Thursday, September 22, 2016
Acquiring vs. admiring
I picked up a pack of cards today after a long drive.
The joy that comes from opening a pack, the anticipation, the thrill, the variety, the two-minute vacation from reality, is unlike anything else in my experience in the hobby. It's something that I hope is always available to me.
But there are some collectors, many in fact, who choose not to open packs. The reasons are varied and since I'm not one of those collectors, I'm sure I'm misconstruing their viewpoint. But the perception I get is that they consider, at some level, random pack-opening as inefficient. It's a waste of money or time or space, or, probably more accurately, there are better ways to obtain the cards you want.
I started thinking of this when I compared opening a pack of Fleer from 1989 to buying a ToppsNow card. If you know me, you know that I prefer opening the pack of '89 Fleer. In comparison, a ToppsNow purchase seems calculating, cold, and although you're getting exactly what you want, this is my version of wasting money.
But there is another view. A ToppsNow card gives you what you want and only what you want. It conserves time and space and, if you do it right, actually saves money.
There are good and bad points to each point of view. Collecting through packs glorifies the experience but with diminishing returns. Collecting through one-stop shopping (buying the whole set or a single needed card) diminishes the experience but enhances the prize.
So I decided to post a poll on Twitter that was somewhat related to this comparison:
What is more enjoyable to you: the getting or the having? The experience or the possession? The acquiring or the admiring, as one astute person said? Is it the chase or the catch, another said.
No contest, right?
To me, buying packs is the way to go because the experience is front and center. Pack opening is not a passive activity. You are participating. But the same can be said for combing online sites for your desired card(s), using your internet wiles to find them or beat other people to them. The searching, the finding, the opening, the CONQUEST, is the most thrilling part of the hobby for me.
Having the cards -- oh, that's nice, too. A number of people asked, when the poll went up, "can't I vote for both?" and I understand completely. It's ALL good. But if I put a "both" option on the poll, that's all anyone would choose. I wanted to see what people would choose if they had to choose between the two.
So the process is important. Many would say the process is more important, or more enjoyable, than owning the card. In other words, how you go about getting cards is not incidental.
Some folks mentioned how "having" can be overrated. One person mentioned how the "having" lasts about 30 minutes until the cards are filed/sleeved/paged and then it's back on to the hunt. Another person mentioned how they own so many binders filled with cards that they rarely look at anymore. Because that's how much more exciting acquiring is than admiring.
There are problems with "the chase," as well. Too much of "the chase" leads to too many cards. Too many cards to admire. Too many cards that you don't admire.
But not enough of chasing -- restricting your acquiring to ordering a readily available card or buying the entire set in one shot -- eliminates what I view as one of the hobby's greatest charms: the challenge inherent in this hobby.
There is no one way to collect. And although I could never be a person who buys the entire Topps set each year and nothing else, it's fine if it works for someone else. Just don't expect me to understand it.
You don't have to open packs to get the thrill of "the chase," the thrill of the experience, the thrill of acquiring. You can go to card shows or stay up all hours searching ebay, or coordinate trades with buddies across the country.
But I think the very unscientific poll underlines that some aspect of pursuing is needed to experience the hobby to its fullest. And in my world, that's opening packs (with a little online chasing mixed in). I need my two-minute vacations.
(Quick thoughts on Heritage High Numbers:
1. The black border cards are apparently back for this set.
2. Jeff Samardzija is in the Heritage base set, and a short-print in high numbers. Same team. This will never make sense to me.
3. No Dodgers -- which, if I didn't trade with a bunch of people, would be an argument for not buying packs).