Collecting sports cards has been a popular hobby for decades. More cards are produced every year, adding more choices for enthusiasts and another layer of history to the hobby.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of cards and sets that are out there can make starting a new card collection a little scary. With so many things to learn, taking the first steps can seem like the most difficult part.
Believe it or not, all of the people already enjoying sports cards faced the same issues at one time or another. No matter when they got started, they had to answer some of the same questions: what to collect, how much to spend and where to buy. And though time has shuffled the available options, those questions are all still valid for people starting out today.
If you are considering taking the plunge and starting a sports card collection, the following tips can help get you on your way.
Narrow Down What You Want to Collect
Sports cards are similar to a Las Vegas buffet in the sense that there's something for everyone. But just like you can't eat everything on the buffet, you simply can't collect all the sports cards that hit the market. Money, storage space and the time needed to sort and store everything make that impossible.
That means you have to narrow the scope of your collection. You can accomplish this in a number of ways, such as only collecting cards from a specific sport or choosing to specialize only in rookie cards.
Examining what attracted you to the hobby in the first place can point you in the right direction. For example, if you have a favorite player or team, collecting only their cards may be the way to go.
Pick the collecting focus that feels right to you, and whatever you decide, don't feel like you are locked into that choice. People can and do change the themes of their collections as they go.
Plan a Budget
Let's be honest: no one actually enjoys creating a budget. Unless you're fortunate enough to be a billionaire though, you're going to have to face the reality that only a portion of your disposable income can be devoted to sports cards.
Whether you decide on a weekly, monthly or annual collecting budget, you'll get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the hobby if you stick to it. Following your budget will ensure that you don't miss out on the cards you want the most.
One of the great things about collecting sports cards is that there are products that run the gamut from affordable to seriously expensive. So regardless of the size of your collecting budget, you can rest assured that there are cards that will fit into it.
Once you learn a little bit more about the different products and sets that are on the market, you may find it helpful to keep up to date on when they go on sale so you can adjust your budget accordingly.
Find a Place to Buy
Now that you've figured out what you'd like to collect and how much you plan on spending, the next obvious step is finding a place to buy some cards. This shouldn't be too difficult, as there are several ways to track them down.
For the personal touch, it's hard to beat a sports card dealer - that is a store that specializes in selling sports cards (often alongside other sports memorabilia, comic books or other collectibles). Good dealers should be happy to answer all of your questions, which can be a big help when you're just starting out. This option isn't open to everyone, since there are less card stores around today than there were in the hobby's heyday a decade or two ago, but it's still worth an internet search or look in the phonebook to see if there's a dealer near you.
Big retailers like Walmart and Target, toy stores and even some drug stores and convenience stores also sell sports cards. These can be good places to pick up cards at decent prices, but the cards you'll find there aren't always the same as the ones you'll find at card stores, and you'll want to make sure you understand the differences before you buy.
Any discussion about places to buy cards would be incomplete without mentioning the numerous options available online. It's no exaggeration to say that the internet transformed the hobby dramatically at the dawn of the 21st Century, making it much easier to get cards into the hands of people who want them the most.
Many dealers have a web presence, and sites like eBay and NAXCOM make buying everything from single cards to packs and boxes to large lots of cards a snap. You'll pay for shipping, of course, but for selection and convenience it's hard to beat what you'll find with a few clicks of your mouse.
Protect Your Cards Properly
Once you've started your collection in earnest, you don't want to let it get too big without giving some thought to storing and protecting your cards. Without proper care, moisture, temperature extremes and sunlight can ruin your cards in pretty short order.
Buying supplies to properly protect your cards is relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the cards themselves, so it shouldn't make too much of a dent in your collecting budget. In any case, it's worth spending a little time and money in this area to make sure your collection stays in top condition.
Explore Your New Hobby
Congratulations! You've taken the first steps into a world that can be both rewarding and exciting.
Of course, there's a lot more to the hobby than simply accumulating cards. You can explore its rich history, check out a sports card show or go online to follow hobby news, find trading partners and exchange opinions with fellow collectors.