A couple of days ago, Topps released news of its new "Five Star Club," an exclusive club for super-high-end collectors who spend an average of $10,000 on Topps products each year.
There was a lot of hue and cry about this and understandably so. (Here is a well-thought-out rundown and rant). I was part of that, and I'll try to explain my feelings here.
First, I'm not a fan of clubs. Never have been. I like things that are inclusive, not exclusive. Clubs can get ugly real fast. And here is the part of Topps' Five Star Club press release that got me going:
"Introducing the Topps Five Star Club, an elite club for our most passionate collectors." (Emphasis mine).
Here was my Twitter reaction:
A typical editor reaction to get worked up over word choice.
But, still, it annoyed me. "Passionate" is not buying thousands of dollars of product in order to sell it or discard it. "Passionate" is not holding on to one card despite opening hundreds. "Passionate is not disregarding the minor details and nuances of cards, the appreciation of which DEFINES a passionate collector.
To me, "passionate" is staying with a hobby for decades, finding cards you love, and babbling about it on a blog. That is "passion."
There are other things not to like about the Five Star Club -- the "vow of silence," the high-school-style essay that's required, all of that. But that doesn't apply to me, because I have no chance of being in this club.
I really don't have an issue with Topps starting a club. A company has a right to recognize the people that generate the most money for the company. It can set the parameters however it wants.
I'm not upset that I don't get to be in a club.
My problem is related to how long I've been in this hobby, what kind of collector I am, and how that type of collector is treated as if it doesn't exist. How "passion" is redefined by Topps.
My tweet did get a reaction from Topps:
I guess they do know what "passion" is.
I nearly fell over when it appeared on my timeline, just because I've made several references to Topps on Twitter and never received a reaction (The response does have a "now run along, little collector" edge to it, whether that was intended or not).
I don't expect to be recognized by Topps as a longtime collector. In terms of priorities in the hobby, recognition from a corporate entity ranks probably about 758th on the list. It just would be nice, at some time, somehow, somewhere, for a company to say:
"Hey, you've been collecting cards since 1975. We think loyalty like that should be rewarded. Here's something that we're giving only collectors who have sunk 30 years of cash into our company."
Dream on, I know. It's not really a dream anyway. It's just a nice thought. That's all.
Because it occurred to me: This all matters even less than I think it matters.
I don't need Topps to invite me into a club to justify my collecting existence.
Whether I was aware of it or not, I am already part of a club.
I call it The 38-Star Club (even though my tweet mentioned "37 years," upon recalculation, it's actually 38). Each star is for how many years I've been collecting cards.
My reward for collecting this long?
Well, I started a blog and people paid attention to it and read it and are still reading it (I think). Thanks to 38 years in the hobby, I know at least a few things about it, can convey it well enough, and my enthusiasm continues to grow the more I am involved in it. People respond to that.
One way people respond to 38 years in the hobby is by sending me cards and stuff.
I received this giant Donruss Zenith Sandy Koufax 8-by-10 promo thing from Captain Canuck. Totally unexpected and very cool. The amount of oversized Koufax stuff I've been accumulating is starting to stack up.
He also sent me this awesome Burt Hooton autograph with his Tom Lasorda-inspired nickname added to his signature.
The Captain sent it to me because he knows I like the Dodgers and can appreciate '70s Dodgers espcially. Because I've been collecting for 38 years.
Here's another example:
Adam from ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession sent me one-quarter of the 1990 Target Dodgers set.
If you know about the Target set, you know that it's like 1,000-plus cards.
So that means Adam sent me 250 Dodgers cards!
The cards arrived on six-or-seven perforated sheets (I don't have time to count them now), and are filled with the Dodgers you all know, and Dodgers only I know, and Dodgers nobody knows. I can't wait to find out about Elmer Klumpp.
I think I'll keep these cards intact -- and start investigating how to find the rest of the set.
So Adam, a Giants fan, sent me all these Dodgers because he knows I have a passion for the Dodgers and for cards. As a fellow collector, he gets that.
Some more cool stuff that he sent. Stuff Topps won't send me. But that doesn't matter. Because I'm part of a blogging club that does things like this.
One more example:
This is a 1975 Topps mini wrapper from Jim, aka, mr. haverkamp.
Out of all the people who I correspond with, he really is especially gifted at tailoring items to my specific wants.
Items like ...
Here are a few MORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEE!!!!!
And he sends cool Sportscaster cards like this one.
And because he reads my other blog, he'll send upgrades like this out of the blue.
And terrific items like this:
The very last issue of The National, the daily sports publication from 1990-91 that I paid tribute to just a few posts ago.
(He also sent me another issue. Can't wait to read them both).
Gifts like this show me that you read what I write, that you share in the enthusiasm that I have for this hobby, and that you recognize something in me that maybe you see in yourself:
A passion for the hobby.