Contributor: John McTaggart
Collecting cards can be a very complex thing.
In fact, all of us who love the hobby are inundated with facts, stats, tidbits of information and opinions on a daily basis.
Heck, on an hourly basis we can log on to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Discord or any other social media platform not aforementioned and find out something new about the hobby and the industry spouted off by a wide range of people claiming to have it all figured out.
Someone is always there telling us what to buy, who to buy, what to sell, when to sell, how to sell and what to expect when we do any of these things.
There are tons of folks with graphs, charts, projections, stories and vlogs about their whirlwind adventures at a card show or trade night.
It’s all very nice, and mostly very self-serving.
After many years in this hobby I can honestly say the entire thing can be summed up in one word — community.
The hobby is, at it’s core, about the community.
I’m reminded of this several times a week during streams as I try to build the hockey hobby community on the Card Shop Live app.
I’m reminded by DM’s on instagram from people who are becoming regulars in the chat. I’m reminded by those who tell me during these streams that they’re jumping into the break with their kids hoping to hit some good cards, sure, but mostly to share the love they have for the hobby with a new generation.
I’m reminded by smiles, laughs and handshakes with old friends at card shows, conversations in the chat of streams with new friends, and emails, messages and texts from folks who love discussing the hobby as much as I do.
This community has helped get me through some difficult times in my life.
It’s also helped me celebrate some of the best moments as well.
I’ve gotten messages of support and encouragement when things looked bleak, and I’ve also been on the receiving end of joy and genuine happiness for me when things look promising.
For more than three decades this community has been there for me in a way that goes far beyond tiny pieces of cardboard.
I worry now that this new generation of collectors is grounding itself in all this information, most of it useless, that flows nonstop from people who seem to care more about their own personal gains or notoriety than they do about the hobby.
I worry that the community aspect is being chipped away by terms like “comps,” and, “ROI,” and, “flip.”
I ran into a young collector last weekend at a card show who offered up a card to me for sale.
“It comps at….” he said. “And if you pay this, then I’ll make some and you’ll have some room on it, too.”
I asked him how old he was.
“I’m 11,” he answered.
I asked him who he collects and was the card from his collection?
“I don’t really PC anyone,” he said. “I just like the hustle.”
He’s 11 years old.
When did this hobby become a hustle to an 11 year old?
If he ran a shop or a business that helped to support his family, there is room for the hustle. Even then though, I don’t know a single LCS owner who wasn’t deeply involved in the community before opening the doors.
There is help, however, and it’s not all that hard.
Teach this new generation to tune out the noise of social media influencers and bad actors.
Stop emphasizing the value of cards in dollars, and start emphasizing the value of cards in experience, life lessons and community.
Let the cards be the strands the connect us and not the profit margin.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve run a sports card business for a long time now, and I understand the importance of the business aspect.
However, it’s the community that brings the joy to the hobby, not the bottom line.
The irony is, when you have the priority on community forst, then in most cases the bottom line will take care of itself.
When you flip that, it never works.