My hobby Essay

or those that are not aware, this is a series I started a few weeks ago about my foray into the baseball card collecting world after a long absence. If you want to read about my decision to do this and why, you can look at this link right here. Also, this post is a bit lengthy as it has some primer elements to it. Subsequent updates won’t be nearly as wordy.

A few weeks, I started a journey in earnest to re-start a hobby that I had abandoned a long time ago: baseball card collecting. Up until recently, I hadn’t opened a pack of baseball cards since probably 1994. However, I have always enjoyed the idea of collecting in general and recently with some of the work that has gone up here at Talking Chop plus my general desire to be involved in Braves baseball in as many ways as possible, I had really gotten the itch to start collecting cards again.

For the last few weeks, I have been very busy exploring this vast (and really fun) hobby, so here is an update on my progress so far. The video below highlights some of the cards I am happiest about from the last few weeks as well as some random observations I have made. If you all would subscribe to the Youtube channel that said video is from (its free, just have to click a button), I would greatly appreciate it. I want to do cool mail day/mailbag videos and pack openings on that channel (plus prospect footage and the like as well) and if I can get enough subscribers, it would allow the series to expand into more and better products and sweeter cards which sounds like a lot of fun. I am already aware that the video didn’t stitch together properly which I will fix next go around and I’m working on the lens distortion from the GoPro as well.

Anyways, on to the written portion of today’s program

Getting Started

It is easy to say “I am going to start collecting Braves cards”...but I have found that it not that easy or inexpensive at all to actually do so. Also, we are talking about some vast swaths of Braves history that one could dip into if you so desired and that turns into information overload in a hurry. With that, here are some decisions that I have been loosely holding myself to:

Focus on recent prospects/young players - Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of the Braves run of division titles and I have a lot of love for Braves historical figures like Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Dale Murphy. However, I have to start somewhere and not only did I desperately need to decrease the scope of things to get started, but I have a track record of loving prospects, in particular this group of young players that have debuted in the big leagues over the last couple of years or are making their way through the minors right now. As a result, that was a starting point for me. Others may want to hunt down Chipper Jones rookies or go after vintage cards and I could end up down those paths eventually (and honestly those sound like a lot of fun, too), but for the moment my primary focus is on the young guys.

Not restricting myself to buying singles - There are going to be hard core collectors out there that are going to say that I should just hunt down the individual cards I want on eBay or COMC and then enjoy the results. Honestly, that may actually be the most efficient way to go about things. However, my goal is to not just buy the things I want and show the results because, well, that would be pretty boring. I genuinely want this series to be an exploration of this hobby. I also want to share the thrill of getting lucky with crazy pulls out of packs or in a razz (more on those at a later date...but basically they are raffles) or in a group break (more on those coming here in a bit). That was some of the most fun I remember when I was a kid and I wanted to experience that again not just for myself, but also to share with you guys. Don’t get me wrong, I have been buying single cards and I will share the fruits of that labor soon enough, but that isn’t as interesting to me to start things off with.

Not throwing a ton of money at cards - I know this will shock many of you...but being a Deputy Site Manager is not making me rich. I have a day job and I also have a family of four to support, so chucking a bunch of money at a hobby isn’t feasible especially if I don’t want to come home one day with the locks changed and my stuff on the front lawn. Moreover, I want to try to focus on ways to make this hobby accessible to a lot of people...not just those who have the means to get whatever they want. Yes, if you throw a few thousand dollars buying cards over a two week span, you will assemble a pretty neat collection. There are some CRAZY high end baseball products out there that are awesome, but not exactly accessible to just anyone. However, I have found that there are ways (if one is smart about it) to get to the same point without spending obscene amounts of money and you can have a lot of fun along the way doing so…..although I freely admit these ways take longer and require a good bit of research.

