If you’re new to the sports collecting hobby, the most important thing to keep in mind is that people collect in different ways. For me, as a kid growing up, I wanted to get as close to my favorite players as I possibly could. This transitioned to collecting autographs and cards to showcase my experiences to anyone who inquired. Since my childhood, I have mainly focused on my player collection.
This is partially due to the sheer number of cards produced each year, as it can be overwhelming for people who have transitioned their love for sports into a new card collection. When you focus your collecting targets on a specific player, the confusion over a starting point can be greatly reduced, thus leading to a bigger connection to the cards one collects.
Because I have adapted my collecting habits from the beginning, I didn’t have to worry about putting together whole sets, or wading through thousands of auctions just to find something I like. Instead, I could just focus on collecting the players I idolized. Since that point, it’s been all about getting that one card, or that one autograph of my favorite player to build the best collection. I’ve had lots of success in creating a good player collection, and I am hoping this article can serve as a guide for people who would like to do the same.
First, you need to have your player’s rookie card. It’s tough for other collectors to identify and appreciate a collection without one. Of course, this may not be possible with some of the older, more valuable players. But for those who collect guys who are still actively playing, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an affordable way to stock your box with a few nice “RC’s”. I personally always like to get the initial offerings of players in their pro uniforms, as I don’t collect many college teams. Since my favorite football player is Adrian Peterson, his 2007 Upper Deck card was a must have for the start of my collection.
In this example, the action shot is great, the design is simple and attractive, and Peterson is sporting trademark Viking purple. To find your own starting point, it’s good to study your options and find a card you like, just as I did. Products like the base Upper Deck product, Draft, Heroes, and Icons have numerous serially numbered rookie cards, as well as autographs that come a few per box: which will allow you to get great looking, valuable cards for a very good price.
In addition to a rookie card of your player, it’s also a good idea to get an eye popping autographed card. Many of today’s products feature these as a draw for the set, and the value of these cards can range from affordable to thousands of dollars. Of all the cards available on the market, a great product to find your centerpiece in is Exquisite Collection, due to the features and value of the cards. If you can afford them, there is no substitute for the wonderfully produced cards of this product. If money is an issue, the next tier of autograph cards would come from SP Authentic (SPA), one of the most popular sets around.
Luckily, out of SPA, there are a lot of amazing cards to chase for your player. The cards may not be as valuable as the ones in Exquisite, but the design is always exceptional, making the autographs a great centerpiece for many player collectors who can’t commit to the highest level of investment just yet. Cards from SP Authentic also have very few parallels, which means they are rarer in production, and the serial numbering present on the cards reflects the actual amount produced.
My personal autograph centerpiece is an Adrian Peterson 2007 Exquisite Collection Jersey Numbers Autograph. Although the card isn’t the most valuable Peterson card from the product, it was my favorite of all of the cards from that year. It features a hard signed autograph (signed directly on the card), a great team color centric design, and piece of a jersey worn by the player. Exquisite Collection produces cards like this on a regular basis, which is a big reason why collectors often seek them out to obtain their own centerpieces.
If you feel that expensive autographed cards are out of your price range, autographed memorabilia is actually a great alternative to display as your trophy. Most 8×10’s are great for framing and mini-helmets can look amazing in your man cave. They also cost a lot less than many of the top level rookie card autographs, which is great for those on a budget. Signed mini-helmets are always a priority for every player I collect, and most of the time you can get them from the Upper Deck Authenticated store at good prices. The UDA store also has many baseballs, footballs, and basketballs that have gone through a rigorous authentication process, thus preventing you from worrying about any counterfeits. This leads to a higher long term value, as collectors see the UDA authentication sticker and know the item is 100% real.
Player collectors also love “1/1’s”, or cards that are one of a kind, especially if they have a league or team logo on it. 1/1’s are definitely worth your consideration, especially some of the amazing ones out of Exquisite and SP Authentic. These tend to be the most valuable cards in existence, and if you are lucky enough to pull one, consider yourself to be at the top of the mountain. You may have to do some serious scavenging to find a logo card of your favorite player, but nothing does a better job of impressing your fellow collectors, and even people who aren’t familiar with the hobby,
Many player collectors also delve into “super collecting,” a practice where they try to get one of every card produced for a certain player. However, instead of super collecting, I would rather suggest saving your money up and buying a game used item like a jersey, or going for some of the one of a kind pieces available from UDA. If memorabilia is not your thing, there are always bigger and better items for your collection.
Finally, it’s always a good practice to go after anything that fits your style, as you can be confident that those items are the ones that can make a collection go from good to great. If you are looking for a certain card, there are many ways to find them, especially if you read blogs and message boards. Being a frequent participant in both of these online mediums will give you a huge base of collectors to search. They can also offer a great resource for learning about practices of other player collectors, as well as set collectors and team collectors. What you may find is that even though one label applies to you, there are others that may fit just as well.
Overall, player collecting is a great way to learn the way of the world in this hobby. It gives you a specific knowledge base to branch out from, and really gives you a great idea of the true value of certain products. Keep your head on a swivel and try to become very familiar with your likes and dislikes so that you can learn to grow your collection as efficiently as possible. Of course, you can always look for answers here and on the other blogs too. The community is always happy to help.
Adam Gellman runs the collecting blog Sports Cards Uncensored, and has been a collector of all things sports for over 15 years. To see more of his work, visit www.sportscardsuncensored.com.
The goal of the New Collector Corner series is to help casual sports fans and new collectors become familiar and comfortable with a hobby that can be confusing or daunting at first. This series focuses on tips that will help a new collector build and maintain a collection.