I've posted a time or two before about my collection, or certain aspects of it anyway. But, I was recently asked by the folks at Invaluable.com to think a little deeper and share my thoughts about my own personal collection. Invaluable has a variety of collectible merchandise up for auction, and they really wanted to see what collectors look for when purchasing new items for their collections. The beginning of my collecting is easy, at least in my mind. But, why I've continued and a look at some of the things I've taken up... Well, that's something else entirely.
I started collecting baseball cards when I was a kid. Really, in those days, I collected all kinds of things: cards, die cast cars, Star Wars figures. Yes, I did have one of the original Jawas with the vinyl cape, and yes, I was just a rough with it as most kids were in those days, and no, I don't have it anymore. Anyway, I digress - often, so get used to it. I ultimately focused on baseball cards.
My paternal grandparents lived in Cleveland by the time we kids came along, and for some reason I associated the Indians with my Grandfather. We never went to game that I recall, and I don't remember ever seeing them play on TV at their house (though I do recall seeing the Indians on TV in the 80's - and no, I am not talking about the movie, "Major League."). I was born and raised in Pittsburgh during the "City of Champions" days. I loved the Pirates, the Steelers, then Pens, the Spirit (and indoor pro soccer team at the time), and I loved the Indians. Even to this day, my dream World Series would be the Indians vs the Pirates. Again, I digress.
When I was a kid, we glued our cards into spiral notebooks. It was an awful practice, but the kids we hung around with all did it. It was something we did. We also had no idea that these bits of cardboard would worth anything more than something to kill off the heat of long summer days or to hang on our bike spokes or to flip in the air hoping to land on the pile on the floor - or land closest to the wall to get "the leaner." We spent our allowance or chore money on packs of cards.
The first card I ever bought from a hobby shop, located down the street from my grandparents' house and is still there so far as I last checked, was a 1951 Bowman Dale Mitchell. I paid a quarter. It was small, it was old (this was in about 1975/6), it was unlike any other card any of my friends had. In those days, we kept our non-glued cards in stacks with rubber bands around them. I kept the Mitchell on top. As I picked up the stack one day, my hand slipped and grabbed the edges of the card, folding it around the rubber band. I was devastated. I kept the card. I still have it.
That is collecting, to me: the sentimental attachment we make with some bit of inanimate object that seems to turn some key in our mind that instantly takes back to a certain time, a certain place. It is like how a song can remind you of your first love or a meal brings back memories of a particular family reunion in which you climbed (what seemed like) a hundred steps to get to the park. For me, it is these little bits of cardboard.
One of my all-time favorite items is one that a fellow collector, who went by "Kimaloo" at the time, made for me. It is a hand-drawn sketch card of Jim Thome. It is the first time anyone did something like that for me, and I cherish it. Later, another collector friend of mine, Mark, made a sketch card for me of Mossi and he included the original that he used as the basis.
Most of my collection has come from friends I've made in the hobby through the Internet. I have to say that for all the bad press the online world gets, it has done wonders for collectors of all kinds. Heck, the world's largest garage sale, eBay, was born out of man's desire to help his wife with her PEZ collection. Over time, my collection has grown from baseball cards to a lot of different Indians-related items. I have a super, tiny, mini Kenny Lofton. I have an Ellis Burks Indians rubber duck, still in the netting. I have a multi-issue collection of Indians home game programs that Baseball Dad has sent to me over the years. There are bobbleheads, tin cans, autographed baseballs, signed caps, and all sorts of things.
I do have a "no-no" for my personal collection. That is, something that I will not have in my collection: graded cards. If I buy or receive graded cards, I break them out of their shell. These bots of cardboard were never meant to be sealed up in some air-tight prison. Set them free.
Not everything I collect is Indians-related, though. Most of my baseballs aren't signed by Indians players at all. I have an extensive collection of "Other Players I Collect" cards. Why do I have those? Heritage, I think. I figure one day, my kids might be interested in cards from when they were younger. Or, maybe my grandkids will take interest and/or somehow benefit from my ragtag collection of random baseball-related items.
Would I ever sell or give up my collection? The older I get, the more than answer seems to swing towards the "No" side of life. I used to say, "When the Indians win their next World Series, I'm selling the whole thing!" I figured Indians cards might be worth more in that moment than they generally are now. That is one things about collecting this particular team - I can usually get Tribecards pretty cheaply. Do I still feel that way? Sometimes. But, then I look at that Mitchell or the sketch cards or the other cool items that people have sent me over the years, and I think, "No. I'll hold on to this for as long as I can."