Guest Blog: Three Tips for the Returning Collector

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Mike Sommers to the COMC Blog. He is a husband, father, baseball chaplain, sports card collector, fantasy sports writer at Rotogrinders.com and owner of WaxPackHero.com.  He has collected since 1986, and as a lifelong Cubs fan, he learned the meaning patience and disappointment.  But let’s be honest, mostly disappointment.  The World Series victory in 2016 made him cry, and he’s ok with that!  You can connect with him on his blog, on Twitter @themikesommer, and at various other social media platforms under the name WaxPackHero. )

Over the last few years there seems to be somewhat of a resurgence in the hobby. Sales by card manufacturers are up, attendance at the National Sports Collectors Convention is on the rise, and the volume of cards changing hands via a variety of online platforms has never been higher.

One driver of this trend seems to be individuals who collected as a kid and are now returning to the hobby after a lengthy cardboard hiatus. Many of these collectors are returning to a world which is very different than they left. It can be a bit overwhelming, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. That was my exact situation in late 2015.

When I stopped collecting, cards were available everywhere, $1 packs from a variety of manufacturers were the norm, and Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan autographs in Upper Deck were the only pack issued autos we dreamed of hitting.

I stumbled across a Dave and Adam’s banner ad in November 2015, and I ordered a couple boxes of cards. It didn’t take long before I had the itch to buy more, but I also realized I had a lot to learn. The idea of hits, dozens and dozens of sets, and boxes that ranged from $50-$500 had my brain spinning.

I found my local card shop (LCS) where I started my education. Eventually, I clicked my way onto the Blowout Cards Forums. That’s where my eyes were opened to a whole new spectrum of collecting possibilities including hundreds of pages of posts dedicated to the ins and outs of using COMC.

Over the next couple years, I eased my way back into the hobby. A box or two here and there allowed me to build some sets. Reselling cards I cherry picked out of the dollar boxes at my LCS and flipping cards on COMC provided the opportunity to pick up some “free” cards for my newly budding collection.

Eventually, in late 2017 I decided I wanted to provide a resource where collectors could go to read about the hobby and share some of the lessons I learned along the way. If it made the transition back into the hobby easier for others, then great! And so, WaxPackHero.com was born! Over the last year and a half, I’ve been documenting my journey, reviewing products and resources, and hopefully I’ve been providing a bit of entertainment along the way.

Here are a few of those lessons for the returning collector.

1) It’s All About ‘dat Base, ‘bout ‘dat Base, no Relics…….

The best and worst thing about the hobby is there are so many products to choose from. If you try to collect everything, there is a good chance you’ll become overwhelmed, and it would require a bigger portion of your paycheck than most people would be comfortable with. Well, at least a bigger portion than most collector’s significant others would be comfortable with. At the same time, all that variety creates an environment where there are as many different ways to collect as there are collectors. The key is to Narrow Your Focus.

For me that focus is on base and inserts. I realized I love set building and having a large variety of cards from my favorite players. I decided my focus would be on base cards and I’d forgo the allure of the auto and relic hits. Base are cheap at my LCS, and COMC is a great platform for filling in those set needs.

Others may decide autos are their thing, or maybe you only want to go after graded cards. Vintage? Junk Wax era? One particular team? Great! Regardless of what it is, find something you enjoy and narrow your focus.

2) #FlipLife

When I got back cards, I did not have an unlimited budget, but there was a lot that I wanted to buy. Maybe it’s how I’m wired, but it didn’t take me long to realize I could probably offset a good portion of my card purchases if I was willing to put in a little work. I started flipping cards on COMC, completing the COMC challenges for store credit, and eventually I started buying and selling collections across a variety of platforms. Personally, I was able to turn “trash into treasure” by taking the unwanted base off the hands of the hit chasers, and helping find new homes for it amongst other set builders like me. This hobby can pay for itself if you’re willing to put in a little work along the way.

3) It Takes a Village……

Or at least a shop full of collectors, or a forum full of posters. Collecting is better if we can share those experiences with others who have the same interest. Many of my current friends are people I’ve met through my local LCS or through on-line interactions via Facebook, Twitter, various podcasts, and blogs. I wouldn’t enjoy the hobby nearly as much if I wasn’t doing it with them. Take a second, reach out, and put some time into building some relationships with other collectors. I promise it will be worth it.

If you’re rejoining the hobby, welcome back! If you’re a seasoned vet, then go out of your way to help educate a new collector. At the end of the day, the more educated we all are, the stronger the hobby will be. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, I’d love to help!