My time with SABR Baseball Cards has seen me evolve (or devolve if you like) from someone with zero interest in modern cards to someone who just completed the 2022 Topps Series One set from packs and trades, has more than 700 different Dwight Gooden cards, and now occupies
72nd 64th place among Clayton Kershaw collectors in Trading Card Database. (View my collection.)
The first question I’ll address is how I got here, or, if you like, who to blame. As with much in life, I’d say there was no single cause but rather a succession of nudges that brought me into my present circumstance.
- A few years back, my friend and Hobby legend Anson Whaley, the collector behind the fantastic Pre-War Cards website and Twitter account, uncharacteristically announced his own plunge into Gooden super-collecting, and I found myself unexpectedly envious. Had he done similar with Jose Canseco, Bo Jackson, or just about any other junk wax superstar, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye, but Dr. K was a different story. His cards and box scores were absolute obsessions of mine in 1985, and the nostalgia was too much to resist. Once Anson agreed to sell off his 500+ doubles, I was off to the races.
- Shortly after, I found myself at a card shop in Portland with SABR president Mark Armour. While my prize purchase was a 1971 Topps Dick Allen card, we each spent the $6 or so on a single pack of the year’s current Topps cards. While the cards inside were rather pedestrian, the experience of opening a pack brought back all kinds of fun memories.
- Around that time some of my SABR Chicago buddies and I started holding Junk Wax nights, which reinforced the pleasure of packs with friends, whether or not anything pulled would ever represent a significant addition to my collection in any way other than volume.
- During the 2020 postseason, I somehow became possessed by the notion that I needed to buy Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts rookie cards in order for the Dodgers to win the title. (Judge me if you like, but it worked!) This same year I had also enjoyed many of the cards and artists of Topps Project 2020 and subsequently (if you count it) bought the Topps Now card of Mike Pence with the fly on his forehead.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the vintage cards I’d been after for so many years had seemingly tripled in price during this stretch, limiting my options as a collector to buying modern or buying nothing at all. With rookie card in hand then, why not collect my favorite player’s entire career? Well, actually there were…11,682 reasons?!
Yes, this is Clayton’s 15th year in the league, but 11,000-plus cards to collect? That’s insane! On the other hand, the notion of a virtually unattainable set is only limiting when regarded as something to complete. Another way to look at it is that there are literally thousands of different cards of Clayton Kershaw to choose from, and the good news is that most are extremely affordable.
In a recent lot I purchased, the average price per Kersh was a mere 31 cents.
Still, my collector DNA doesn’t allow me to stockpile cheap Clayton Kershaw cards with no plan or checklist to the hunt. Therefore, I’ve begun to develop some goals around the collection.
Clayton’s flagship Topps card each year
This is probably the minimum any modern player collector goes after. I still have some I need (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016), but none will be pricey or difficult to find.
At least one “pre-rookie” card for each team Clayton was on
As many of us enjoy the notion of our player collections telling the story of a career, why not have cards of Clayton pitching for the Junior National Team, the Scots (Highland Park High School), and the Great Lakes Loons (Midwest League)?
Cards that look super cool (but are still cheap)
Here are five of my favorite Clayton Kershaw cards. Total spent was about $3, with three of the cards coming my way for free thru the NGT Collectibles Sunday Giveaway thread or my SABR Chicago collecting cadre.
Do I think this sort of thing is for everybody? Not necessarily. All I can say is that for me the burgeoning Kershaw collection has been a rewarding and inexpensive way to remain an active collector, find cards I want/need at card shows, and even occasionally pull something from a pack that goes into my binder. Plus, I really do like his cards, and that has to count for something!
Just promise me, readers, you’ll stage an intervention the day I start adding cards of cartoon Clayton playing hallway hockey with Matthew Stafford to my once proud collection of Aaron, Campy, Jackie, and the like.
17 thoughts on “Modern Love”
I’ve been collecting Kershaw cards since his career started. I don’t consider myself a player-collector, and don’t really understand that kind of exclusive collecting, but I do like having cards of players I admire and Kershaw’s at the top of the list. … My story of collecting modern cards is a lot like yours, except I credit the blogs for getting me into those cards (consider the time period, it was 2008). I’ve soured quite a bit on them the last few years, hopefully that doesn’t happen to you. Still like opening packs though!
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With 11K cards available do you have specific structure or goals around your Kershaw collection?
No real plan. My Kershaws arrive mainly because my chief objective every year is to get the Dodgers team set for the major sets (flagship, Heritage, A&G, etc.). After that, I pick up certain Kershaw cards that appeal to me, either design-wise or from the photo. That’s the extent of my goals.
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This post has inspired me to be on the look out for more Andrew McCutchen cards when I attend card shows.
Great choice! A favorite of his on the Pirates is this one. https://www.tcdb.com/ViewCard.cfm/sid/122125/cid/8281327/2016-Topps—Perspectives-P-1-Andrew-McCutchen
With a career like his, Kershaw deserves to have that many cards (if anyone really does). The crazy part is, there are prospects that approach those numbers without ever playing in a real MLB game. Those are the cards that really don’t need to be made. Good luck with your player collection. Don’t be afraid to branch out from flagship Topps, although there aren’t nearly as many nice options these days as there were a decade or two ago…
Very true! And yes, I can see adding Stadium Club and Gypsy Queen, whose designs I really like. There are some very good looking Bowman cards as well.
