How to Start Your Card Collection

Getting started with collecting anything only requires one thing… being interested. You need to like what you are doing, and you wouldn’t be if here if you didn’t. Great! You’ve met the only requirement. We’re done… not so fast. While that might be the only requirement, there are plenty of things you need to be ready for on your collecting journey.

An example of collecting my favorite team.

I try to focus on collecting my favorite team.

Whether you are a kid or an adult, there are certain things that you need to think about going in: Goals, Budget, and Organization. These topics can play off each other in different ways. You need to remember there’s no one way to collect, but there are plenty of directions to go in.


Set Your Card Collecting Goals

This should be the first thing you think about. In order to set your budget and decide what your buying, you need to know what you want to collect. In order to know how to organize what you’re collecting, you need to know what you want to focus on. Setting your goals can go in several different directions and they can be combined as well.

Here’s a few ideas to get you going that I’ve seen or heard of:

  • Set Collectors: This might be the hardest thing to do. It’s definitely going to require the most budget. Essentially you are attempting to collect the full set. Most set collectors limit to the base set, but you can decide that. If you’re doing it by buying packs that makes for a lot of doubles (and triples, and quadruples…). But this can also lend itself to the more social side of collecting. You can find people who want to trade to fill empty parts of your collection. And there are several bloggers out there who’ve developed a network or people who frequently send each other cards that they might need.
  • Team Collectors: For current cards you are most likely opening packs just like everyone else. Find someone who collects a different team (or teams) and you can always have a trading partner. Card shows, while they are few and far between these days by me, are a good place to find things you are looking for.
  • Player Collectors: Some folks just like a player, or players, and only collect their cards. Similar to team collectors, having a friend to trade with makes sense. Card shows are also a great resource for the player collector
  • Frankenset Collectors: I love this idea but I’ve never actually tried it. I’ve seen it more with Topps Allen & Ginter and there are several bloggers that I read that will do this. The idea is to make a complete numbered set, but use cards from different years to do it. It works great with minis because they are a large parallel set to the base set. You pick which card you want to represent that spot in the set. When you have two #2s from two different sets, just decide which one you like best and that takes the #2 slot.

Again, there are so many different directions you could take this: Rookies, Hall of Famers, Players from your home town, etc. The sky is the limit!

Establish a Budget for Card Collecting

Your budget is going to depend on a lot of factors of course. If you are an adult do you like to go out and splurge or would you like to spread out the fun. Maybe there’s something specific you do that gets you some side cash and you use that. Maybe it’s just a few bucks here and there. My feeling is you have to go in with a budget or you’ll come out of a card show, a card shop or Target with only a lot of lint in your pockets.

I try to keep the same rules I learned from my Dad when going to the horse races to gamble. I take money out of my wallet and tell myself, “this is what I am willing to pay to have a good time.” Then I force myself to stay within that. That right there will help you figure out what you are looking for on that particular trip.

Are there ways to save?

Sure! Card companies aren’t known for their coupons, but I have noticed that Topps has been having coupons on top of, and in, packs at Target in recent years. There are other ways to get cards though. As mentioned with relation to what you can collect, find someone to trade with. Hopefully that only costs you doubles, or potentially cards you aren’t interested in anyway.

I have had some luck on CraigsList over the years, but you do have to be careful. First, people don’t value cards appropriately. They either are trying to pull one over on people who don’t know, or they are just clueless about cards. I try to find people that are dealing their personal collection rather than a lot they came across. Second, try to work out parts of any deal beforehand. Make it clear that you want to check the cards first before buying. You won’t be able to work out everything, but maybe make it a range. When you meet them you don’t want to dawdle and you certainly don’t want to haggle over the price. Always be willing to walk away. Third, always meet them in a public place and if you can, bring someone with you (any standard CraigsList procedures that you have).

Organize Your Card Collection

Organizing might not be as important as the other two points I have, but it’s important to me. From my perspective, it’s important to: 1) be able to find your cards later, 2) be able to keep the most important parts of your collection protected, and 3) not have your family want to kill you.

If you are trading cards, or sending cards for autographs through the mail, you are going to want to be able to find your cards. Since I collect autos through the mail I need to know where my doubles are at least. I organize by year, brand, and set in boxes. Then I have all of my doubles in year order (but not necessarily number order). Then I have smaller boxes to go through more frequently for that.

Why collect something if you aren’t going to take care of it? There are plenty of ways to organize and protect your collection so use them: boxes, binders, rubber bands… No! Not rubber bands, just making sure you are paying attention.

Lastly, you are certainly welcome to have piles of cards all over the house, but don’t get mad at me when your mother/wife starts using your full name when yelling at you. You spend enough money and take up enough space, keep them neat and tidy. You don’t have to develop the collectors version of the Dewey Decimal System or anything like that.

An example of my DIY organizing system.

I’ve created my own organizing syst



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