks, but the overwhelming majority of dealers sold baseball cards. New ones. Old ones. A few brave souls brought football and basketball. There was one manufacturer–Topps.
These days, "the hobby" encompasses a huge array of pursuits. Some collectors still chase vintage cards, but grading has spawned a new breed that goes after only the highest quality. Those guys chuckle when someone says ‘baseball cards are dead’.
The new card collector isn’t much into sets but buys backs hoping to hit the insert lottery. There are guys who collect only game-used bats. Or jerseys. Others collect Hall of Fame autographs. There are still some people out there who are into game programs and team yearbooks. New products are being developed almost every day.
It became, sometime in the last several years, "an industry". Authenticators popped up to meet the demands of a skeptical public. Athletes now had one agent for their playing contract and another "memorabilia agent" making autograph deals worth more than some players made just as..well, players..15 or 20 years ago.
You can complain about the high cost, the business overtaking the fun, the decline of the old days. But you know what? It’s still a hobby–one you define for yourself. Don’t like what’s happening in modern cards? Go back and put together some old sets. Fed up with cards in general? Start a collection of World Series programs. Tired of Barry Bonds? Switch to football. There’s always something. It’s what makes our hobby different than a lot of others. It’s why we have so much fun bringing all of these stories to you.