Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doctor night owl has the cure

I'm not liking what I'm reading on the blogs these days. Collectors are "bored." They say there is a "malaise." The new stuff on shelves either isn't good enough or there just isn't enough of it.

A lot of people are blaming the exclusive license for their funk. There's no more Upper Deck, or less of it anyway, and they're already feeling dissatisfied.

Even more disturbingly, some bloggers are getting bored with blogging. A few are noticeably cutting back. Some have either threatened, or gone through with, retirement. Some bloggers say they don't read other blogs as much anymore. Comments are down. Readership is down. I've noticed a slight dip in readership on this blog.

I don't like it. And really only one thing comes to mind when I read stuff like this:

Now, I seriously, seriously don't like Cher speaking for me. So you know how desperate I am to get your attention.

Personally, I'm not bored at all. There is no malaise. There is no funk. There is no woe-is-me. What's the 180-degree opposite of bored? I'm that.

I'm trying not to trivialize people's feelings, but here is what I see:

We are in a new-product lull right now. Topps Series 2 is right around the corner. Bowman apparently has just arrived, but no one except the privileged Beckett few have seen it. The summer releases are in the distance. National Chicle is here but some folks haven't gotten it yet and others are kind of meh about it.

But I've noticed this lull the last couple of years. Sure, you had Upper Deck then, but it wasn't blowing us away last year. At this time in 2009, UD product on the shelves was base, First Edition, Goudey, Spectrum and Piece of History. Were we really excited about that shit? No. Most of us hated it.

But last year at this time we also had one of the most interesting Topps base sets in decades and a Heritage set that was fairly decent. That kept our mind off the lull a little bit. This year, we've completed an OKish base set, while 2010 Heritage should be placed in capsules and put on a shelf with sleeping aids. So, we're not distracted by anything and all we can think of is what we don't have, which is Upper Deck. But the lack of UD isn't the problem, I don't think. It probably will be ... later. But not yet.

The problem is we're focused too much on what we don't have, instead of what we do have.

We all have collections, don't we? Well, what's wrong with those cards? You found them interesting once. Surely you can find something interesting in them again.

And if that doesn't work, there is always vintage, however you want to define it. If you think vintage is '90s cards, go get some '90s cards. If you think vintage is tobacco cards, go find a scheme to bilk millions from gullible homeowners and get some tobacco cards (that's a JOKE! A JOKE!)

Here are my recommendations for curing whatever malaise you are in:

1. Go through your dupes. Really. I know, it's boring and tedious. I put off organizing my dupes constantly. But here is one thing about sorting doubles. I always find at least one card in my dupes boxes that is not really a dupe. It's a card that I need. That happens EVERY TIME. I just recently organized my Dodger dupes and I found the card at the top of the post. It's an Award Winner card from 1992 Topps of Eddie Murray.

I apologize to whomever sent this card for thinking it was a double. Actually, it's a card you could only get by sending away for it. If you won a scratch-off game in the pack (and apparently it was quite easy to win), they would send you one of these gold parallel cards with the word "Winner" on it. I had never seen this before. And if I hadn't gone through my dupes, I may never have known it existed.

2. Vintage, vintage, vintage. OK, I know some of you don't like vintage. I can't help you. You and I are on different planets. But for the rest of you, why are you still sitting there? You can find thousands of vintage cards for less than the price of a single pack or even a single CARD of new stuff. When I am immersed in vintage, I don't care about new cards at all. In fact, I wonder why I am collecting new cards period. As I'm writing this I am wondering why there are new cards in my house. Collect Boog Powell or collect Boof Bonser? That is not a fair fight.

3. Read a book. There are two card-related books out right now: Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson, and Cardboard Gods, by Josh Wilker. Both are fine, interesting books that would engross most collectors. I'd give a review of them right here, but NOBODY ASKED THE NEWSPAPER EDITOR TO REVIEW THEM. But I'm not bitter.

4. Buy some cards from 2009. One of the side-effects of always looking for the latest and greatest is you get bored easily. I think this is part of the general problem. But I still find cool cards from last year and they're readily available. If 2009 doesn't blow your dress up, then collect a little cash and buy a box online of something cool from a few years ago. A few bloggers are doing exactly that and I might join them. There is some cool stuff from just five years ago that isn't that costly and yields some awesome cards. If you're always focused on the latest and greatest, you're always going to have the "I'm bored" problem. Take it from me. I have a daughter on the verge of teenage-dom. This is a conversation I've had before.

