Player Collecting on a Budget

(Editor’s Note: www.sportscardforum.com is one of the most popular collecting websites the Internet has to offer. Each month, Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly will share one of the best message board articles with our readers.)

Hello, my name is Tyler, and I’m a player collector on a budget. How many of you are in my shoes? Being a player collector in today’s hobby is harder than ever. Long gone are the days of three sets a year. Long gone are the days of a player having, maybe 20 rookies.

Take my personal addiction for example. Robert Meachem had 1,222 rookie cards produced (including printing plates) before he ever caught a pass in a game. From 1-of-1s to autographs to game used to short prints, it seems like my wish-list is never ending. Being as addicted as I am, when I began this collection, I wondered when it would ever feel like I had a “respectable” collection. First, you need to know that it doesn’t matter who respects your collection as long as you do. However, there are several ways to improve it without feeling like you keep missing those big buys.

Besides eBay, sites like sportlots.com and naxcom.com offer alternative ways to acquire cards for considerably less. You can also go the trading route on sites such as sportscardforum.com. But if you still feel like you really need a boost to your collection, stop and take inventory. Look over what you have and see how many cards you have numbered to 100 or less, or see how many autos and game used you have. How many cards do you have that are numbered out of the player’s jersey number? Keeping stats of a collection is one way to help you see constant growth. I personally have an Excel spreadsheet, and every time I add a card, the percentage of total cards that I own goes up. Just seeing that percentage figure rise is one way to overcome the “milestone blues,” as I have come to call it. A lesson I learned early on was that a base Topps card increased the percentage I owned just the same as a 1-of-1 patch auto.

But there are other ways in which you can get that feeling of accomplishment regarding your collection. Print off your want-list and read through all of it, marking all the cards that you can get for under a certain price. Then make those your priority. Recently, I did this with my Meachem checklist and noted that although I have more than 400 different cards, there are still 27 on my want-list that I could buy for less than $10. With my budget of $200 a month, I could easily get all 27 cards in one month. If you ask me, averaging almost one new card a day is great.

Learning to really manage eBay is another great way to collect on a budget. Most importantly watch for listing errors. Once or twice a week I will search “Meachum,” “Meachom” and “Meachim” just to see if anyone misspelled his name. I’ve actually won two, 1-of-1s for significantly less money than they would have sold for if they had been listed correctly. Having the right eBay timing is definitely something to learn to watch for. Generally speaking, a card will not sell for as much if it ends at 11 a.m. compared to 11 p.m. Finding those cards that are listed at awkward times is a great way to find a steal. Also, don’t forget eBay stores. Although some store owners seem like they may be crazy, there are others that offer great combined shipping rates. If you can find a store owner that implements this policy and also happens to have several cards you need, you will save money on shipping costs.

I also try not to get sucked into bidding up pretty patches. Although they would be great to own, a three-color patch will generally bring 20 percent more than a one-color patch. In the end, it’s all about having a copy of every card. If you find a steal, you can always replace a patch card in your collection with a nicer one. Finding steals is always a great feeling, but 1-of-1s rarely sell for a low price. Although “1/1” means there is only one copy of that card, it generally does not mean that it will never be on eBay again. I have seen several copies of the same Meachem 1-of-1 sell on eBay. In my experience, unless that player heats up in value, the card will not bring as much the second time. I keep a list of the 1-of-1 cards that I miss and what they sold for. I have purchased two of those cards once the original winner re-listed them, and both times the price was lower than the original offering. Trust me the 1-of-1 you are drooling over will show up again.

When all is said and done, collecting is about the love of the hobby. Adding a card to your collection is only half the fun. The other half is the search and finding that “white whale” you have been dying to get your hands on. Managing your budget correctly can be challenging, but that’s what makes it fun for me. In one year, I have amassed more than 30 percent of all of Meachem’s cards. Whoever said Raman Noodles and Easy Mac wasn’t a healthy diet for a college kid anyway? Keep collecting (affordably).

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