I received this card in a random assortment of Orioles cards that a friend included in a recent trade. It's nice looking, kind of classy. I like Rodrigo Lopez, and this was my first card featuring his likeness. But I chose this card because it comes from a set that I never even knew existed. I'm not sure why it existed, nor am I convinced that it needed to exist. In that way, it's emblematic of what baseball card collecting has become.
You'll have to forgive me. I'm a little shell-shocked as I type this entry. I've just made my most expensive baseball card-related purchase ever.
I've always considered myself a very thrifty guy. It's probably something that was instilled in me by my bargain-hunting father, who grew up with five brothers and a very tight family budget. When I buy groceries, I make a beeline for the store-brand items and sales. I save every penny I find or receive in a piggy bank. As it pertains to baseball cards, I've always been the type to seek out 4 for $1.00 packs of 1989 Topps or bargain-priced grab bags instead of grabbing up the Next Big Thing in the hobby. Even since returning to full-time collecting in mid-2007, I've been careful to cap my monthly spending somewhere around $30.
But then I laid eyes on the sell sheets for 2008 Topps. I fell in love with the whimsical-yet-simple design of the base cards, not to mention the inserts that ranged from nostalgia-inducing (Baseball Card History) to quirky (Campaign 2008). I had to have them. This was meant to be the first set that I'd attempt to hand-build since the mid-Nineties. So I went online and started pricing boxes.
The bare-bones hobby boxes go for 50-60 dollars. So taking the advice of Dave the Cardboard Junkie I ordered a Jumbo Hobby Box: 10 packs, 46 cards per pack, a slew of inserts (including at least one autograph and one relic) guaranteed. $86.95. Besides all of the insert goodies, I have a much better shot at completing Series One with the jumbo box.
So where did the other 30 bucks go?
The online store I used offered free shipping on orders over $100. Part of my spending philosophy is that I'd rather get something else and spend a little more than I'd planned than spend $8-$10 to get something I've already bought shipped to me. So I cruised their site and settled on a jumbo box of 2006 Topps Series Two, since it was relatively cheap and I don't have much of that set yet.
I'm a sick man. I've spent the entire morning rationalizing this purchase any way I can (my tax refund will be more than enough to cover the cost, maybe I'll sell unwanted inserts on eBay, etc. etc.), but ultimately I feel like I've played right into the hands of the money-hungry card companies. I swore that I wouldn't be distracted by bells and whistles and shiny things, that any more than $2 a pack was highway robbery, that card collecting should be for kids and just for the love of it all. I have a creeping sense that I've become what I'd fought against.
But I just know that the doubt and self-loathing will be shoved out of my mind when I start ripping packs next week.