Collecting for the Fun of It
I have been a collector and a dealer of sports memorabilia for close to 30 years. Over those years there have been dramatic shifts by hobbyists in their attitudes about collecting. Since my major genre is sports memorabilia, I will confine my views to that area- although I imagine that just about every collectible market has had similar changes.

Thirty years ago, sports memorabilia collecting was just breaking through as a major hobby. Baseball cards were still relatively cheap to obtain, as was most of the memorabilia. Collectors were not so much concerned with value and conditions as much as they were obsessed with owning a piece of their youth. You could go to a show and buy or trade for items with very little thought of overspending. It was a diversion from regular day life and most of all - most collectors did it just for fun.

As the hobby grew, the hobby changed from being just plain fun to a business. Many of the part-time weekend dealers found it could be a lucrative profession. Auction houses began to sprout up and when the Internet took hold it added a new dimension. With the changes in the way we bought & sold, came changes in the attitudes of collectors. Collecting was not just for fun anymore, but also for investment. No longer did collectors leaf through boxes of cards to find the few they needed- they now needed to find it in the best condition possible at a price that they could make money. Grading and authentication services cropped up, and in my mind the innocence of collecting died. Collectors carried magnifying glasses to detect things that could not be seen with the naked eye. High-grade cards were the only ones to hold value and cards and memorabilia that had only intrinsic value were not highly sought after. The 1963 Topps set that I put together with my son one card at a time lost value because of the conditions. I couldn’t afford top grade cards of Mickey Mantle or the Pete Rose “rookie card”, so we settled for affordable lower grade cards. We loved putting that and other sets together in the mid 80’s, but were discouraged (like many other collectors) when the grading services devalued those cards. We collected for the right reasons back then and my happy memories of going to local shows with my boy will never be erased. I only hope that my son can take his son somewhere and get that same wonderful feeling.

I have long since given up any hope of owning a game used Babe Ruth bat or the million dollar Honus Wagner card. I’m a minor league collector and a middle class dealer. But it doesn’t matter what you collect – a $5 card can be just as fun to own as an expensive piece. A collector once asked me “What kind of memorabilia do you suggest I invest in?” I told him that memorabilia should never be bought as an investment – it should be bought because you like it. If the piece goes up in value, that is a bonus to your collecting. I don’t want to come off as being “preachy” because I enjoy making money and seeing my collection increase in value as much as the next guy. All I’m trying to say is that there can be no price put on the enjoyment that a hobby gives you. Why not get back to basics and collect – just for the fun of it.
Lou Criscione
By Lou Criscione