I started collecting in 1986. Christmas, 1985, I got a box of 1986 Topps and from then on every little scrap of money I had went to buying baseball cards. All I thought about were baseball cards. The baby fat in Clemens’ face on his 1986 Topps card, the excitement of receiving a Vince Coleman rookie card from my friend as a birthday present, the other excitement of finding a $20 bill on the ground and blowing it on a 1965 Gibson for $12 and packs of 1990 Score (still one of my favorite sets; I must have something like 6,000 cards just from that set…and I never found one of those elusive Sandberg ‘3B’ error cards). I think I even went as a baseball card for Halloween one year (I was a 1989 Topps cardboard box version of myself).
My older sister’s high school boyfriend gave me most of his collection one summer, so even though I started in 1986 and really could only afford Topps until about 1990, I had tens of thousands of cards from 1976 to 1984. When I stopped actively amassing cards in 1995, I had something like 160,000 baseball cards and at least 40,000 non-baseball cards (roughly one closet-full of cards).
My favorite players to collect were Eddie Murray and Fred McGriff, though I had books of others I liked: Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett, Randy Johnson, Moises Alou, Chipper Jones, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Marquis Grissom, Edgar Martinez, Albert Belle, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, and to a lesser extent Larry Walker, Johnny Damon, Mike Piazza, Manny Ramirez and Jim Edmonds. I don’t know why I picked some of these players to idolize. Certainly Belle, I hate to admit it, was less than likable, but his cards were really cool, and he came around at the right time (mid-90s).
But it was really the mid-90s that killed my interest in collecting. Too many insert sets, too many sets in general, and it became too expensive to buy packs, especially when you knew you’d probably get way more commons than you’d know what to do with. I had this idea once that I’d take all my 1989 Topps commons and make them into wallpaper or some kind of rug or something, but I could never bring myself to destroy cards, no matter how worthless.
I started again briefly in 2003 with the Topps Heritage set (of which I’m only missing 10 cards or so from the Master Set), but by then my interest was only because they revived the 1954 design and minimized the inserts, while skillfully bringing back the SP (without beating it over your head). Since that set, new cards just haven’t held my interest.
I’ve since made a conscious effort to focus on vintage, pre-1980 cards, if I buy anything at all. I also don’t really care about basketball cards anymore (though I did just break open a box of 1989-90 Hoops).