5. Collect another sport. This doesn't apply to me. If I was collecting another sport, either baseball would have had to have been criminalized or you would be able to see the lobotomy scars. But I know some of you like cards from other sports. Focus on those. Positive thoughts people. Deep breaths.

6. Take a break. I know this is counter-intuitive for a collector, but it might help you refocus on your collecting goals. Organize your collection. Make some re-evaluations on what you have and what you might want to stop collecting. Purge if you must. Too much stuff leads to dissatisfaction with everything. Try simplifying.

7. Find enjoyment in other people's blogs again. There are a ton of card blogs. There seems to be a couple new ones every week. It gets daunting and even demoralizing. I try to keep up, but I can't. I've read like 6 blogs today instead of the usual 100 and I'm wracked with guilt. But I think that's the problem. No one says you have to read them all. Figure out how many you can fit in during a day. If that's 50, great. If it's 5, great. Pick the ones you like the most, stick with them and don't beat yourself up over it. Stop being obsessed with being a know-it-all and information hound (*ahem* I might have these issues) and enjoy the blogs you can read.

Oh, and COMMENT on them. You like when people comment on your blogs, right? Comment on theirs. Be a good neighbor.

I hope some of this helps. As for the bloggers who are retiring or thinking of retiring (or have left and then come back but aren't really BACK back), I don't know what to say. Only you know your situation. And if you really don't have the time then you don't have the time. If you've lost the interest, that makes me sad. Maybe you just need to refocus and come back refreshed later. Try that first before disappearing forever.

This hobby is not boring. Sure there are issues in the hobby and the absence of Upper Deck is not good news. Topps has not been terribly exciting so far in 2010 and that's an issue, too. But I happen to think there is always something interesting in this hobby. You just need to take the initiative to look for it. So, yes, I do think it's a YOU problem.


  1. Going through your cards is a great way to regain interest. It's also a great way to find some trade bait. There is always someone interested in the cards you have laying around.

  2. Excellent, excellent post. I couldn't agree more. I've done some of the things you've suggested and it's making me even more interested in the hobby than I have been since I came back.

    It helps to refocus, it really does. That's what I did.

  3. You said to comment. So I'm commenting.

    But seriously, though, a great post. As someone who is just back into the hobby, all of it is new and fresh to me (at least, everything since 1991). At I guess I didn't know enough to realise that the 2010 Topps base is "meh" - I think it looks pretty good. Then again, I also love the '86, '87 and '89 set and think '88 is an eyesore. So what do I know.

    Yes, I'm worried about the potential down the track of only having one official set, and that leading to general slackitude on the part of Topps, because they have no competition to keep them on their toes. But like you said, that's an issue that will become apparent later, not now.

    Excellent post, oh wise bird.

  4. Amen dude. I haven't collected with the times my interest doesn't wax and wane with the present. I think organization is a good way to get addicted again though...I just organized all of my collection lists and I'm now going crazy on Ebay buying fancy cards to fill those lists.

  5. Great post & great suggestions. I am a bit bored with the newer releases, but I'm looking forward to Topps Series 2.

    I'm still having fun tracking down older cards and getting them signed. I'm also having fun watching baseball - for some reason, my card collecting enthusiasm is usually at its highest during February/March, but once the season starts I want to focus more on going to games.

    I have no plans to go away any time soon.

  6. first, Cher?!!!? really? that's low mister.

    second, I am positive that no blogger has ever used the word "malaise" in their blogs.


    unless it was one of those odd word verification things.

  7. Hands down the blog post of the year. For ALL blogs. Not just sports card ones. Well, except for Cher maybe. Great tips and great writing, as we've come to expect.

  8. Captain: "malaise" was used in a conversation about this subject on twitter. And I wasn't the one who used it.

    See what you miss?

  9. excellent post. you hit the nail on the head on quite a few issues. I have definately been on a vintage binge while i wait for somthing i really want to spend my hard earned money on to come out. unfortunately for both football and basball its kind of the lull time. The new football sets aren't out yet and only the early release baseball set are out. I'm sure in a few months all this "boredom" talk will be over.

  10. All of that is good stuff but you left off #8. Send off surprize packages. Yes send away cards for free. If you send cards to people that you have traded with before 90% of the time you are going to get some good stuff back and a big part of the time you sill see your name show up on their blog (if they have one) That makes reading blogs more fun. (not to mention going to the mailbox)

  11. I am definitely guilty of reading and not commenting and yet wondering why no one comments on my blog. Hopefully I can "snap out of" that bad habit. Thanks for calling me out.

