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.

The results:

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).


  1. Has that "Queens Kings" line ever been used before? If not, it's genius and I love it. I seem to remember you, Sir Night Owl, mentioning that Topps was getting bad at writing these "catch-phrases" on cards somewhat recently... it might have even been regarding Heritage proper. Anywho... I point you upwards. What a great card.

  2. Yeah, to me, opening packs is what it's all about..

    But if the Heritage High Numbers are out, all I want to know is whether there are any Dodgers at the numbers gcrl needs to improve the Frankendodger set! Fingers crossed!

    1. thanks for looking out brett alan! i took a quick look at the checklist (and bought a 20-card pack), but unfortunately number 718 is not a dodger. number 720 is, however, and so ross stripling will replace one of the 1990 target cards in the set as soon as i track down a couple of his cards.

  3. No packs for me. I get the same rush bidding on a card on eBay as I would opening a pack. Probably an even bigger one. The difference is no letdown when I win an auction. (Unless my wife sees the price) Opening a pack hardly ever results in what I want.

  4. I get most of my cards from packs. I also buy specific cards on eBay but I'd say 90% of my cards came from packs. I love buying repacks so I can open more packs.

  5. I sometimes get that disappointing feeling after a pack break, card show, etc. -- after the EXPERIENCE of culling all the cards is over and all that's left to do is file them away in binders and wait until the next card "experience" comes around the corner. This is why I try to look through my binders as often as I can, because as great as the chase is, it doesn't end up meaning a whole lot if you forget about how great it is to simple have the cards you have.

    (Also, if they're not already spoken for, I'd love to have the Contreras and/or Kawasaki cards.)

  6. I agree with your assessment and I collect a lot like you - a blend of strategic buying and pack-busting. With me there is an additional consideration in the "having" related to what I suspect are OCD tendencies. For example, I finished the 2014 Topps flagship set not because I ever plan to admire it (it's kind of lame) but I was close and I just needed for it to be complete. The cards are in a box and I'm sure they'll stay there for life but somehow I feel comforted knowing that I am not missing any. Does that make sense?

  7. I hate to use this term, but I always put more "value" on cards I pulled myself. Anybody can go and buy a card, but to be the one that pulls's first and in my case only owner...nothing beats that. For me I love to open a box of cards, nothing I like more. Buying singles is for the cards I don't get in my box/packs. Of course, I collect differently than most in that I collect entire leagues, not just specific teams or players.

  8. I'm one who likes the chase also. Not through opening packs though. Its probably more of an economic issue. I need/want certain cards . Then again I'm no longer a set collector.

  9. When I use to open boxes regularly my answer would have been the experience. Now as my collecting habits evolve I'm moving more towards the possessing.

  10. If anything I find opening packs not random enough. All the cards are from just one year, and just one set. In both buying and trading I find I much more enjoy getting a really random selection of cards.

  11. I like opening packs personally. I get the money issue, but finding a rare card is just a lot of fun. Usually I'm happy with my pack breaks as long as I get some Red Sox, everything else is a bonus and is usually used to trade for stuff I do want.

  12. I open a decent amount of packs to start a set, but quickly move to trading when the returns start diminishing. I'd enjoy pulling something cool, but I'm very cynical on the odds of that actually happening. Lately, I've been doing a lot of swapping for starter sets, so I get a nice big stack of something new for only the dupes of something I opened before and can't use.

    I will page through a binder or sift through a set now and then, but it's much more fun to be sifting through a dime or quarter box looking for the missing singles. The hunt is the most fun, especially when you find cool stuff for cheap!

  13. Although I'm more probably more of a "have" collector, I guess that I can relate through the experience of opening mailed packages, which are like my packs. It seems like I'm opening packages almost everyday, and hate it on Sundays and Holidays when no mail is being delivered. The rest of the time is spent sorting, organizing, upgrading, and studying my collection. I guess a lot of people don't look at their cards much after their tucked away.

  14. I have to have it all. I love the feeling of finding a complete set I don't have and that I want for a super good deal (I am lucky that way- I call it Favors: see tomorrow's post where I write about it). I also love building the set through monster box deals that I find (I find a lot of them) and slowly but surely completing it even if I have to buy a card or two). But, if I don't rip packs I get very yancy, and that is an itch I just have to scratch! I usually try to knock out my Braves team cards through Just Commons right up front, but sometimes I get forgetful and don't, lol. I did just turn 50. Sometimes you can't get the cards you want from them, thus trading is an awesome experience. Then I can focus on the set build if it is a set I want to build. And then I have my Player Collections and the mini collections. I am always getting the "jazz" from the chase. And one day I hope to be able to binder up all of those complete sets so that I can admire them more. I work everyday on my cards and love every minute of it.

    P.S. I dig the Queens Kings phrase too, even thou I hate the Mets... I am a Braves fan.

  15. I love opening packs. I love seeing cards for the first time, turning them over, the whole bit. But collation lately seems to really piss me off. This year I bought one pack of Topps base I think. I'm about to buy the set somewhere. Sad really.