Confession time! I’m a collector.
My collecting habit started innocently with bottle caps. I may have been 4, 5, or 6 – my mother probably knows better than me. I would go on bottle cap hunts while my older brother was in little league. I had filled up a few tubs that had to have been at least a couple gallons each… or maybe they were smaller. I’ve come to realize that my memory of size at age 4 was different than at age 24.
I was 100% focused on finding new bottle caps that I hadn’t seen before.
At some point, maybe from 7-10, I moved on from bottle caps to coins. Specifically, pennies. I tried to have one from every mint from 1900 to present. That was only 80+ years at the time. My favorite was the 1943 steel pennies. Who ever heard of a steel penny? That’s nuts. In all the searches my loose change, I couldn’t find the rare bronze 1943 penny. I have some nickels and some dimes, but buying pennies at coin dealers fit my 8-year old budget best.
I was 50% focused on collecting every penny and 50% focused on the value that the coins would have some day.
In 1987, age 11, I started to collect baseball cards. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but it surely fueled by watching the 1986 World Series with my father. I remember my father negotiating with my mother some kind of nap schedule so I could cheer on the Red Sox with him.
Back to 1987, my favorite player was this player named McGwire. I had seen his name at the top of the leaderboard with 3 homeruns. It was crazy for a rookie to have that kind of start. For the next 3-4 years, I collected every kind of baseball card imaginable. My birthday and Christmas presents were complete sets from Topps, Donruss, and Fleer. I continued to collect McGwire cards though. It turned out that he was talented. By 1991 when my baseball card collecting phase ended, I had over 200 different Mark McGwire cards. Baseball fans know the highs and lows that followed.
I was 50% focused on the riches that collecting baseball cards would bring and 50% focused on the cards made my passion (following Major League Baseball) even more enjoyable.
I don’t remember collecting much for the rest of high school. In college, I collected CD. Columbia House, BMG, and a young woman, played a large role in that. My collection of Aerosmith bootlegs and demos are second to my Mark McGwire collection. I try to work the phrase, “You’re one step away from walking on Danger Street” into conversation every couple of months.
I don’t think I had any particular focus (other than the woman).
Music CDs are the last thing I can remember collecting.
You must be asking: That’s great, but what’s the point?
I recently came across this article in The Economist about baseball card collecting being a classic financial bubble. It stirred up all those thoughts from 30 years ago about how those baseball cards were going to be worth millions someday.
If you are a baseball fan or an investor of any kind, it’s a great read.
Baseball cards aren’t the only bubble. Here are some examples of similar bubbles from children’s toys: Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo, Beanie Babies, and Pogs. There are probably a few more that I’m forgetting.
I find it interesting that these things are all consumer-driven bubbles. People may have collected because they thought they’d have a greater value in the future. Also there was some scarcity at the time. The scarcity became unimportant because the companies could simply create more supply to meet demand and put money in their own pockets. With baseball cards, more and more companies popped-up cashing on selling a few cheap cardboard pictures for a buck or more.
I tried to think of what today’s collectible bubble is. I couldn’t come up with anything. I asked my wife and she couldn’t think of anything either. Her thought was that everyone is watching HGTV and trying to have a minimalist lifestyle. I can’t argue against that, but I wonder if that’s just in my social bubble or if it’s a nationwide trend.
Hopefully she’s right. We don’t need people losing their savings over some cardboard or a cheap stuffed animal.
Have you been a collector? Are you still a collector? Have you seen your collection go up in value?
I want to read all the details in the comments.