Getting started in a new hobby is always a little intimidating. There's always a lot to learn, and there's no guarantee you'll find it enjoyable to immerse yourself in a new pastime. Time and money are always considerations that can't be avoided.
Collecting sports cards is no exception. The industry went through a tremendous period of transformation in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and every new year seems to bring more changes. For longtime collectors who have been along for the entire ride, it's easy to forget that our favorite hobby can seem a little complicated, maybe even scary, to beginners.
The truth is that while there are a lot of layers of complexity to the world of sports cards, collecting them can be as simple as you want it to be. And there are equally simple reasons that make collecting such a compelling way for many people to spend their free time. Here, in no particular order, are five of them.
If you're thinking about starting a sports card collection for the first time, you just might find one of these is intriguing enough to give it a shot.
Becoming a Bigger Fan
Chances are, if you're considering collecting sports cards, you're already a fan of the sports depicted on them. Even if you think you're already the biggest sports fan you know, it's possible a card collection could bump up your passion even more.
In a similar way to fantasy sports, collecting cards can increase your interest in teams and players you never had a reason to care about in the past. Even in the age of instant information, sports cards are also a terrific tool for keeping track of the comings and goings of players and finding out more about the next generation of future stars, especially since rookies are such a big part of the hobby.
Can't imagine yourself sitting through an entire day of the NFL Draft? Become a collector, and you'll find yourself connected to that and many other events in the sporting world in ways you never dreamed possible.
Getting a Piece of the Action
Speaking of connections, nothing seals one between a fan and a player better than getting an autograph or acquiring a game-used item. A few decades ago, you would have had to spend a lot of time hanging out outside ballparks and hotels to get that signature, and a large amount of money to buy the jersey off your hero's back.
The modern sports card industry has solved both of those problems for fans. Authentic autographs and pieces of game-worn uniforms are as close as the local card store and a prominent part of almost every product. With card companies continuing to find innovative ways to bring fans closer to the sports they love, this looks like part of the industry that's here to stay.
The days of overproduction are history, and people on both sides of the sports card business understand the law of supply and demand a lot better. That means that some cards are truly collectible, making it a real likelihood that some of the cards in your collection will increase in value over time.
Of course, the sports card market is volatile, and timing is everything when you're thinking about selling. Turning a profit is difficult even for the most dedicated investors and probably shouldn't be your primary reason for collecting. But if you're going to spend your heard-earned money on a hobby, it's nice to know you might see some of that money coming back again someday.
Christmas All Year Long
Some collectors simply buy the individual cards they want, and the proliferation of internet sales and trading has made that segment of the hobby a sizable one. For others, nothing beats the anticipation of opening a pack or box of sports cards and discovering what's waiting on the inside.
Think of it as a safer, more affordable (unless you're opening some of the hobby's more expensive products) to get the same thrill some people get by gambling and you've just about got it. Whether it's beating the odds for that rare card of your favorite player or finding the last two base cards you need to finish off a set, tearing into unopened packs of cards is a simple joy in and of itself.
A Social Activity
It's certainly possible to collect sports cards with little or no human contact, but most people end up interacting with their fellow men and women along the way. Hanging out at the local shop to open your packs, hitting the forums to share your opinions or finding a trading partner to get that autograph you've had your eye on - they're all ways to socialize.
Intentionally or not, sports card collectors form their own community. Like any good hobby, it's likely that if you get involved, you'll end up finding something even more valuable than any collectible: some new friends.