Building Themed Collections3 min read


autographed 1963 fleer lance alworth
1963 Fleer #72 Lance Alworth

There are infinite ways to build an autograph collection, but in my experience the hobbyists who have themes and goals seem to derive greater enjoyment out of their hobby than those who collect without guidelines. That is not to say that there is no room for picking up the random item that tickles your fancy, but hobby themes give us the ability to quantify our collections, set a plan for acquisitions and truly chart our progress.

If autographs are an area of interest, then a study of the PSA and PSA/DNA Set Registries can provide ideas for themes that are already popular with hobbyists. Whether you collect signed cards, photos, memorabilia or a bit of everything, the Registries not only suggest ideas, but can also be an excellent tool for tracking the progress of your collection. If you are beginning a collection that you do not already see on the Registry, you can submit a Set Request to have your set added to the site. If you prefer to simply share images of your collection with others in the hobby, setting up a Digital Album is a great way to do that.

Determining hobby themes can be a lot of fun. Here are a handful of questions that can help get you started in the process:


1965 Topps #91 Bobby Bell
  • What is your favorite sport, team, or college/university?
  • Do you want to focus only on the best players, or build a more all-encompassing collection?
  • What type of autograph medium do you want to collect? Cards? Balls? Photos? A combination?
  •  Do you prefer vintage or modern players?
  • Is there a game or event that you find particularly interesting?
  • Perhaps you would like to tackle an autographed trading card set?

Truthfully, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

As a longtime hobbyist myself, I have set themes and sub-themes to my collection for decades and the guidelines have helped me immensely. The major theme of my collection is autographs of people associated with the American Football League (1960-1969), and primarily on trading cards produced within that decade. Sub-themes that I have followed along those lines include trading card company sets, master player sets, team cards, and cards autographed with unique inscriptions. I’ve found these themes provide a nice balance of structure (trading card sets and player master sets) while still allowing for a decent amount of creativity (team cards and unique inscriptions). The end result is a collection that perfectly fits my personality, interests and budget.

Whatever you decide to collect, understand that your own knowledge and understanding of the subject is the greatest tool at your disposal. In addition to the many grading and authenticating services offered by PSA, the PSA website offers many sources of free information aimed at making your collecting experience enjoyable, informative and rewarding.


1964 topps al davis
1964 Topps #153 Signed by Al Davis

Posted by Todd Tobias

Todd Tobias is a longtime hobbyist and PSA staff member who is constantly on the hunt for vintage lacrosse issues and autographed cards for his American Football League (1960-1969) collection.

Johnny Robinson - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019!!!

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