February 03, 2010

The Epiphany

I had an epiphany last night in conversation with my fiancee. And truthfully, I've had this thought before, just no reason to do it. I'm going to focus my collection down to 5,000 cards – 10,000 at most.

You may be thinking "Wow Ben, don't limit yourself" in a sarcastic way, but I have over 200,000 cards. That's not a collection. That's a landfill. And what of the other 190,000 to 195,000? Hello, eBay.

So what spurred this? The constant battle for space against the clutter, that's what. Since childhood I've been a neatfreak trapped in a trash collector's body. Like all people, my interest in things waxes and wanes, but unlike most people, I never make a clean break. I have hundreds of CDs. I have two very heavy boxes full of 16mm films from the 1940s. I have a postcard folder collection that rivals my sports card collection. My fiancee and I have a huge library of books. I collect Chris Ware books and prints. The list just goes on from there.

This is something I need to do. And this morning I got the ball rolling. A few days ago a friend of mine (who is currently housing most of my card collection) visited and dropped off a box brimming with my basketball card collection, all 5,000 or so cards of it, not counting the vintage stuff I've bought on the side through the years. Just a week ago I would've been excited to get it back and lovingly sort through the stacks.

This morning I got up early. I sorted through the entire box, pulling out the Celtics and the 1989-90 Hoops (by far my favorite basketball set of my youth). After that, I put up a notice on the Boston Craigslist: FREE Big Box of Basketball Cards. By 3pm it was on its way home with a new owner.

During the handing-off of the box, I was a little nervous, like making sure my kid was okay to ride the bus to sleep-away camp. But after it was done, I was surprised at how clean I felt.

I've tried focusing my collection before: only cards of the Red Sox, and only cards made before 1972. Well, then how did I end up with thousands of commons from 1973, 1974, and 1975? How did I end up with nearly 1,000 cards from 2008 Topps Heritage? Why, oh why did I just buy not one but two boxes of 1991 Topps?

I think I can do 5,000 cards total. I know I can do 10,000. I drafted a "keep" sheet this morning:

• 1986 Topps set (792)
• 1986 Topps Traded set (132)
• 1987 Topps set (792)
• 1987 Topps Traded set (132)

Still try to complete:
• 1962 Post Cereal (200)
• 1956 Topps (Life Goal territory here) (340)

• Cap out Red Sox collection at 1,000 unique cards

So far that's a total of 3,188 cards. That leaves me with 1,812 individual cards at the least; 6,812 at the most.

Lately I've been thinking about the purpose of continuing The Baseball Card Blog. I know that I've brought this up many times in the past, and that I've never come to a clear, concise conclusion about what to do.

I think I've figured the whole thing out. The way I see it, it follows a trilogy arc.

Act One: Binge (2006-2007)
I revel in the idea of rediscovering cards from childhood. I rank all the sets from the 1980s and early 1990s. I highlight the wonderfully inane with The Fantastic Card of the Day.

Act Two: Revelation (2008)
I wonder aloud at the posturing of the industry players; I even enter the game and consult for Topps on a few of their projects. I embrace the mighty modern-day airbrush and create a virtual cardboard homage to "Casey at the Bat." I flesh out previous blog entries and edit a standalone book ("The Baseball Card Book", never published).

Act Three: Purge (2010)
After a year of inactivity, I come full circle and explore ways of dodging the metaphorical iceberg that is 200,000 sports cards and nowhere to store them. I blog about The Keeper List and why certain cards make it and most don't. At the end of the Purge, I end the blog as a focused collector, an individual who's found meaning in the cards (and who's recognized that not all cards have meaning).

My friend and I were talking over lunch when I brought up the idea that tossing out most of our collections would be a good thing. He threw me a pack of 2010 Topps and said I sounded like I needed to be talked down from the ledge. But I don't think it's unnatural, just the logical third step for any collector (or their well-meaning, spring-cleaning mother): cleanse the palate, and focus on what matters.

Breathe easy, Oil Can, you're a Keeper.


Anonymous said...

I had the same epiphany in 2008. I was able to cut my collection from 350,000 cards to 200,000 cards. I felt good about it, and had the same clean feeling you had. Last year I was able to let go of another 10-15,000 cards and still had no regrets. The idea of skimming down my collection to 10k is very nice, and I'll probably do the same thing you're doing soon!

dayf said...

If your collection is a landfill, mine must be a full blown EPA disaster.

JD's Daddy said...

you had me up until choosing 1000 "unique" Red Sox cards....let me know how that goes for ya!

Doug Milne said...

Ben, thanks for sharing your thoughts and if you want some help with those cards, let me know. I'll take them off your hands.

Jeffrey said...

I have two 3200-count boxes of 1981 Topps. What am I going to ever do with 120 Dave Kingman cards?

PS ... I would gladly serve as a safe haven for any Cincy Reds you wish to purge :)

Shane said...


I would love to take your 1973s from ya, trying to build the set from my birth year. Already have Schmidt RC, Aaron, Clemente, Ryan to name a few, but I assure you that those commons would be well loved and take care of here. Plus as a Sox fan, I KNOW I have some Sox you may not have come across.


Ben Henry said...

Shane- email me and let's discuss.

Kevin said...

I am actually starting a blog based on getting rid of cards...instead of having multiple sets from the same year, I am collecting only the Topps and Topps Traded sets and then only keeping the players from other sets that weren't in either Topps set.

My blog documenting all of this is http://ultimateset.blogspot.com/

Nathan said...

Being an Astros collector I have found many a card still lingering around for no appearant reason. (Orlando Miller rookie cards anyone?) I have purged my own collection a few times, mainly evicting any Astro without a last name starting with "B".

But yet I still keep certain players that didnt start and end their careers with the Astros. I still pick up Caminiti, and I have a special place in my collection for Billy Wagner.

But my main problem is that even though I know I already own at least one, if not more of certain Jeff Bagwell card, I have to buy it a when I go thru the stacks of cards in the back of the Card Shop. I mean, what good does it do me to have boxes of Bagwells? I have a doubles collection that rival most peoples main collection of Bagwell.

Eh, just a thought that came to mind as I read your post. Figured I had to share...