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The Hobby Do's & Don'ts

My life lessons while being a collector (Updated December 30th, 2018)

I've included the Do's and Don'ts of collecting because I see a lot of collectors doing some really odd things.  I noted one of these things on the Types of Collectors page.  Anyway, below are a list of items that I think are important if you are just beginning your collection. I also list some examples, some of which are hard to believe, but trust me they really happened and I thought they would make some really interesting points of interest.

The Do's:

1) Buy a price guide:  The very first thing you want to do is get yourself a good price guide.  The Beckett 31st or newer Annual Price Guide is a good starting place.  It may not be the newest price guide, but it'll work. A good price guide will give you the background about a certain card or set.  Now price guides do become outdated, but even old price guides can give you useful information. 

2) Be patient:  So many of us think that if I don't get that card now, I'll never get it. I will literally wait years to get that one card to finish my set, sometimes it's because I just can't find it, and other times, it's because I just don't like the price it's selling for.


Example #1: Go back into those 1997 Beckett price guides and check out some of those prices.  In particular, look at the 1996 Playoff Contenders Pennants Book Value in the March 1997 issue.  It was listed at $700.  As of 2015, it's a mere $120, (See the 1996 Playoff Contenders "Terrell Davis" Pennants #48 right).  The old price guides will prove that even some of the best sets still come down all you have to do is be patient.  The key word there is SOME.  The 1972 Topps set will never come down. 

The bottom line is, be patient. Most of these cards will come down in price if you just wait.

1996 Playoff Contenders: “Terrell Davis” Pennants #48


1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Vinny Testeverde” Aerial Assault #AA8



1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Vinny Testeverde” Aerial Assault #AA8

(Note: This is the Members Only Edition)

1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Vinny Testeverde” Aerial Assault #AA8 (Back)


3) Do Your Homework:  The best advice I could give you would be to do your homework. Before you buy that card from that dealer make sure you know what the book value is.  Never think that the card show dealer is just giving you a great card at a cheap price.  Something is going on, he may be selling you a less expensive parallel card that your not aware of.  Now, not all dealers are like this, but you just need to be prepared.

Example #1: Take a look at the 4 Vinny Testeverde cards on the left. The cards are from the 1997 Topps Stadium Club insert set called "Aerial Assault".


Can you tell the difference between the cards in pictures #1 and #2? You can't because there isn't one.


Now, can you tell the difference between the cards in pictures #3 and #4? It's subtle, but there is a difference. Card #4 is the "Members Only" parallel. You can see the words "Members Only" across the back of card #4 written diagonally. Scans #2 and #4 are of the same card.

I've been bitten by this one several times by sellers who said they were selling me the main set, but when I got it, it was the "Members Only" set. I obviously didn't ask enough questions  before I bought it. So make sure you do your homework.

4) Take care of your cards: I place all my cards in boxes that I clearly label:


A) The Year

B) The Brand

C) Names of Inserts the base set comes with

D) How many Insert sets that are part of the set

E) How many unopened packs may be in the box

F) Is the set is complete or not


It sounds like a lot of detail and you may not need to include all of this, but when you have a large number of sets it does keep you organized. One of these days I plan on creating labels to place on the box front.  This will better display what each box holds.  Another thing I've done is put every card fro every set into Ultra "Card Sleeves", (See the 1996 Fleer "Mike Alstott" RC #142 right), or some sort of single card "Snap-Tite Holder", (See the 1996 Fleer "Eddie George" Rookie Autograph #A2 right).  Either way they keep finger prints off of the card and prevent you from accidentally damaging one of the corners.  Remember, cards cost a lot nowadays, you might as well take care of them.

5) Have Fun:  When and if you start collecting, remember this is supposed to be fun.  No matter which type of collector you are, have fun collecting.  Don't get caught up in all the Game-Used / Autograph / Short Print hype.  Stay within your budget and if its really important to you, go to your local card shop to get that special card because odds are your going to spend some money trying to find it in packs. That just the way it is nowadays.  I have adapted my collecting style to the new age of cards.  As I stated on my opening page I have to lay low for a couple years before I go after the new releases.  For example, I am now slowly opening the door to the 2001 & 2002  releases because their prices have come down drastically.

1996 Fleer: “Mike Alstott" RC #142

1996 Fleer: “Eddie George” Rookie Autograph #A2

(Note: The word "Rookie" across the bottom is from the "Rookie Snap-Tite" Holder.)

1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Vinny Testeverde” Aerial Assault #AA8 (Back) 

(Note: This is the Members Only Edition)

1998 Bowman Chrome: “Randy Moss” RC #182

(Note: I don't own this set yet, so this picture isn't from a card I own.)

The Don'ts:

1) Don't Get Caught up in all the Hype:  Nothings beats hype!!  Once draft day is complete collectors will run over each other to get the latest product.  This is the part of the hobby that I avoid like the plague.  You can spend a lot of money just putting that newest set together.

Example #1: Remember back in 1991 when Upper Deck introduced the "Football Heroes Joe Montana" 10-card Insert set, (See the 1991 Upper Deck "Joe Montana" Football Heroes #7 right). The hobby went wild!!  Sure you could've went wild too, spent about $100 putting that set together, (We all know about Upper Deck's collation problems. I mean, collation purpose), but today dealers have trouble giving that set away.  Those cards are all over online auctions now and they are very easy to obtain.

