Although it doesn't come up often in everyday conversation, when I tell people I collect sports cards and memorabilia I usually get one of two typical reactions.
Actually, when I think about it, I get three.
The first, less-typical reaction, is the simple question, "Why?" People who don't collect don't fully understand collecting, and rightly so. "Why do you collect pieces of cardboard?" That is a question I have been asked more than once. "What do you do with them?" is another one. Little do they know the significance those pieces of cardboard have in my life, and the amount of opportunity and connections this hobby brings.
Non-collectors don't understand. But how could they? It's not their thing. You have to have a certain drive and motivation to stay with collecting sports cards and memorabilia, or anything for that matter. It's easy to start by purchasing a pack of cards or two, but to actually stick with it for an extended period of time you have to really love it.
Like many, I started collecting as a kid. The first single I ever bought for myself was a 1988 Fleer Tim Belcher. To this day I remember purchasing it from a card store in Roxborough, PA. I flipped through pages of nine-pocket sleeves, having no idea what I was looking at or looking for. I chose the Belcher card because I liked the colors. It cost me ten cents and I was convinced it’d sell for a hundred times that when I was ready to go to college. All of our cards were going to pay for college, right?
The second reaction I often get is something like, "I have a bunch of cards in my (insert childhood junk storage area here), and they are really old! You should look at them sometime." I always say I'd be happy to look through people's old cards, readily knowing that it will be a bunch of late '80s and early '90s Topps, Fleer, and Donruss commons. But rarely does it happen. Rarely do people ever approach me with the actual cards to sort through.
The third reaction I have received is, "You're female, and you collect sports cards and memorabilia? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’m surprised." Last time I checked, amazingly enough, there is no ban on women buying, selling, and collecting sports cards. No doubt this hobby is male-dominated, but there are plenty of female collectors out there. And from my experience, the number of us is growing.
In most ways, the experience of the female collector is no different from that of a male collector. There are occasional issues, however. I have had sellers try to up-sell me terribly at shows. I'm not saying this doesn’t happen to male collectors, but it is something I have definitely experienced more than once. When sellers know I know the true value of what they are trying to sell me the looks on their faces are great, and the excuses are priceless.
I player collect Joe Flacco cards. I recall one time at a show where I saw a mid-end Flacco parallel numbered to 199 with no price listed. I forget the brand, but we all know it’d be rare for a card such as that to be worth much more than a few dollars.
I asked the seller what he was looking to get for the card. "Twenty bucks," he said. "It's numbered."
Knowing I was being taken advantage of, later that day I asked a male friend to go ask the same seller what he was looking to get for the card.
Somehow, between the time that I inquired and my friend inquired the value of the card decreased by seventeen dollars.
Most sellers are honest, and the example above is not the norm, but sexism in the hobby definitely happens. I’m certainly not whining, but just providing some perspective.
My reality is that I've found that the vast majority of male collectors are welcoming of female collectors. Nowhere is that more evident than during group breaks I participate in with Layton Sports Cards. To be able to chat with like-minded people from around the world while watching boxes of cards being opened live is awesome.
Whether you buy into a break or not, the chat room is always inclusive. Male, female, American or international, young collectors, older collectors, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from.
What matters is the amusement we get from the bind that ties us all—those pieces of cardboard.