Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why I quit

A few collectors on Twitter have been relaying their stories on how and when they got into the hobby, when and why they quit (if they did) and when and why they came back to it.

To those of us who have blogs, that information is already out there. It usually shows up within the first few weeks of writing a blog. And I've gone over the milestone dates in my hobby journey many times.

But I'd like to go into more specifics regarding one of those dates, and that is when and why I quit this hobby.

I've discovered that a lot of collectors turned away from the hobby at the same time I did (which is why the hobby scrambled so much during the second half of the '90s). It was in 1994, or thereabouts. And the baseball strike had a lot to do with it.

But I don't want people to get the wrong idea about that. The baseball strike didn't make us so angry that we slammed down our cards and yelled, "THAT'S IT! Greedy no-good jerks! I'm never collecting again!", and then promptly threw our collections into the fireplace.

That didn't happen, or at least it didn't for me. It was more of gradual dissatisfaction that caused me to quit.

I think that's the way it is with a lot of divorces. Too many wrongs, not enough rights. Going through the motions. Just not feeling it anymore. Malaise.

That was why I quit.

A possible baseball strike was in the news throughout 1994, long before it actually happened. It wasn't good. I wasn't happy with anybody in baseball at the time, but anger wasn't really the feeling, it was more resignation and heartbreak.

I just couldn't look at my cards in that kind of mood. They didn't mean anything to me anymore.

Yet, there was more that contributed to the overall feeling of indifference.

I had been collecting cards for two decades by 1994. Most of those years there was only one set to collect. Then there were three, then four, then five, then, hold on I can't keep up!!

I didn't know how to collect anymore.

For years, there was a set and you tried to complete it, or at least some aspect of it. Find a set, complete it. That was the sole mission. And when Donruss and Fleer came along, I did the same. Find. Complete. But I couldn't possibly try to complete FIVE sets. And then all these spin-off sets like Stadium Club and Ultra. What the hell?

It didn't even occur to me to just collect players, which is probably what younger collectors did, possibly as an unconscious defense mechanism to counter the number of sets being thrown their way.

So, I just stopped. Because I was lost.

In 1994, I bought however many packs of Topps equated to around 50 cards at that time. I think I bought them early in the season and then stopped looking for any other cards. Because unlike 1993, I do not remember seeing any Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss or Score from that year. (Forget about Collector's Choice and Pacific and the like, I didn't even know what that was until I returned to the hobby years later).

I stopped looking for other cards to buy because I didn't like the look of '94 Topps.

I'm still not crazy about it. If you turn over a '94 Topps card, you're hit with a combination of green and orange. That is not a good combination, I don't care what Miami Hurricanes fans say. And it's on the back of almost every card -- on the front of several of them, too.

I generously ranked '94 Topps 38th in my all-time Topps countdown to acknowledge a lot of great photos in the set. But trust me, I wanted to rank it lower.

So, however many packs of '94 Topps I opened initially, that's all I owned. More than two decades later, I have maybe 90 cards of '94 Topps. The memories are just too painful.

A long relationship doesn't end with a bang, but a whimper. I simply faded away from the hobby. In 1995, I bought three packs of Topps, but I didn't consider myself a collector anymore. It was just habit.

Over the years that followed, baseball didn't do much to help bring me back to the hobby. Teams I disliked kept winning the World Series. The McGwire-Sosa home run race was fun, but quickly tainted by drug allegations. And those allegations grew stronger and stronger, keeping me far, far away from the hobby.

Life became busier, too. A new, more demanding job. I became a parent. Even if I wanted to collect, how in the world would I do it? And if I ever did encounter the bazillion sets available to me in the late '90s, I'd know for sure it was impossible.

So I stayed away for years and years.

The combination of the strike, an overwhelming list of choices, and a set I didn't really like, led me to quit, with -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- a shrug of my shoulders.

Today, I am involved more than I've ever been and I look at the hobby as kind of a salvation for people. If only more baseball fans would get involved in collecting cards, maybe they wouldn't crab about so many other things in life. I know, for sure, that collecting has made me a happier individual.

And that is why I will probably never quit again.

(P.S.: All the cards you saw here came out of those few packs I bought in 1994).


  1. The reason I quit was simple.. Baseball cards didn't make the wasteland that is Northern Ontario after 1993..

  2. I quit because I discovered girls and beer-but now I have a great wife and drink wonderful beer and enjoy cards

  3. That happened to me, too, but I didn't really quit then (between 85-88), just took a break.

  4. I like the front design of 1994. The way there is a border that hints at Home Plate is kind of cool and particularly effective on the George Brett Card: I also think 1994 is the only Set to lead off with a Rookie Cup

  5. I started collecting right before you quit. what a horrible time to begin a new hobby! I lasted until 2002 and stayed away ten years. There's still too much out there. Thank you Topps.

  6. Great post. I hope this turns into a blog bat around and others write about why they quit the hobby we all love. Me personally? I quit in 2001... mainly because I needed money to buy a place.

    1. Good call, Fuji. I'll put it on my list for a future post.

  7. I quit in 1993 for the same reasons Night Owl outlines. The multiple number of sets watered down the fun plus my attitude toward the player strikes started in 1981 with the ridiculous split season and then 1994 happened. Forget it!! My collecting now includes Topps only and cards mainly from the late seventies and back.

  8. I quit around 1999. Too many sets and too many parallels. My "wish lists"--just trying to collect my team--had become books. And the shows had all disappeared. I call it quitting though, beginning in 2001, I would always buy at least some Heritage. But, other than that, I paid no attention to any other cards nor even the game. Heritage was the string that drew me back, over time, as they inched closer to my prime collecting years. That and finding new collecting friends, plus the on-line blogs, reawakened the collector in me. There was something renewing in finding folks who could wax poetic about junk wax and get excited about completing a set of 1989 Topps. The strike(s) didn't bother me that much. To be honest, I never really understood why it bothered everyone else so much.

    1. I starting collecting cards because I liked watching baseball games (and playing when I was younger) and following the players, keeping up with their stats. When there are no games to watch and no season to follow, collecting cards, in my opinion, becomes less fun or even no fun.

  9. I never really did quit but I did quit buying wax boxes after 1991. I scaled back big time in 1994. I just began buying one set per sport. Then in 2001, buying one set per sport every few years. It was cost and the card stock/foil cards were not a favorite and too much product being made. In 2021 when(if??) Topps Heritage is the 1972 Topps design, I think I may buy a case of cards and come full circle as 1972 Topps where the first packs I bought as 7 year old.

  10. I quit because I started college in 1993. Unfortunately, there's probably not enough story to sustain a blog post for that on my end.

  11. I quit in 1994....too many sets came out and the forced scarcity of cards turned me off. Coupled with me going to college was the breaking point. In 2001 I returned to card collecting, but had given up American sets. I started with Japanese sumo wrestling cards and haven't looked back! Great blog and thanks for sharing.