I came back into collecting for the third and final time in the spring of 2007. I had every intention of selling all of my old Baseball cards on eBay in order to make some extra cash. I'll admit, I was very surprised to find that these relics of my youth grabbed me the way that they did.
In sorting through things to sell, my pile of things to keep kept growing exponentially. Before I was finished I found that my '90 Topps, my '87 Fleer, my Diamond Kings, these monetarily worthless pieces of cardboard, were a large portion of my “don't sell” stack.
Yet, I didn't make a serious attempt to “recollect” these. Instead, I followed the white rabbit and chased the game used and autos. For almost a year my commons sat gathering even more dust as I bought box after box scrambling for the hits. I now have another box full of the “misses”. Most of my hits have been misses. Financially speaking, anway.
It wasn't until I found Mario Alejandro and the card blogging world that my eyes were opened. It wasn't until I started reflecting and writing about it that I knew what I collected.
A few years prior to my most recent attempt at collecting I experienced that first earth-shattering heartbreak. I lost the trophy girlfriend that I had finally won after years of trying. It was the summer of '98, my first year as a grown-up, freshly graduated, that she and I finally began dating. In just a few days shy of one year, we were parting ways.
I found myself driving to every Wal-Mart in the area at all hours of the early morning, buying things that didn't matter. I stockpiled boatloads of filing cabinet folders, Cinnamon Certs, car air fresheners, and cds. I bought everything I could get my hands on because I had tons of money and no bills. I had lost the most important thing in my entire world. I was utterly hearbroken.
One night in the checkout line I noticed some packs of '98 Upper Deck. I grabbed a few on a whim. I opened them and threw them in a shoebox. The next night I did the same. So goes the next night. Ad infinitum.
Eventually, 98 Upper Deck turned into '99 UD Choice turned into blaster packs of sports I didn't collect turned into Fairfield repacks. I still have some mid to late 90's Upper Deck Soccer Cards if anyone is interested. I'll throw in the NASCAR as well.
I was searching for something. I didn't know then what I see so clearly now.
Even further back that that, I remember the last packs of Baseball cards I bought during my first attempt at collecting. In a small strip mall store, which is now a tobacco shop, I picked up a pack of Topps Laser, Topps Finest, something called E-X, and two packs of Donruss Somethingorother.
I remember leaving the store, getting in my dad's old beat-up black '81 Ford Lariat pickup truck and heading off to church. I wasn't going for church as usual, I was going to see the girl I would eventually chase, eventually win, eventually lose. At that point in my life, I was searching for something else.
The cards went in a bag for the night and into a shoe box later on. I didn't touch them again until '99 when I bought some '98 Upper Deck on a whim.
I write this post tonight in this way because in all honesty my collecting habits have become such. I don't look forward to the new releases anymore. I'll take a nice game used over an auto any day of the week but I don't buy things for those reasons like I used to. I don't feel I'm chasing tomorrow, I'm now at the point in my life that I'm constantly looking back. I'm not searching anymore. I found what I was looking for on June 14, 2001 and she gave me my wonderful son in September of 2003. My searching is over.
Right now, I have want lists for sets. I intend to build a master want list of all of Kenny Lofton's cards. I consider an Akinori Iwamura collection, a Rick Ankiel, and whether or not I should continue with my Manny's. I grin as the hate posts stretch as far as the eye can read for Presidential Cards. I'll continue on with my '07 Turkey Red Presidents and I'll have a checklist soon for my '04 Chrome Presidential Pastime Refractors.
But, in the truest aspect of the question, my answer is: I don't know what I collect. I won't until tomorrow. So much of my collection now is in the things that bring memories, that spark the sentimental side of me. I collect “where and who I was” and “how I felt”. I collect those memories and artifacts of days gone by that I can never revisit.
Do I miss the girl? Nah...she was never right for me and I always knew it. But I revel in the fact that I'm halfway towards a set of 98 Upper Deck now. I'll have that want list up pretty soon as well.
And now, 10 years later, I've got a hearbreak to thank for it.