I've always been connected to baseball throughout my life in one way or another. I umpire now, but I played baseball up until 3 years ago. I intend to keep playing at some point (find some low-intensity adult league somewhere), but I need to get settled down with my job first.
Anyhow, my interest in this hobby started simply with my love for baseball as a child. My dad had a small collection of cards that he gave to me which I enjoyed. He also bought me the occasional pack of Topps cards throughout my childhood, but my biggest draw to the sport came with Ted Turner and his problem child of a network called TBS. While I was young (and even to this day), my parents would only ever pay for basic cable. Basic cable (at least in CT) included the big 4 networks (CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC), FX, CSPAN, a channel that used be called WB which is now known as The CW, PAX (a family network that was bought out and is now ION television), and TBS. Ironically, these are still the exact same channels that we get for "basic cable" today.
In any case, I loved watching baseball and the only two networks that carried it tended to be FOX twice a week and TBS which carried almost every single Atlanta Braves game through the late 90's and early 2000's. Not surprisingly, this made me quite the Braves fan, even with the pressure from the rest of my family who are mostly Yankees fans. I watched so much baseball that even as a kid I was able to recite starting lineups for all of the NL East.
When I got to high school, one of my first jobs was working about 8 hours a week at a local card and comic store. This was when I was truly introduced to the hobby. I met all kinds of people collecting cards, from player collectors, vintage collectors, hit chasers, set collectors, and various other conglomerations of the above. I decided to poke around the hobby and bought packs from various sets. The first set I ever completed was 2006 Topps as the store had overstocked it and put it on sale. I found that I enjoyed set collecting most out of everything I tried. I enjoy the hits as much as anyone else, but I also didn't want to turn the hobby into gambling.
I collected a variety of sets in high school including a few more Topps sets, UD A Piece of History, and a few Bowman sets, but in the summer between high school and college I fell in love with 2008 Allen & Ginter. To this day, 08 Ginter's base cards are one of the cleanest and most beautiful base cards I've ever seen. I had never tried collecting a set that was quite as big as Ginter (not to mention sets with SPs). I don't ever remember being overwhelmed by it, but I also didn't devote myself completely to the set. Instead, I went and bought some 07 Ginter as well.
During college I obviously didn't have the time or money to go crazy with this stuff, but I was still able to pick some up in the summers when I came back home (June/July release dates are very convenient). I've gotten at least two hobby boxes of Ginter every year from 2007-2012. I was able to buy quite a bit of retail for 2009 and 2010 and also picked up a little retail in 2011. Once I got out of college I was slightly more free financially so I decided I was going to try to go for a few more hobby boxes. Unfortunately, 2012 coincided with a great rookie year for baseball and an absolute skyrocket in price for Allen & Ginter. I couldn't afford a ton of 2012, so I decided to get more 2011 Ginter (which had tanked at least for Ginter standards). I ended up buying a hobby case of 2011 Ginter and opened half of it. I currently still have the other 6 hobby boxes unopened upstairs and I'm honestly not sure what I even want to do with them (sell, break, or just sit on them).
After the 2012 boom I decided to preorder a case of 2013 Ginter and hopefully buy it low. I absolutely loved it and broke it all (I actually didn't do too well in retrospect, but I wasn't complaining). I did it all over again in 2014 and plan to do it once more in 2015. It amazes me how much value unopened Ginter still still holds. Apart from 2011, every single year of Ginter is up from it's preorder price.
The non-sport mini sets are by far my favorite. These and the old school type card design with all the new school technology incorporated are what really keep me coming back to this product. Its also PERFECT for set collectors. You can go simple and collect the 350 card base set, which aside from those who break cases, :) is nothing to sneeze at (heck, I'm still missing base set cards from 07-12... not one of those sets is complete!). You can also go super hard-core with it and collect all the minis and parallels, relics, autos, ect. I tell myself that I'm a moderate (you decide). At the moment, I'm attempting to collect the following from every Allen & Ginter set:
- 350 card Base Set
- 350 card Regular back Mini Base Set
- All Normal sized Insert Sets
- All Mini sized Insert Sets
To me, this is a "master set". Others may argue, and that's not to say that I don't admire those that try and get all the mini variations (or even some of them), but trying to get get around 500 unique minis every year (think about it... that's 21 hobby boxes worth of minis without even thinking about duplicates) is plenty for me at this point in my life.
Obviously I still collect some other baseball cards, but it tends to just be things that catch my eye. In case you're curious, things that have a greater chance of catching my eye would tend to be:
- Atlanta Braves cards in general (rookies particularly)
- John Smoltz cards
- any HoF pitcher
- cards that are simply well produced (great picture, great artwork/design, ect.)