Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Collector Takes a Beating

My collector’s mentality took a serious blow last night, and honestly, I’m not sure it’ll be able to rebound. I’m so disenchanted right now, I’d just as soon throw away every last one of my collectibles before I hunt for another treasure.

The last few weeks have been spring cleaning time for me. Because I “just had to” purchase a few (yes, a few, as in, more than one) football cards and hardcover comic collections that were out of my price range, I found myself in need of making a little money. Since I doubt I’d do particularly well as a street walker, I decided to weed out a few of the cards in my collection. It was time to free up some space, make some cash, and re-invest in those collections I’m still passionate about.

So I put several football cards on eBay. Just some random Packers cards and sets I had picked up over the last few years. They were some great cards that had me salivating when I first picked them up, but for whatever reason, they had lost their luster. And last night the first batch of auctions came to an end that would be almost comical if not for all the pain and suffering I went through.

Four auctions ended last night. The first one sold for so little that eBay’s charges for running the auction actually cost more. I had picked up the card—a Sterling Sharpe jersey card numbered 84 of 250—as part of a trade, so I didn’t have any strong emotional tie to it. (The fact that it was numbered to his jersey number, an occurrence coveted by player collectors when bidding on other cards apparently meant nothing when it was time for me to sell.) What I really found entertaining was the fact that the final selling price was actually less than the cost of the plastic card holder I stored the card in. Add that to the eBay and Paypal fees and I soon learned that it actually cost me money to give my card away. And don’t get me started on the cost of bubble envelopes.

I didn’t fare much better with the other three auctions. I’ll admit, I probably could’ve improved my selling techniques. And sure, we’re talking pennies here, so my bad experiences won’t make it necessary to eat ramen noodles for the next month. But when I factored in all the time and energy and money I put into buying these cards, I got sick to my stomach as I packaged them and shipped them off to other collectors.

I may have only spent $50 on the cards in question, but when I sold them for a $3 “profit,” I felt nauseous. I immediately began to question why the hell I collect football cards in the first place. What a stupid hobby. I mean, I collect pictures of men. And I spend a lot of money on it. Good Christ, what’s the matter with me?

No, I don’t buy cards or comics or books to make a profit. However, the ability to sell them does play a factor when it comes time pull the trigger on one thing or another. I often tell myself that my purchases are worthy because I not only get enjoyment from them, but I also get to sell them later and get some of my money back. You buy a bucket of popcorn at the movies and you don’t get anything but an upset stomach. But when I buy a comic book for three bucks, I get 20 minutes of entertainment and when I don’t want it anymore, I’ll get most of my money back. What a deal.

Now, however, I’m taking a closer look at that logic. It’s really not as valid as I had led myself to believe. How can it be when I spend $20 on a card and a year later I have to pay eBay to give it away for me?

This is so much more than the seller’s remorse I felt when I got rid of my Ed Brubaker collection a few weeks ago. I mean, I’m seriously contemplating getting out of the game. Not just taking a break, but getting out. Hell, I’m even thinking of simply giving away everything. Why not? It’ll probably cost less.

Sure, I’ll keep my true prize possessions like the SP Authentic set I’m working on or my Warlord comics, but the rest of the stuff, well, I’m starting to see it as the junk it really is. Worthless. A waste of time. A waste of money, space, and energy.

I’m once again facing the cruel reality of collecting: The collection is only important as long as you’re still collecting. The moment you stop, the collectibles become worthless. I’m not sure I want to do that anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I love collecting. I truly do. And let’s face it, collecting is in my blood, so no matter how much I question it now, I’ll get back in at some point down the road. But now I’m beginning to wonder where my collection should fall on my priority list. Maybe collecting shouldn’t take up so much time and energy. Maybe it shouldn’t take up so much money. I'll definitely start asking myself, "What's the rush?" Why is there this need to own something right now when things can be had so cheaply if you just wait?

And with questions like this dominating my thought process, how can I get any enjoyment out of the things I buy? I’m not sure I can.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your hypothesis. I have a related scenario: In my previous home, I had a kickass home theater and collected DVDs left and right. I was really into it, man. Now I've moved into a home with a lousy 27" TV, using the TV speakers, and I have little interest in collecting DVDs anymore. And now that I've stopped collecting, my entire existing collection is sitting unwatched. And I want to SELL IT ALL!

James W. Powell said...

Well, you should sell every last one of them suckers. Then, when you get your big TV set up again, you can cry and kick yourself for selling all of your movies. And of course, you can start over.

Chuck T. said...

I dunno, man: recently I started putting up toys or the occasional run of comics, and I start by putting up stuff I'm glad to see the back of. I got a fair chunk for a run of Y: the Last Man, which I put up because I was fed up with reading it (the title character's a bit useless, and the plot has stalled for a while). Same with Batman: Broken City. The last issue's so bad it ruined the first five for me.
Granted, this is probably different for cards, where if someone tanks to the point you're fed up with them, the card's probably worthless...