    Another suggestion is to find new ways to enjoy your current collection. I already have a simple website to showcase my Emmitt Smith cards (football, terrible, I know), but I am already in the midst of a total revamp that will feature a much smoother design and much more card information. Once I get around to scanning all of the card backs, I will be able to publish it.

    Granted, I know that not everyone enjoys html coding, but there's GOT to be SOMETHING you can do with your collection besides just plopping them in a box and calling it a hobby. At the very least, it's fun just to go through that box and hold each card in your hand again. Whenever I do that, I feel like I'm 8 again. When you've got cards, you don't need no stinkin' fountain of youth.

  12. The night owl speaks wisely here. Very good and thoughtful post. I also like AdamE's thought about sending surprise packages.

  13. The only thing I am bored with is not having anything to collect at Wal-Mark, K-Mart and whatever. The local pawn card shop has boxes of weird 1990s stuff I had never seen, like Topps Tek (plastic cards!)and various Skybox efforts. Things went pretty crazy after I left the hobby in 1992.

    Trading keeps me going too, I love working a good trade. Chasing vintage is awesome too.

    And reading great blogs like this one just keeps me excited about finding more new stuff out there.

  14. Excellent post night owl. That's some serious encouragement for us all.

  15. What we need... IS MORE COWBELL!!!

    I just dropped about $40 on #2 and I'd drop another Jackson today if I had the time.

    Oh and Canuck RE: malaise
    TEN days ago. sheesh.

  16. Look at the build on Eddie, huh? I think the current jammy-style pants we see today would have done him some good.

  17. Excellent post and excellent comments. These are some really good suggestions on keeping this hobby fresh and all about having/enjoying rather than simply wanting/acquiring.

    As a set builder I find that, yes, a large part of it is looking for seomthing to fill a whole and then acquiring it. But the acquuisition is very specific and it really seems to be about sorting and organizing. I seem to be OCD about establishing order with my collection.

    As far as the departure of UD and the lack of competition: good riddance to the cancer that was Upper Deck. I know I'm probably tainted after reading "Card Sharks" but UD, to me, represents everything that went wrong with the hobby. (Oops, sorry. I mean The Hobby.) They didn't add healthy "competition" to the mix they just added greed.

    Here's the real competition, and why a one-brand card collecting world is not bad: Topps has to compete with video games, DVDs, Blue Ray, MP3 playesr and all kinds of things that didn't exist until fairly recently. There are endless ways for Americans to spend their money and if Topps wants a piece of the pie they're going to have to make a good product. And with UD gone they won't have to mess with endless "one-of-one" crap or other lottery-ticket-type gimmicks. They'll be able to make quality collectable items for fans of ... surprise, surprise ... baseball.

    Hey, sorry for the long post. Maybe I should start my own blog :D

  18. We've been busy at The Gum, but your comments are dead on- it's just a lull right now and some new products are actually looking exciting. In 2 months everyone will be talking about Topps Chrome and either how great the RC checklist is or how lame the new multi-brand chrome inserts are! Just you wait! In the meantime, we've been buying cheap stuff from 2007 and 2008 and it's a blast!


  19. I am also not the least bit bored. Something I've always wanted to do was buy a bunch of junk wax boxes (available by the truckload at my LCS) and display them in my sports room, a la a card shop circa 1991. And I've begun to do just that. So far I have 1988 and 89 Topps Yearbook stickers in stock, as well as 89 Topps. I'm having a blast reliving my 'glory days' of collecting, with no guilt on missing out on the stuff, because there's no new stuff I'm interested in.

  20. I mean, gosh, i'm just so bored with the hobby.

    There's no good new products, exclusivity sucks and I hate Upper Deck.

    Maybe I will just retire?

    Ha. Just kidding. But maybe I will post more, just for fun.

    I mean, that is what this hobby is all about after all, isn't it, fun?

  21. Rock on Mr. Owl! This post is like a siren and we all must listen to it. Some great ideas there and even more in the comments. This should keep us busy for a while.

  22. Great post there homie..... I'll go with Play @ the Plate and make it post of the year so far!! Damn you wise Qwl.... Now tell me how many licks to get to the center of a tootie roll loipop??

  23. Bravo, sir. I like the state of the hobby right now. It's manageable, I know what I want to collect, and I can go back and fill some holes in my older binders without having to bother with 2010 Ultimate SPx Extreme.

    It feels like 1981 all over again, back when it was feasible to add every Phillies card from the entire year to your collection and not need to sacrifice a mortgage payment.

    And with less product, I'm actually paying more attention to what's out there. I'm reading card backs again. I'm looking at players' stats again. The hobby is alive and well.