Are you setting any collecting goals for 2016? You should.



By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor | Commentary

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Change can be made on any day at any moment. But when it comes to collecting, a new calendar year is a good time to set goals. A resolution implies change. Goals are all about setting a benchmark and going after it. For the past few years I’ve set some loose collecting goals. In the process, I’ve been more focused and happier with my collecting.

So as you hang your new calendar, it’s a great time to take a few moments and set a couple of goals and get your collection to a place where you’re happy.

Why Setting Goals Is Important to Collecting

Goals give us focus. Focus gives purpose. To me, these are key to being a happy collector.

I went a long time buying this, that and everything that was new whether I was interested in it or not. If it was there at the shop, I’d try it. The result is a pile of cards I don’t know what to do with and not exactly attached to.

Doing this can also get expensive and leave you with little or nothing to show outside of said stacks of cards.

By setting collecting goals, you’re probably focusing on what you like most about the hobby. That might be cards of a certain player, a specific white whale or inching towards completing an old set.

Goals are all very personal and there’s no wrong answer. If it’s something you want, target it and work towards it.

That might mean saving up for a while or cutting back from your current collecting routines. This can be hard at first, especially if it’s a habit. But it’s much more rewarding when you meet you goals.

It’s important to be realistic in setting your collecting goals because the aim is to achieve them. I could easily jot down a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth as one of my goals this year, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, I keep my goals within my budget, even if that does mean a couple of leaner card months.

Likewise, aim for the Three Bears approach in setting the number of goals. If you have too few, you can be done next week. Set too many and you’re setting yourself up for failure. The best goals are the ones that are challenging but attainable. It’s also a great feeling to reach your main goals a little early and move onto some secondary ones.

But no matter the case, setting a target goes a long way in helping you get the things you truly want without throwing money around aimlessly. While impulse buys are fun, too many and they add up.

Don’t feel that all your collecting time and money should be spent on whatever goals you set. I love discovering new cards and finding deals. But be sure to keep those goals in mind, especially when you’re making big collecting decisions.

My 2016 Collecting Goals

My 2016 collecting goals take a similar approach to last year. I’m targeting very specific cards or autograph cards of specific players. While there’s still plenty of room to wiggle and grab other things, taking this specific approach helps me a lot when I’m working out my card budget or there’s a little extra kicking around to grab something.

Also impacting my goals this year are changes in the way I’m collecting. Set building is one of my big loves in the hobby. I’ve long thought it’d be cool to chase every flagship Topps Baseball set from my birth-year on. The past couple of years, I’ve been rethinking that and it’s even more so now. And it’s not because of the cards themselves.

I live in Canada. Our dollar is tumbling fast. So whether that’s buying from my local shop (they don’t normally carry much that I collect) or ordering online, things are already significant more expensive. Add to that skyrocketing shipping costs and it’s tough to justify just about any box purchases right now. If I’m looking at an American retailer, I can expect to pay more than double what the initial price is once the exchange and shipping are factored in.

Another reason is more practical — space. Collecting one base set doesn’t take up much room. But now I’m approaching 40 for just my Topps baseball sets. That adds up no matter how you store them. Looking down the road another 30 years, that’s even more space. I’m starting to ponder whether or not I should bother keeping up. Gone are the days when I loved buying cards in bulk. I’m quickly moving more and more towards the singles market simply because I can focus on the things that I really like and there’s a lot less of it. I also don’t have to consider an extra $30 or so for shipping on a box.

So with that in mind, I have five main collecting goals for 2016. A couple are carry-overs from 2015 that I didn’t get around to acquiring. You’ll notice that several are autographs that have no specific designation. These have some set criteria for me, though. The big one is that it has to be an on-card autograph. Unless it’s not an option, I don’t add stickers to my personal collection. Often times, that means making the search harder and more expensive. And that’s okay because I’ve learned that, for me, chasing something that I like is worth it. I don’t have that nagging voice telling me I could have done better. With specific criteria, I have a measurable goal and if I hit it, I’m happy.

