Saturday, December 7, 2013

Waxing Philosophic on the Hobby

If I think really hard about the hobby, which I sometimes do, questions sometimes are raised in which I really don't have much of an answer.  This morning, it is early on a Saturday, I began thinking about why little pieces of cardboard with pictures printed upon them have any value, whatsoever.  The famous Honus Wagner card has sold for millions...for a piece of paper.  I have strongly considered paying many dollars for pieces of cardboard (and have).  So, what makes the collectors like us shell out hard-earned dollars for something, if you break it right down, just really isn't worth all that much.

I like to believe that collecting, autographs especially, has everything to do with connections.  If you collect cards of a player or team then you have a smidgen of a connection with that person or team.  Those connections are vital to human existence and collecting memorabilia taps right into that visceral need.  For example, sitting on my desk is a signed Ozzie Smith baseball.  The reason I love that thing, and it sits right in front of me every day, is that it is a very small connection between myself and the best defensive short stop who ever lived.  It sounds really stupid...and it kinda is.  But, that connection is important to me.

There is also the connection of collectors with their childhoods or points in their lives in which baseball was the most important thing within their universe.  For me, it was high school.  Before that, baseball was a passing thing...something that didn't really grab my interest.  Then I started to watch and quickly became enamored with players like Ozzie, Tony Gwynn, and Kirby Puckett (I've always had an affinity for hitters).  So, collecting really brings me to the periods of my life that were simpler.  I loved the simple times.

Collectors are also gamblers.  Even with the falsified notion that these cardboard rectangles are actually "valuable" or "scarce", collectors go out of their way to hunt down the next card that could be worth thousands or millions.  Granted, some collectors and dealers have made a fine living buying and selling pieces of paper.  It is a strange economic market...a little like the commodities market (which I don't really understand, at all).  The card companies have done a fine job in creating their own market in which buyers and sellers exchange cash for...paper.  Think about it for second.  It is kind of weird.

So, why do we collect valuable worthless items?  Because it is who we are.  It is something to do.  We may get rich and famous buying up tons of Taijuan Walker cards for pennies and turning around and selling them off when he becomes huge!  Gambling on who's going to be the next Greg Maddux or the next Mike Trout...these are some people's motives.  Mostly, I believe, it connects us with unreachable people and unreachable times in our lives.

Those connections, to me, are priceless.

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