Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Taking Another Look At Hoarding Versus Collecting

A few months ago, I commented on the ways that card collectors resemble hoarders in some respect, mainly focusing on a lot of people who's goal is quantity over quality. The "I have to get every type of X" mentality has left many people with a garage filled to the brim, a room filled with cardboard boxes, or even a basement that is more card storage than anything. Because collecting cards usually extends to other parts of collecting sports memorabilia in general, it can get pretty crazy for a lot of people in our beloved hobby.

Recently, I went through the tedious task of cleaning out my collection, because for someone like me, having a card that you cant display is not worth the time. I have sold parts of my Joe Mauer Collection, my Adrian Peterson collection and my Vikings/Twins collection with reckless abandon, just to make room for things that have more immediate importance to my life. I even listed a huge lot of junk that I have pulled from boxes over the last few years. Really, cards sitting in box, most that will never see the light of day don’t serve a purpose right now, especially when our apartment is soon to be filled with toys and orther Noah related items.

Funny enough, while cleaning everything out and posting on eBay, I watched an episode of American Pickers after an episode of Pawn Stars had ended, and I had some interesting feelings about what was going on in the show. For American Pickers, two gentlemen scour the south for backwoods farms filled with old junk that they can sell at elevated premiums for people who want to decorate their homes, stores, or whatever. Its really a novel concept, especially when you see the stuff they buy and how much they pay. To them, hoarders/collectors are the meat of their business, and it drew some very interesting parallels to our hobby. First, I established from this show that if you are organized and knowledgable, you are a collector, but if you are in a state of disarray, you are pretty much a hoarder. But in all reality, is there much of a difference? We are called collectors because we keep everything organized (mostly) in small boxes arranged by a metric that we deem worthy? I think its borderline at best, and I am wondering how many collectors out there really collect just for the fun of it, rather than just acquiring as much as possible to fill some hole that collectors usually have. Even if it isnt conscious, I have a feeling there is something to that theory. Secondly, if you have a bunch of nice stuff, you are definitely a collector, whereas a hoarder has loads and loads of worthless junk. Sound familiar? Lastly, if you have the space to display, and do display your collection you are a collector, where hoarders just pile everything in any open space, or keep excess amounts of stuff regardless of space issues. Again, sounds a lot like people I know.

Trust me, I am not free from judgment myself, as I have to consciously avoid gathering too much. Unlike the past, when I buy packs now, I don’t keep the junk that’s not a hit anymore, mainly because the shop owners almost always give the cards to people at the store. I mean, what is the point of keeping all of those? They take up space, they arent/will not be worth anything in the future, and like many of us, I already have space issues trying to fit the stuff into a space in my house. I have strictly become a quality over quantity guy, even more classified as an autograph collector rather than a card collector. I think that type of switch in my habits have led to a lot of changes to the collection that I have. If its just going to sit in a box, its not worth keeping anymore. As a result, I have a shelf that is filled with cool items and half a box filled with autographs of my favorite players only.

I want to explain now that I don’t really get what drives someone to collect in excess. When I did it, I just did it without regard for much of anything. I just knew that if it fit my wants, I had to have it without a rational thought telling me not to do it. Eventually, I boiled it down to a combination of unconscious personal vanity, or wanting to have the best "X" collection in the world, and a need to fill free time. Now that I have something to fill my free time and then some, and my personal vanity of needing that best collection has subsided. Honestly, when I started this blog, a lot of my card hoarding habits stopped. Instead of plundering eBay for deals and venturing to shows and shops for forgotten treasures, I spent time writing and making this blog better. Now, a combination of this blog and my son have forced me to re-evaluate a second time, this time with me trimming more fat from my collection than ever before. I hadnt sold a Mauer card in three years, and it was tough to see some of the rarer ones go. But now that I have a lot of extra space and some extra coin in my pocket, I feel better about my station in this hobby.

For you super-collectors out there, I would frequently evaluate why you do what you do. Is it really worth your time to acquire what you acquire even though you know that most of what you buy is not something that needs to be bought? Instead of buying that extra hobby box or making that trip to target, maybe its time to start organizing and stop hoarding. Its definitely worth the time to think about it, and who knows, you may come to the realization that quality may be much more important to the well-being of your life than quantity.


  1. I come from a family of hoarders, so I'm constantly doing that re-evaluating thing that you mention here. I cut collections a lot, and am constantly trying to shuttle stuff I don't need out of my house. My collection is very small, to the point that you'd hardly notice it in our two room apartment unless I pointed it out. But that's only because I constantly work to keep it small.

  2. Great points. I have become a quality over quantity person as well even though I have plenty of storage space now. I agree, if you can't display or manage it, why have it? Nice work.

  3. This is my first reply...The post really hit home for me.
    While I am strictly a collector, I'm not sure if I would be classified as a hoarder or not. You see, I enjoy sorting cards. I only buy one pack a week and I haven't opened a box in about 6 years. Most of my new cards come from eBay lots or unwanted commons and lowend inserts and autos from a few people around town. I have almost two million cards, but my collection is about 98% sorted, mostly into 5,000 ct boxes and labeled neatly with pencil (so I can erase and update the boxes periodically). I just might have the largest organized private collection in Colorado. However, I am in the process of upgrading from my 2 bedroom townhome to a 6 bedroom house just so I can be even more organized with my collection.
    While I really should downgrade (who needs 18,000 1990 Topps commons and 20,000 1988 Donruss commons??), I wouldn't know where to begin. Once I get settled into the house, I hope trade off some commons to set builders.

  4. It's a hobby and it's fun. That's why I buy what I buy. If you're buying boxes at retail prices and trying to flip, you've got a problem. I buy because it passes time and is entertaining. I don't care about value. Heck, the bulk of my collection is relic cards that I like for various reasons... dual relic of brothers, two Pirates players (how worthless can a relic card get?!), etc.

    You can apply this logic to almost anything you spend disposable income on. Why buy DVDs? Renting is cheaper and you probably won't watch them more than once anyway. Why buy an mp3 player? The gym plays free music overhead. Why buy a car? Public transportation is generally available everywhere. Why buy food other than the basics, like bread and water?

    Not bashing your line of thought, it's dead on. Show your "quality" collection to any non-collector and the lack of enthusiasm is jarring.

    I experience this every time my wife asks how much a particular box cost me :)

    Two notes: I don't often buy wax because of the excess of 'junk' it leaves me with. I think super-collectors are WEIRD. Say you're a Mark Teixeira super collector... what do you think Teix would say if he saw your 5,000 card collection?! He'd be creeped out!