I don’t collect newer players because I collect too many from the 70s, 80s, and 90s already. Even someone like Tim Raines has seen an explosion in cards in newer products, so I just try to find some things I like (like 2017 Stadium Club and 2017 Topps High Tek) and pick up those cards or other interesting cards (if I was a Kershaw collector I’d have the Stafford/Kershaw hockey hallway card because I find it interesting). I have a master list so any other cards I add I just mark off the list. I think that’s the only way to go unless you want to go super hardcore after a particular player. At one point I thought I’d only go after Raines as an Expo cards but he had interesting cards for other teams that were at the right price and that strategy doesn’t really work for Kershaw.
I wonder how many hidden collections there are that aren’t on TCDB. The top Keith Hernandez collection listed has 345 cards. I think I can take over that top spot but then I’d have to figure out which version(s) of his 1989 Donruss I have.
I actually had to develop rules like yours for my Stanford PC. SO MANY cards available starting in the 1990s that if you don’t have strong guidelines you risk getting overwhelmed.
Goal 1: Each year’s Topps Flagship (or whatever set they’re in in the flagship design that year)
Goal 2: Any regional/food oddballs.
Goal 3: Cards showing them in a team/year combination that isn’t available in Goals 1 or 2.
Goal 4: One nationally-issued MiLB card (As available) per year.
Even with these rules I ended up with almost 150 Mussina cards.
That’s amazing that there could be so many, even applying all those rules. For players just a generation older, it seems like there are either 0 or 1 cards from each of their pre-MLB seasons.
To be fair, there’s plenty of Mussina bycatch in there. But yeah it just amazes me how many cards pile up.
For comparison I’m close to being a Bob Boone supercollector in terms of getting “everything” (it just sort of happened) and I’m at just under 110 cards here.
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Is there a recognized hobby definition of “supercollector?” In terms of either number of cards or percentage of cards?
I looked up Boone on Beckett and TCDB and I’m surprised that he only has 350-450 cards depending upon how one counts certain variations. He missed the mid-90s explosion in sets as a player and was only picked up in a handful of the sets with a lot of parallels/variations in the early 2000s. I would have thought him a more popular player that he would have been picked up by more sets. I mean, a quad Boone (Ray, Bob, Bret, and Aaron) relic card seems like a no-brainer.
My personal definition would be someone who wants nearly every card of a player, with said player having at least 100 different cards.
Boone’s one of the more underrated guys out there. Which works for me.
While Jason’s description has merit, I don’t think the concept of “supercollector” can be quantified as much as it’s just something you recognize when you see it. It just feels like I have almost every Boone card and it catches me by surprise when I come across one I’m missing.
I can define the parts of my collection that I myself would consider to be “super collecting.” Keith Hernandez, Rick Ankiel and other guys with ties to the St. Lucie County area and thereabouts, Jose Lind. Possibly Tim Raines and if I ever get around to picking up more vintage cards of his then Johnny Mize. Topps Opening Day if we extend to a product. Those are all focused parts of my collection. I search for those cards regularly and I can show someone the collection fairly easily.
I would bet a great deal of money that I have more than 100 different Ken Griffey Jr. cards (I would guess he has at least 20,000 different cards so it’s not a big percentage), though they are spread throughout sets so it might take me two days to locate them all. I’m not saying they are expensive, but 1990 Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Leaf, Score, Topps, and Upper Deck is already 7 cards without considering any subset cards from those sets. Start adding in subsets and inserts and thinking about how long he played and I’m guessing it’s closer to 300 than 100. But I don’t think anyone would look at my collection and call me a Griffey Jr. supercollector because it’s not focused. It misses Jason’s “desire to own every card” aspect or his plan of attack he discusses in the post, though if someone told me I could have 1500 different Griffey cards I would say “yes.”
The more nuanced part of the definition is with players I collect but not with the tenacity of someone like Hernandez. I have lists, I have binders, I have a bunch of cards, and I can show those collections fairly easily but they are not a major focus. I have over 1200 different Ripkens, 1100 different Gwynns, and 1100 different Piazzas (probably more as I first fill the “Mets collection” and then the “Piazza collection”) – over 1000 different cards and not being a major focus may seem strange. To an outside observer that probably looks like a supercollector, but internally I don’t view myself as one because there are collectors with 10,000 different Ripkens. A fan of the player, for sure, pick up cards for cheap (a couple months ago I got 100+ different Piazzas for around $8 at a show) or pull them out of a big lot purchase or a pack, definitely, but I don’t usually target those players unless there is something I really, really want. It seems to meet part of Jason’s definition but not the intent but I think if I told someone I had 1200 different Ripkens they would think that’s my main focus. That’s why I asked about percentage of cards – I have more different Ripkens than Hernandez cards, but a much higher percentage of Hernandez cards.
It’s a funny thing that these days you can have 1000 different cards of a player and not necessarily be a supercollector! 😀