I've been collecting baseball cards for a long time and over the years, I've learned how to collect when the money is tight. I lived in L.A. for a number of years and during that time, the discretionary was almost always pinched so I learned how to enjoy collecting on a budget. Before we get into the meat of this discussion, I must preface by saying that the term "Collect" here is used to define acquisitions both in cards, education, and even collecting experiences with your own collection. That said, let's get into it. Here are a few strategies that allow for minimal spending but rich enjoyment:
Get stuff signed Through The Mail (TTM): Grab a few of your commons and send 'em off to the respective players to have signed and sent back to you. The cost here can be as little as the cost of a stamp and as high as whatever financial contribution the player requires to get something signed, which is usually relatively nominal. For mailing addresses and success rates, try www.sportscollectors.net.
Search the Dollar Bins: A lot of stuff that was once had for prime cash when it was released can be had for very little in today's market. While a lot of this stuff may not be worth a lot, some of it is worth quite a bit and shuffled into dollar bins because the seller doesn't know any better. One man's junk is another man's treasure. Don't forget to spend time in the dollar boxes. Gems await.
Attend shows not to spend money but to build relationships with dealers: This is a big one for me as these relationships have grown into friendships. Sometimes, it's nice to sit down and get to know the guys who run businesses in the hobby. Strong relationships can come with benefits. For example, if a dealer knows you collect a certain type of item, they may be more willing to pass a deal onto you when they see something they know you collect. This has worked for me on many occasions. Try it.
Host a trade night with your friends: If you know a few fellas in your area who collect, schedule a night for the guys to come over for a few hours one night to trade cards. This can be a zero financial investment situation and has potential to be lots of fun. It's also a great way to build new and strengthen existing relationships with fellow collectors.
Join online forums: This also comes with minimal to zero cost and is a great way to build your knowledge base and meet other collectors. I've learned so much from other collectors just by reading their content and seeing the posted pics. It's pure and vibrant rich content. Card Sharks exist but can be avoided. Join for education and networking.
Enjoy what you already own: A big portion of excitement garnered from this hobby is about the acquisition of new items. Sometimes, however, when the market is dry of stuff you need, it may be time to enjoy what you already have. Grab a box of your cards and go through them. You may be surprised that you already have excitement in your own collection. Take it a step further and grab a free blogging platform and start writing about cards in your collection. I do this all the time here at www.radicards.com.
Organize what you already own: This is an extension of the previous strategy. Many of us have extensive collections and it's a constant battle to keep things organized and stored properly. Sometimes, all that's required is time. Identify an organization strategy and stick to it. Some guys prefer to keep some cards in boxes and penny sleeves, others in toploaders, and others in binders. If you're looking to take your collection to another level by providing more protection with a fitted look, grab some items from our store.
What's your preferred collecting strategy? Share it in the comments section below.