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.