Collecting Lanes and why you should have more than one.
You might have heard the term “collecting lane” or you may have heard other people talk about “finding your lane” in the hobby. This usually means find something you like and stick with it. The hobby is vast and collecting everything can and will overwhelm you. Finding your collecting lane will help you focus not only your collection, but your time and money has well. Some people find their collecting lane rather easily: it can be their favorite player or team. They break into the hobby already knowing what they want, or at least they think they do. Selecting a player or team is probably the most basic and simple of collecting lanes, and I don’t say this as if it was a bad thing. The more time you spend in the hobby, the more things you will discover that will catch your attention. Like I mentioned, the hobby is vast and things that don’t appeal to you today, might catch your eye in the future. Approaching the hobby with a tunnel vision mentality will only deprive you of many great things out there you might also enjoy.
When I started collecting back in 1992, I had a clear goal in mind: I was going to collect Michael Jordan. A simple player collection, trading everything else in favor of finding the MJ cards I needed. By 1993 MJ did a 180 degree turn on all of us and decided to retire. By then, the amount of cards of him was fairly limited and by 1994, I had a copy of all his major released cards from Upper Deck, Topps, Fleer, and SkyBox, missing only a few of the early released Star Co. cards. I hadn’t discovered oddball cards and alternate release cards yet since my main source of information was Beckett magazine and they did not include information of those items. That’s when a young rookie from Memphis caught my eye with dazzling play: I started collecting Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. When MJ decided to surprise us all again and return, I already had a copy of every Penny rookie year card released. I went back to MJ and kept Penny for a side pc while I could, but it was soon evident MJ needed much more attention. Getting into Penny cards kept me in the hobby when my main collecting lane disappeared. I was still looking for the missing Star Co. I needed from MJ, but back then the hunt was a bit slower than it is now. Penny became my second collecting lane, and kept me involved in the hobby.
Types of Collecting Lanes or How do you collect?
The discovery process of what you like in this hobby is one I consider quite unique. You have a multitude of players, teams, and products to select from, it can be both exciting and overwhelming. Over time, I have identified a few of the more mainstream collecting lanes, or ways to collect, used by most of the hobby:
- Player collecting: you focus your collection on one single player, trying to get a copy of every card made. This may spill out into a memorabilia collection also. We all usually start here, this is why I consider it the basic collecting lane.
- Set Collecting: set building is one of the oldest ways to enjoy the hobby, and probably one of the most satisfying. Whether it’s base sets or insert sets, you enjoy the feeling of completeness that comes with building a set.
- Team Collecting: you focus on your favorite team, and collect cards of the teams roster over the years, good and bad.
- Brand Collecting: you are faithful to just one particular brand and all it’s releases. This type of collecting made more sense when there were different companies producing cards, but it can still be done given how many different releases there are right now.
- Registry Collecting: this is a bit more advanced form of either player or set building collecting that can be found in the PSA website. It’s meant to be focused on graded cards, but you can still use the lists to create your own collection without grading them. There are several lists in their site you can use as a guide to build collections.
- Autographed/Relic Collecting: you focus on just those 2 types of cards, any set, any player, any team of your choice.
- Rookie Collecting: only rookie year cards, can be from a particular list of players, teams, or sets.
I am sure many other ways to collect can be named. Another thing to note is that you can combine the lanes and create your own unique collection. The possibilities are endless and fun! The more time you spend in the hobby, the more likely you are to embrace several lanes and/or combine them.
How do I collect.
Currently I have 4 ways of collecting. My main collecting lane is Michael Jordan cards, up to the year 2000. Although I do have some Wizard’s years cards, I don’t actively chase them. Second, I collect autographed cards of hall of famers. Not all autographed cards, very specific ones. I tend to favor the first autograph that was released for the player and certain particular sets. And no sticker autographs. Don’t like them, never have, never will. My third collecting lane is set building. This one started as a side effect of opening too much wax, I found myself with several complete sets, and then it evolved into chasing very specific ones: 1996 Skybox Autographics set for example. This was the first major released set of autographed cards, and it includes the first autographed card released for almost all players in the set, very few had an autographed card released before that set. 1999 Epic Signatures from Upper Deck Century Legends, it had the first autographed card of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Dr. J., and many others released in a major brand and pack inserted. My fourth collecting lane is one I started recently and almost by accident since I was not looking for the cards. This is a Vintage and Rookies multisport collection. This is all baseball and football cards, but not every card, specific iconic players like Mantle, Clemente, Berra. Rookies from different hall of famers like Walter Payton, Dan Marino, Joe Montana. Nothing is high grade in this collection since it’s just something extra to add to my personal collection. To me having vintage cards in lower grades adds a sense of history to them. They have survived a long battle with time and are still here to grace us with nostalgia.
It’s important to note that while I do have a shortlist of cards for each collection I am ready to pounce on at any moment, I don’t collect them all at once. During different times of the year I focus on different collections. Right now for example, my main MJ PC has been on hold given the huge boom in prices. So while I am still picking up MJs, I am also working on finishing a 1986 Fleer Set. While I still want the MJ cards, I often find myself asking what other cards and how many more cards I can get for the cost of a single MJ insert. You will find that sometimes you have the budget to chase high end card after high end card, and other times you want to take things slower but still enjoy the hobby. This is when you switch lanes. If you don’t feel comfortable with the price of a card, don’t buy it just to say you have it. You won’t enjoy the purchase as much, and the moment the card retreats a little in price you will find yourself liking the card even less.
In the end, having a few collecting lanes helps keep you involved in the hobby and helps you avoid becoming stagnant, especially when the card you are chasing turns up once every few years. Explore the hobby, find out what you like. Consult the sports history for inspiration: maybe you want to put together a collection of all the All-Star MVP winners, maybe Season MVP or Finals MVP winners feels better for you. Maybe you want to go a bit further and make your Finals MVP Collection of just the rookie cards of those players, or maybe an autograph card. Maybe you want to build a collection of every baseball player with a batting average over .200. Maybe a PC of the top 10 quarterbacks of all time. The possibilities are endless when you love sports and enjoy the hobby. And remember not every collection needs to be made up of high end cards to be fascinating and incredible. Explore the hobby and collect what you like. Trust me on this, you will have fun and enjoy it!
Until next time,
I can be found on Instagram at @frankie500 always ready to talk cards and sports.