Returning To My Collecting Roots With Base Cards

Returning To My Collecting Roots With Base Cards

I remember it vividly. Sitting at my desk during recess with a couple of kids, shoe boxes piled high with singles from 1989 Pro Set and Upper Deck, trying to do the unthinkable – complete the base set. It was a tall order. Grabbing a couple packs  home from practice, exasperated that yet again I couldn’t pull one of the few I needed. However at the same time, giddy with joy that I had pulled the one card that I knew a kid at school sought, and could flip for one or two of my missing links I knew he had.

Fast forward 20 years to the world where everything needs to be bigger, better, and in the case of sports cards, “shinier” and more valuable. Nearly any card with more than a single copy is just a click away. Young collectors don’t seem as interested in the stats on the back as they are about how many colors of patch are on the front. They no longer seek the card they need, but are after the card that everybody else considers the big pull.

At the heart of it all is the base card. What was the essence of collecting when I began has been furiously pushed aside by inserts, parallels, serial numbering, memorabilia and autographed cards. It would seem that base cards have evaporated into little more than pack filler or fodder for the die-hard player collector. I recently received a trade where the collector had taped SPX and SP Game Used base to the top loader for added protection. It’s hard for me to fathom that what was once considered high end product could be reduced to such a fate.

Base cards really only ever had two purposes; to fill sets and to fill player/team collections. As such, the decline in their relevance is directly related to the decline in set building, and the focusing of player collectors. They still serve the exact same purpose today, but on a much smaller scale as sets tend to be put together more from case breaks than old school collecting, along with player collectors limiting themselves to only autos or game used. Prior to Superlative’s Reason Number Seven if someone had asked me if I thought base cards were anything more than an afterthought for the majority, I would have said no. Then the “where’s the beef … Errr … Base?” catcalls surfaced and it got me thinking. No one REALLY collects base anymore, but a good deal of people seemed pretty upset that Dr. Price had made the resolution to release a product without any. Maybe that was because for many  base is really the only thing to go after in the ultra high end sets because of my limited budget. Or maybe, just maybe, collectors have a twinge in their heart for what started it all.

Personally I enjoy base cards. They are generally easy pieces to add to player collections, both in terms of availability and the cost associated with them. The issue is that collecting has evolved from a pure labor of love to an investing mentality fueled by million dollar auction after million dollar auction. While base cards are synonymous with small dollars, they often are the least exciting cards in a given set. But in a time when dollars are short and collectors are visibly tired of manufacturer complacency, rehashed designs and no name autos and game used cards, collecting base cards or sets seems like it could be a nice refresher (much in the way sets are bringing back the long pull inserts). I, for one, could use a rekindling of my love for the hobby, so why not do so with what got me going in the first place?

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