Are we card collectors or memorabilia collectors?

ramprojectlogodoneFor about a year and a half I’ve been working on my “RAM Project,” one that entails obtaining a rookie (or early card), autograph and memorabilia card of all of the game’s greatest players. In some cases I’ve already made great strides. I’ve got a Babe Ruth bat card, a Willie Mays autograph and Hank Aaron rookie, as shown here.

But either early this week or late last week — all of my days are running together right now — I started thinking more and more about my feelings about memorabilia/game-used cards.

I’m pretty sure this thought was provoked by something I saw at Wax Heaven, Night Owl Cards or Cardboard Junkie. (See, I give credit where and when its due. ) I forget the exact point the author brought up, but in my comment to the post, I asked a rhetorical question: Are we card collectors or memorabilia collectors?

This point comes to mind because we as a card collecting hobby have gravitated toward the latter, which in a sense has rocked the foundation of card collecting as a whole and I’m not sure I really like it.

It’s no secret that the majority of collectors are no longer satisfied with simply owning a piece of cardboard with a picture or two and some statistics. We now want cards with ink (autographs) and/or swatches of fabric. I’m guilty of this thought, too. But the more I think about the enjoyability aspect of the hobby, the more I think that game-used cards have hurt us more than they helped. And while thinking along these lines, I’m wondering if it is even necessary for me to even care about game-used cards at all.

From a player collector standpoint, I’ve already made the transition away from game-used. I used to want every jersey card ever produced of Roger Clemens. But when it comes down to it, I have limited disposable income and it’s insane for me to spend $5 for a single jersey card when I could use that money to buy a few different Clemens cards that I do not have. As far as value, it’s all relative — none of the cards purchased with that money are going to be worth much, yet I might  get the same sense, or greater sense, of satisfaction from a basic card, one that I’d been hunting for a while..

The same thinking can be applied to any player collector, and it’s probably more on-point when speaking of active players because there likely are even more people chasing his cards. Think about it. Is it really “worth” it to spend countless dollars on a few common game-used cards of your player rather than seek out other issues that would help build the foundation of your collection?

The same argument could be made for any card, really. And truthfully, it’s really a personal preference. But I find it troubling that the introduction of game-used cards has made some feel like a basic card is relatively worthless because it offers nothing special.

I suppose I’m so angry or passionate about this because in a sense I feel like the fun has been ripped out of this hobby. I long for the days of just busting wax and pulling neat little insert cards, or not. I miss the chase of a “rare” insert, and the act of doing so not costing me an arm and a leg.

Getting back to the RAM Project, I still love the idea of obtaining all three card aspects of certain players. But I’m just wondering what will offer me satisfaction: Spending $150 on a Lou Gehrig jersey or Babe Ruth bat card, or using that same money toward an authentic original lesser condition card produced more than 70 years ago.

Because I view myself as a card collector, I feel like I get more satisfaction in the actual cards them self. Don’t get me wrong, I still glare in amazement when I see game-used swatches of Ruth and Gehrig, as well as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio and Hank Aaron that I own. But I do feel like  I get more satisfaction out of staring at my poor condition 1967 Topps Babe Ruth Venezuelan, 1954 Topps Hank Aron rookie, 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig and 1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson.

These feelings of course are leading me down the path of amending the premise of the RAM Project. Instead of getting a game-used AND autograph card of certain players, I may just opt for a rookie (or early card) and then one or the other in terms of autos or game-used. Naturally the emphasis will be on an autograph since I’ve always felt that signatures and cards go hand in hand.

One Response to “Are we card collectors or memorabilia collectors?”

  1. I’ve always said, it’s about the photo and the card. If all that other stuff went away, I wouldn’t shed a tear. I don’t collect jerseys or balls or bats or caps or autographs or pennants or figurines or seat cushions. I collect cards. And I’m happy with that.

    Not that I think sticking to cards is the only way to collect. Collect what you want. But I think some other collectors are starting to see it the way I do, too.

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