Instagram post: Trophy card!
Tweet: Check out my PSA 10 1st Base Charizard!
Facebook: How bout these? ;) ($10K in cards)
Snap: Mail day!
Multiply this by the number of people you follow and you have the environment endured by the modern collector. Social media is incredible because it draws in and connects tens of thousands of Pokemon card collectors that were previously disjointed and unplugged from the organized communities. The down side? It inaccurately portrays success. Bear with me.
What is success?
In the most generic sense, collecting cards is an experiential project that primarily looks to create fun rather than success. I am a big proponent of collecting in ways that are practical for you and which bring you happiness. I hate when people act better than other collectors because they own specific cards. That isn’t healthy for you, it isn’t healthy for the people you’re bragging to, and it hurts the hobby as a whole.
But we can’t pretend that we aren’t all aiming for the best. There is a degree to which owning complete sets, rare cards, and unique memorabilia is success in our hobby. We have to keep a healthy relationship with collecting but different people will find different degrees of success based on the resources available to them. Often, I see money emphasized as the biggest factor in having a collection that other people are in awe of. To a degree this is true. If you have a half million dollars in disposable income, you can piece together a pretty crazy collection. But what if money isn’t the biggest factor?
Let’s bring time back to the spotlight.
The best collections in the world all belong to people who have at least 8 years in the hobby. This is not a coincidence at all. Additionally, most of those best collections are completely invisible to the social media world. How does time create success? I’m glad you asked.
Every year, good deals occur. Rare items pop up for sale that have not been for sale for a long time. Low prices happen on great stuff that is under-recognized at the moment. Focusing on the rare pickup or two that you have access to each year slowly amasses a collection that is irreproducible. With my personal collection, I am most proud of one quality. No matter how much money someone has, they cannot piece together my collection. That only exists because I’ve spent over ten years piecing it together and am still focusing on the small additions each year that give it character, depth, and uniqueness.
Time is also an amazing equalizer in the hobby. It tends to be the case that the more disposable income a collector has, the less time they have to be looking for good deals. Most high-end collectors are banking on people giving them links, tags, or offers for the good stuff when it comes up. The converse of this situation is also true. People who are younger, unemployed, or just working every-day jobs usually have more free time they can commit to searching for great deals and opportunities. It takes a while to develop the proper experience and know-how to pull this off but if you find yourself with more free time than disposable income, start hunting for the hidden gems in the hobby. PSA 10s and Charizards are flashy and cool but items fixed to certain times and places are going to give your collection a lot more texture. Look for the things others haven’t yet found the potential in and clean house. This deserves an example. I have two side collections. One is the World Championships from 2004 and the other is the New York Pokemon Center. I only see an interesting item pop up for each of these about once a year. Sometimes, there is a multiple-year stretch where nothing appears. For each, I have 5-6 unique items no. If you had $1,000,000 and went to eBay right now, you wouldn’t find anything I have listed. If you contacted me, you’d find them not for sale. My collection is only where it is at because I waited it out, picked up what I saw when it came along, then continued waiting again.
Success is time. Time is success. Leverage it for your benefit.
Pokemon is unique in that it is growing in size, value, and legitimacy. As it currently stands, no one with a $500,000 collection value-wise actually paid that much for it. The most notable collections, especially those with old trophy cards or complete PSA 10 1st Edition WotC sets, are owned by people who couldn’t afford to buy their own collections in one go on the modern market. This is a fascinating and unique trend. In sports, for example, people with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cards almost exclusively bought them for similar prices with some moderate growth along the way. Ten years ago, you could buy all the same high end Pokemon stuff for a fraction of its current value.
This may make it seem like it is too late. It is not. Pokemon still has a ton of room for growth and focusing on good opportunities like I’ve mentioned in this article will poise you to be in the same place as the big collections ten years from now.
The concept is simple so I won’t belabor it with an excessively long article. By now, I hope that you can see what I’m talking about. Ignore the social media posts that make it seem like everyone just happened upon their best items. That’s a lie. If you stick to committed collecting and focus on gathering knowledge and saving money in between great opportunities, your collection is going to be just as good as anyone else’s. Don’t worry about being the best collection period. Worry about being the best collection you can personally produce. Over time, you’re going to get the increasing benefit of looking back on all you’ve amassed and knowing that you, others, and the market recognize the value of what you’ve put into it.
'til next time,