Focusing primarily on licensed product - I have already broken this rule a few times, but I am focusing mostly on Topps products. They tend to hold their value better since the Panini owned companies cannot display team names or logos due to not owning a license with MLB. Don’t get me wrong….a lot of those cards look awesome and I have acquired a few, but since I have been buying sealed product, I want to be able to turn sweet cards from other teams into the Braves cards I want. As a result, the focus for now will be on Topps stuff, although I imagine after the 2019 draft I will dip into some Panini stuff as well.

Collect what I like - This has been the most prevalent piece of advice I have gotten from a LOT of people over the last few weeks. Obviously I have a predisposition towards prospects, but I already have a pet card that I am pursuing all of the variations of (I will disclose that in another article once I get a bit closer to my goal there) and I am keeping an open mind as to what catches my interest. I expect that I will find some young players that are not Braves that I will get into as well, although for the moment I haven’t dabbled in that quite yet.

One note that I wanted to mention before we get to the good stuff: a few people have expressed a willingness to send me cards to help with my collecting as well as have let me know what they have available to trade just so I knew about them. I did not expect that response and frankly it is super flattering and humbling. I really like the idea of creating a lot of interaction with folks with this series, so here is what I will say about this. If enough folks have genuine interest, I will open a P.O. Box solely for Re-entering the Hobby stuff and every couple of weeks, I will check it and everyone that sends in cards will be entered into a drawing to win stuff that I will send back. I don’t have all the details of what that stuff will be yet, but I want to make sure I give back to those that help me out. If there isn’t interest, that is totally fine as well and the series will go on as normal.

Cracking Packs

Remember when I said that I liked opening packs of baseball cards? Yeah...it turns out I still REALLY like opening packs. However, it has been a bit disappointing in the sense that it isn’t nearly as easy to find them as it used to be. Most drug stores don’t carry them anymore nor do most grocery stores. You can find them at Walmart and Target, but you are at the mercy of their selection which can be dicey. However, when a new base set comes out, those are your best bets to be able to find them. Oddly enough, Dollar Tree also has sports cards most of the time, but their baseball card selection is a bit rough in my experience. Obviously, you can order boxes of packs online readily, but buying whole boxes and cases at a time is expensive and doesn’t guarantee you will get the autograph or parallel you want. I will likely expand to that point later just because, again, I really like cracking packs, but for the last few weeks I have stuck to opening retail packs and blaster boxes here and there.

Honestly, my luck with packs has been pretty amazing. Thus far, again in terms of retail products from 2018, my favorite set has easily been Topps Update with Topps Heritage being up there as well since the design has a cool retro look and it has lots of prospects and rookies. I expect that the upcoming Bowman sets will get my attention in 2019, but Update has all of the rookies one would want including Acuna, Albies, Soroka, etc. (plus Ohtani, Soto, and Gleyber for trading and selling purposes) and I really like the way a lot of the inserts and parallels look. Oddly enough, my best pull out of retail (the products you can get at Walmart, Target, etc.) came from a Topps Heritage blaster box that I found on the floor at Walmart. It contained a redemption (a card that gives you a code for a specific card that Topps has to mail to you) for a uniform patch autograph of Paul Goldschmidt that was limited to 25 copies (or to /25 for those that already speak collecting language). I redeemed it successfully and it was very cool, but I traded it to an awesome guy to bring in some Braves autographs I wanted. More on the trades I have done here in a bit.

However, my biggest pull by a mile was out of 2019 Topps Series 1. I was initially excited about Series 1, but found myself leading up to the release underwhelmed by the design of the cards and that, combined with fairly poor odds that come with these inexpensive base sets, dampened my excitement. As a result, I did not plan on investing a ton of money or effort into the product. However, I also really wanted to support my local card shop, The Sports Odyssey in Douglasville, GA, and I knew that they were going to be getting hobby boxes in right around release day. So, I went down there, picked out a box and just for kicks, I opened my box in the shop while chatting with Dave about the design, the rookies in the set I was looking out for, etc. Well, then this happened.

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