Example #2: Back in 1998 I remember seeing Topps' newest release the "Bowman Chrome" set listed for sale at $800 on a California dealers website, (See the 1998 Bowman Chrome: "Randy Moss' RC #182 left).  It books for $100 as of November 2015!!  How much is it worth to be the first to say you own that set? About $700 worth!!  Do yourself a favor and avoid the hype!!

2) Don't trade or Give away too soon:  I've seen way too many collectors trade or in some cases even give cards away that they believe aren't worth anything.

Example #1: Back in 1999, I won a set on an online auction site and the seller threw in a 1998 Playoff Contenders "Ahman Green" Rookie Stallions card, (See right).  At the time this happened Ahman was buried on Seattle's depth chart, but in 2000 he was traded to green Bay and had a break out season. 


Just remember, for every Randy Moss or Edgerrin James there are a dozen Jimmy Smiths' and Ahman Greenes'.  Sometimes it takes a guy a couple years to find his niche in the league.  How many times have we heard, "Man, I wish I had kept all my old Baseball cards!"  I know I said baseball here, but the point is the same.  Just remember, don't be so quick to throw or give those cards away. 

1991 Upper Deck: “Joe Montana” Football Heroes #7

3) Don't get into a bidding war! (This is for you online auctioneers):  Boy, I could write a whole chapter on this topic.  Nothing irritates me more than watching 2 guys go back and forth to win an auction.  Somewhere along the line somebody forgot the object of an auction.  The OBJECT is NOT to be WINNING the auction, but to WIN the auction!!  I'll see 2 clowns go back and forth for days just to see their name as the "CURRENT WINNING BIDDER" only to go way over the Book Value price for the sake of winning.  I kid you not, here are some true to life examples:

Example #1: In June of 1999, The 1997 Collector's Edge Excalibur "Deion Sanders" Game Helmet, (See the card on the right), booked for $30.  Remember that value.  I watched for days as two morons, (I don't like using that term too often, but it applies here), tried to outdo one another until some unlucky fool won it for $104.  Yes, I said $104!!!  I won mine for $23.50, still a little high if you ask me, but I still didn't pay Book Value.


Example #2: The problem with this is that you might think I am making this up, but I am not!!  I saw a 1994 Playoff "Super Bowl Redemption" insert set online once, (See the 1994 Playoff "Troy Aikman" Super Bowl Redemption #1 right).  Now, I didn't have this set at the time so I thought I would watch it through eBay's "Watch Page".  I watched as two idiots, (I don't like using that term too often, but it applies here), tried to outbid each other.  Now the scary part is, the moron who won the auction in Example #1 is the same idiot who won it here!, (I know this because years ago, eBay would allow everyone to see your eBay ID. So I knew it was the same guy). He ended up paying $32 for a $20 insert set. I won the set a month later for $6.52.

Example #3:  I once saw a 1997 Collector's Edge Excalibur Uncut sheet on eBay so I thought I would watch it for a couple days, (At this point I want to point out that I really wanted this item).  The next day when I checked it, it had 18 bids on it.  Eighteen!  When I checked the "Bid History" it only had 6 bidders.  One bidder had placed 13 bids by themselves!!! Did they really want this item or not?!!  What the heck was their game plan?!

The best advice I can give is to place ONE bid at the beginning of an auction or when you first see it.  This way the item's auction price is not skyrocketing due to you!!!  Then leave it that way until the auction nears its end. Don't forget when it ends!!  Know your spending limit!!  The method I use is I track cards from previous auctions so I know how much they are going for online before I bid.  Last, but not least, place your bid!!  Remember, If you wait until the end of an auction to place a bid you may not have time to place another one! 


Yes, it hurts to lose an auction!!  It also hurts when I see that one last card I need to complete a set go through the roof, but I know what that card is going for online and I know I'm not going to go too far over that limit.  Just be patient, that card will be back.

4) Don't be fickle:  Webster's dictionary defines fickle as being abrupt to change.  The two biggest mistakes by the collecting world is A) Most collectors treat the hobby as an investment, and B) The hobby is very fickle!!!  In other words, don't get rid of your Kurt Warner cards just because the Rams didn't go to last years Super Bowl.  This is by far the biggest mistake by collectors.  I don't seem to mind because a majority of my collection is built off of collectors who don't want their old Terrell Davis cards.  However, at the same time, this kills me.

Example #1:  Back in 1998 when I was in a card shop, all the kids that came in the store that day wanted Viking cards.  Now, please pardon me for my inexcusable behavior, but I couldn't stand that.  Go back to collecting your Cowboy / 49er cards!! That is what I wanted to tell them!!  Today, Viking cards are not at the top of the list.  And for that, I'm thankful.

1997 Collector's Edge Excalibur: “Deion Sanders” Game Helmets #21

1998 Playoff Contenders: “Ahman Green” Rookie Stallions #15

1994 Playoff: “Troy Aikman” Super Bowl Redemption #1

5) What a Life:  I noticed in the last 5 years or so the "Ambulance Chasers" of ebay. You know what I'm talking about. Those "Make a quick buck" guys who sell all their cards as soon as news breaks of a recently deceased player. It happened with Reggie White, Jr. Seau and the last time it was Lawrence Phillips, (See the 1996 Skybox Impact Rookies: "Lawrence Phillips" Rookie Autographs #A5 right). This is pathetic. Don't do this. But I guess it beats the clowns who think they have to buy it right then just because a guy passed. Definitely don't do this! You'll end up spending way more than you should.

1996 Skybox Impact Rookies: “Lawrence Phillips”Rookie Autographs #A5

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