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Toward Self-Sufficiency: Establishing a Focus for my Collection

December 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post outlining the major focus of my involvement of in the hobby of collecting sports cards and memorabilia at the moment, outside of building upon my collection.  That focus or goal is to make the hobby entirely self-sufficient from a financial perspective for myself.

In that post I outlined eight things that I have either already done, am currently doing, or plan to do that will lead to that goal becoming a reality.  This post is the first in a series that will walk through the eight points I addressed in that original post, the first of which is the necessity to establish a focus for my collection.

For the first 10-15 years that I collected cards and memorabilia it pretty much amounted to just that; collecting. 

We would buy cards, figurines, jerseys, stick, and knickknacks that we wanted or were interested in, and that’s where things ended. 

Whether it was from shows, card shops, or through eBay, we continued to amass items for years on end.  If we liked a specific player, we started collecting everything we could of him.  If we liked a specific trading card product, we’d buy boxes and complete the set and insert sets within it. 

Though we had a lot of projects on the go, there was no real rhyme or reason to why any particular project became one in the first place.

As time went on, this behaviour created some major issues for us. 

First of all, storage space for our collection was and always will be limited.  Repeated attempts to consolidate items to maximize the limited storage space that we have ended – inevitably – with the space finally running out. 

Secondly, it involved an entirely one-directional cash flow situation.  As the card and memorabilia industry evolved, this became a more pronounced problem when it came to building upon a collection.  The cost of growing our collection was essentially rising much faster than my dad’s, and eventually my brother’s and my own, disposable incomes could handle.

It was because of these factors that we realized the first step in being able to continue collecting in the way that we wanted to collect would require that we become much more realistic, as well as focussed about what we wanted to keep, and what needed to go.

We started by breaking things down into categories:

  • Player Collections, which includes cards, figurines, and memorabilia
  • Base Sets
  • Insert sets and other special projects

For the first category, we focussed on the guys that meant the most to us personally and of whom we had a sizable collection already built up.

For the three of us this meant a six player focus: Mario Lemieux, Jeremy Roenick, Sergei Samsonov, Joe Thornton, Daniel Tkaczuk, and Steve Yzerman.


The Lemieux and Yzerman collections started because Lemieux was my brother’s favourite player and Yzerman was mine when we started collecting, so they had been a focus almost from day one.  The Roenick collection evolved from my dad being a Blackhawks fan and Roenick being an up and coming star in Chicago at the same time we started collecting, while Thornton and Tkaczuk each came about from having watched each of them play during their junior careers and following their progress as pros (didn’t quite work out for the latter player).  Finally, Samsonov remains a focus after having watched him play against the local junior team during his Russian team’s tour of Canada.

For the second category, we refined what sets we would collect rather than grabbing boxes of whatever suited us at a given time.  Since we started collecting during the 1990-1991 season, the base sets of O-Pee-Chee, Score, and Upper Deck have always been a part of our collection and will continue to be, as has been the case with the now defunct McDonald’s sets.


Occasionally we’ll add something else into the mix if we find a box at a reasonable price, but those are really the only staple products in our collection and are a priority each season they are released.

The third category allows us a little flexibility so that we don’t become bored with searching solely for items associated with what’s contained in categories one and two.  Good examples of this include my ongoing project of completing a set of the 2003-2004 Topps C55 jersey cards (I only need three more), or my latest project of a 2008-2009 Upper Deck Masterpieces hockey master set (minus any one of ones).


These types of projects are undertaken on a very infrequent basis, as the financial resources required to maintain the other two categories stretches our budgets thin, but I still feel they are important to have in the mix as they add an additional challenge to our perpetual hunt for new items.

With those three areas making up the focus of our collection, we were left with literally thousands of cards that don’t fit in to the mix.  Our thinking on the situation that we created for ourselves was that rather than unloading those cards with a dealer for pennies on the dollar, we should look in to using the very outlets through which we buy cards to get them into the hands of someone who does need them in their own collection, while at the same time earning money that could be put in to the projects that had been deemed as the focus of our collection.

It was from there that we ventured in to the world of selling on eBay, a topic that will be covered in the second post in my Toward Self-Sufficiency Series next Sunday.


How did you go about setting a focus for your own collection?  Who and/or what do you collect?  Equally as important, why is this your focus?

Let us know by leaving a comment of sending us an e-mail at bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com.

On Wednesday I’ll be posting my first “Retro Review”, examining a box of 97-98 Donruss that I bought at the Fall 2010 Toronto Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo.

Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!


9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010 11:32 AM

    Excellent article! I have a massively oversized collection and am in the process of downsizing it by selling on eBay. Ebay is definitely the way to go. I tried selling on Sports Buy and Checkout My Cards in the past. Sports Buy was alright but Checkout was WAY too over priced and unpersonal.

    I will look forward to reading your follow up posts and will definitely spread the word about your blog now that I know about it.


  1. Toward Self-Sufficiency: Selling on eBay to Achieve My Goal « the blog
  2. Steal of a Deal: 08-09 Upper Deck Masterpieces Canvas Clippings Red Ray Bourque « the blog
  3. Toward Self-Sufficiency: Utilizing an eBay Store « the blog
  4. Toward Self-Sufficiency: Purchasing Strategically « the blog
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  6. Reflecting on Collecting – From the World of “Why?”: My “7s” Collection « the blog
  7. The Big Move « the blog

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