In this new, limited blog series, “Collecting While Stuck at Home,” we offer ideas for enjoying your collection at times when a standard hobby experience is not possible. Illness, financial constraints, or any number of factors might temporarily keep collectors from participating as they normally would, but that does not mean that their hobby needs to be put on hold.
I don’t know about you all, but in my years of collecting I have had many instances when I bought a card, set or piece of memorabilia only to get it home, look it over and ask myself why I had made the purchase. The item was no less interesting than when I paid for it, but somehow my desire to own it had decreased significantly. Why?
I guess you could call them impulse buys, or maybe brief flirtations with beginning a new collection. There are probably other descriptions that would equally suffice. The bottom line is that I had something outside the scope of my collection that may have been nice, but that I did not really want to own. This isn’t that big of a deal for those free-wheeling collectors that don’t care about focus, but for hobbyists such as myself, who prefer a bit of order in their accumulations, this is a headache I try to avoid.
One of the things that I have found really useful in my hobby life is taking some time to analyze what and why I like to collect. This is a very personal question, for which there is no incorrect answer. We all collect for different reasons, some of which may include the following:
- For the fond memories of collecting as children.
- Because of our love of a certain subject – sport, athlete, genre, etc.
- For investment purposes.
- Because we like the idea of building something (a set or collection) from scratch.
- To recognize a particular part of history.
- As a way to connect with friends or family members.
- Simply because we enjoy it.
The reasons we collect are as diverse as the collectors themselves. But it is still a valuable process to determine exactly why you collect.
Write It Down
Writing or journaling is a popular tool that has been implemented by therapists for decades and frankly, it can be helpful for collectors as well. Taking the time to write down exactly why, and ultimately what we collect helps us to organize our thoughts in ways that can otherwise feel just beyond our grasp. For myself, it took me quite some time to get into my “collecting groove,” even though I had been buying cards and memorabilia for a long time.
I will save you the lengthy prose, but here is why I collect:
- I collect because I love sports history and the idea of completing sets or collections.
- I came to love the American Football League (AFL) after writing my master’s thesis on Sid Gillman.
- I wanted to collect something related to the AFL, but with my own personal twist.
- I love trading cards, but cards alone didn’t seem like the challenge I wanted.
- I prefer collections that force me to learn something new and present a challenge other than simply locating a card for purchase.
- I liked the idea of interacting with former AFL’ers as much as possible to learn more about their experiences.
Coming Up With A Result
It was only after I really analyzed my collecting interests that I ultimately settled on the idea of collecting autographed AFL card sets, something I have done for more than 20 years, and which provides the following benefits to me as a hobbyist:
- The majority of unsigned cards are very affordable, with the exception of a handful of rookies.
- There are several deceased players for whom I need to find vintage-signed examples, which adds a distinct challenge to the acquisition process.
- Sending cards through the mail (TTM) to be autographed forces me to learn about the individual players, their careers and post-football lives.
- In my letters of request I can include specific questions about games, individuals or events and get first-hand responses from the participating individuals. The responses themselves also become an interesting side collection.
- The end result of my efforts are a focused and unique collection that also keeps my acquisitions in line.
Jotting Down Your Collecting Thoughts Has Its Benefits
Once you have completed your own hobby journaling experience, it is very easy to use the results to help guide your future purchases. If you see something you like, simply ask yourself if the item(s) fits your criteria. If it does, then have at it! If not, then you can pass it by without issue.
Does that mean you should never purchase something outside of your collecting focus? Absolutely not. Our tastes change over time, as do our collections, and the journaling process is simply a guidance tool. The process can also be replicated whenever you feel your collecting life getting stale. Readdressing the questions might reveal that some of your answers have changed over time. If so, then perhaps its time to shift the focus of your collection.
The results of this exercise can be extremely valuable to collectors. Give it a try. I think you will agree. And really, I’d bet you have some time on your hands at the moment.