Goal 1: 1990 Topps Tiffany Frank Thomas

Growing up, Frank Thomas was my favorite player. Putting together a full run of his rookie cards was done years ago. Today, it’d be easy and only a few dollars. But his 1990 Topps Tiffany card is a lot more limited and has a price tag I need to do a little saving for, especially if I go the graded route.

1990 Topps Tiffany Frank Thomas

Goal 2: Mike Piazza Autograph

Hopefully this one will be done shortly — as in the next couple of days. It’s looking like Piazza could be heading to Cooperstown this year, which should result in a surge of interest for his signature. My hope is that if this gap isn’t filled right away that he’ll continue to sign more frequently. While he was playing, Piazza had a limited number of autographs. And a lot of those came in an era when stickers were on foil that I’m not at all a fan of, even when it comes to stickers. Should he still be signing, that will hopefully keep prices from climbing to the point where they’re out of my price range. While I’d prefer a Dodgers card, the Mets are perfectly acceptable too.

Goal 3: Wayne Gretzky Autograph

This is one I had last year. It’s definitely the most expensive on my list, which means some planning for me. I’m also very particular in my criteria here. Not only does it have to be an on-card signature but Gretzky must be in an Oilers uniform. Take those two things into account and add in the fact that I don’t have a huge budget and there is a surprisingly small window of opportunity. While there’s no shortage of Gretzky autographs out there, the majority that meet my criteria are extremely limited in number and, therefore, too expensive for my budget. While I’m a big believer in setting attainable goals, this is one I’m okay carrying over again if I have to because I know one day the time will come that I land it. And I’ll be stoked. To me, a big part of collecting is the chase itself.

2012-13 Upper Deck The Cup Brilliance Wayne Gretzky Autograph

Goal 4: 1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 John Ritter Autograph

This is another one of my 2015 collecting goals that wasn’t fulfilled. I came close once, but ultimately decided not to. And I’m not certain this card will stay on my list. If you grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, there’s a good chance that John Ritter is a comedy icon for his role as Jack Tripper on Three’s Company. A guest spot on the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer led to his lone autograph card (not counting cuts). One of the product’s headliners, the card has a bunch of variations, particularly when it comes to ink color. For me, I’m a little worried about the quality and authenticity of some. For that reason, I’d only consider one from a dealer I’ve bought from before or have a stellar reputation. And even then, I might not feel great about the quality of the signature itself. If I’m spending a couple hundred dollars on a card, I want to know I’m not going to regret it even a little.

Goal 5: Finish 20 Montreal Expos Team Sets

One of the nice things about collecting Montreal Expos team sets is that, save for a handful of singles here and there in modern releases, I’ve got a finite number to chase. I’m not overly interested in getting everything, just the base cards. And that’s challenging enough. My lists of wants are shrinking and it’s getting harder to (affordably) fill in the gaps. Normally I get a bunch of Expos in bulk and take care of a bunch of team sets at once. A lot of what remains, though, are short prints from 1999-2005 that are a lot more hit-and-miss. That said, finishing off 20 more team sets shouldn’t be too hard if I remember to focus on them.

What are your 2016 collecting goals? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter with #2016CollectingGoals.


Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. David G 4 January, 2016 at 16:43

    Great article and timely in terms of managing my own expectation(s) as a collector given the challenges the industry is posing more and more as well as external factors like, the CDN $ (I am also a Cdn) and the lack of access to retail shops that sell product requiring shipping all the time. While it is easy to be lured into collecting my fancy marketing, emotional attachment to specific cards, there needs to be some strong parameters. My challenge is sticking with it – I love the chase and the thrill of opening and wondering what is contained in a pack, box or case. But like you, I have hundreds of duplicate cards that I am starting to donate to local children’s charities in the hope they will be enjoyed more while the binders stack up on the bookcase.

    My 2016 goals include more depth on my Pirates collection of Clemente, Stargell and Polanco. I will also choose one Topps set to collect as fully as possible, but those days are long gone with the card count limits and colour variants.


  2. David D 4 January, 2016 at 17:26

    I will be saving a boatload of money this year………………. as I will only be buying Topps and Upper Deck products in Baseball and Hockey…………………………..
    I will continue to watch the trading cards of the other company collect a fine layer of dust on its overproduced, overpriced Target products taking up valuable space on its shelves.

  3. Kerry 4 January, 2016 at 18:20

    Apart from the norm in today’s hobby world, I still plan to collect two base sets per year, usually between Bowman Chrome, Panini Prizm, Topps Tribute and Topps Chrome. Also, my baseball card budget is fixed, yet high enough to enjoy getting my favorite players with or without the use of trades. I spent 3 years finding, buying and trading for every missing card of sets and subset I like from 1995 through 2005. Now I can just look forward to opening 2 Jumbo boxes per year and then get to work on finding the few missing base cards, inserts, or parallels that catch my eye. This affordable method of madness has been a lot of fun and keeps me out of the doghouse!

  4. Larry 4 January, 2016 at 18:44

    My resolution is to ONLY buy bowman chrome prospects in bowman baseball. These are the only cards that ever hold value over the season. I’m done with all the brand’s and products I can buy a year later at a substantial discount. I am not collecting football anymore starting this year because panini and it’s mediocre products don’t excite me with the poor conditions of the cards with the huge price tags.

  5. Michael Pereira 4 January, 2016 at 20:03

    I like these articles more because I feel they are more honest to the view of the very day collector and what the attitude is in the collecting world. My collecting has gone way down these past years from all the over hyped and extremely poor value of opening a box.

    Tired of always hearing that every product is great when in reality you can never get an answer when there are clear flaws and questions. There seems to be a return of the 90s of quantity over quality. Simple example:

    If a player has 4-5 years of prospect autos and cards then what makes them worth anything once that player becomes a rookie? Once a player has thousands of autos no matter who he is it becomes less special if you hit a auto of that player when he’s still in AA.

    And EVENT WORN PATCHES need to be burned and should never be considered hits in boxes.

  6. Terry 5 January, 2016 at 00:33

    My resolution`s are 1) never to buy boxes of baseball / football product from North Bay, again. And 2) minimize long term risk by limiting my buys of prospect based products, and concentrating on established players I like. As a Jays fan, I`ve already bought a Robbie Alomar ( Jays jersey) and a Tulo ( Rockies) auto, along with a Jose Fernandez Topps Dynasty patch auto. I`m hoping to add to my Cowboys HoF collection, by adding auto`s of Staubach, Emmitt Smith and Jason Witten ( wait for it). I`ll be buying some Bowman Baseball, to hopefully get myself a Vlad Guerrero Jr auto.

  7. Caedfan1 5 January, 2016 at 10:09

    Does everyone just complain on this website… Really makes
    Me sick all you dont have anything good to say ever!

  8. David Johnson 5 January, 2016 at 13:46

    My goal is to simply get my collection organized. I have been saying that since I bought a new house last summer, but before I knew it Black Friday was here and my card room got overcome with new boxes.

  9. IamNotARobot 5 January, 2016 at 15:40

    I too would like to finish getting my collection organized. I created a database and I still need to enter a bunch of cards, remove duplicates, and create displays of my favorites. I’m also thinking I may stop buying boxes and just buy cards or lots of the team I collect. As much as I enjoy busting the packs, I have way too many cards that I don’t collect taking up space in my house – even after I sell items on auction and garage sale sites. I will miss the excitement of pulling a cool card from my team, though, if I give up packs/boxes. Of course with Panini holding the NFL license, it may not be too hard to give up boxes (lol – sorta.)

  10. Tom 9 January, 2016 at 10:54

    Great article Ryan. I’m in Canada as well, and while I am lucky to have a card store in my town, the prices are almost exactly double of the US websites for boxes once exchange and shipping are factored in. Your spot on when you say it makes it really tough to justify buying boxes of anything.

    I also agree with David D, thinking this year I’ll only be buying UD Hockey and Topps flagship baseball by the box to put together sets and then pickup singles of any Rookies from the Chrome products later in the year.

    Also considering going old-school and doing a Panini MLB sticker book with my daughter (shes 5 years old). I had a lot of fun doing them when I was younger and seems like a fun, low-cost way to scratch the collecting itch.

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