Thinning out our collections

Perhaps this is a sequel (or prequel) to my prior post, which reflects the ultimate thinning out of a collection. Certainly it’s something that’s been on my mind as I’ve sorted through cards, old and new, and every now and then landed a card I couldn’t wait to display somewhere only to find no vacancy in the “man cave.”

This made a post from a fellow SABR member particularly apropos this morning.

I definitely have too much stuff. Some would even say way too much stuff. And yet, like most collectors, I am always looking to add more.

Back in 2015 or so I made a rule that strikes me today as quite healthy. I’d only buy cards I planned to display⁠. I recognized back then that almost none of my enjoyment of cards came from the dozens of boxes on my shelves, no matter what they contained: complete sets, near complete sets, assorted Dodgers, etc.

Since then I stretched the definition of display to include cards in binders, which I genuinely do enjoy, but I also managed to accumulate an awful lot more of what I don’t enjoy, at least not actively: cards in boxes, cards in piles, cards I forgot I had, etc.


The term “bulk” might not do justice to these cards since after all there are some nice complete sets among them, many of which I worked hard to build from packs and trades when I was younger. Still, truth is truth. I used to enjoy these cards a lot but today not so much.

Ultimately I think there are three reasons collectors hang on to their bulk.

  • They haven’t come to terms with how little they enjoy it.
  • They’re reluctant to take a loss, either compared to what they paid, what they think the cards are worth, or what they think the cards could be worth later.
  • Doing nothing generally takes far less effort than doing something.

While the best solution depends centrally on the collector, my recommendation, which I do plan to follow, is this.

  • Take the time to snap some pics and offer it all for local pickup using a service like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
  • Price to sell, but don’t feel the need to take pennies on the dollar, at least not right away.
  • But do be prepared to lower the price a good 10% or so each week until everything is gone.

I’ll add that selling all the bulk as a single listing is far less work and hassle than selling piecemeal, though this approach will take some money out of your pocket.


If my only goal we’re to have less, I could stop there and feel great. However, I am also confronting the reality that most of the cards I want right now are fairly pricey and beyond what I can spend in good conscience. (This term means different things to different people. In my case, it generally means $40 or so.) As such, I’m taking a hard look at selling some of the very best stuff in my collection to free up money I can spend on what I at least think I want more.

Two examples are my Cuban Mel Ott card from 1946-47 and my autographed 1952 Mother’s Cookies Mel Ott. I freaking LOVE Mel Ott, and I’ve spent several years building up my Mel Ott collection. On the other hand, at least lately, I’ve decided I love Carl Hubbell even more.

Plus, my two Mel Ott cards are slabbed, which I know is an added bonus for many collectors (if not de rigueur) but for me segregates them from my beloved “old cards” binder. (I do know there are sheets sized for slabs, but the point is I’d want my Mel Ott cards on the same page(s) as my other Mel Ott cards.)

So is it the plan to sell these Mel Ott cards (and others!) to buy more Hubbell? As I type this I’m still deciding. Similar decisions await me as the owner of three Brooklyn Dodger team sets, all missing the most expensive card: 1909-11 T206 minus Dahlen, 1911 T205 minus Wilhelm, and 1955 Topps minus Koufax. Could the Bird-Magic rookie I pulled as a kid help me complete any of those sets?

I’ve also very recently taken a liking to early Pacific Coast League cards of the Los Angeles area teams: the Angels of course but also the Vernon/Venice Tigers.

Would I give up the nicer of my two Albert Einstein “rookie cards” to go well beyond the four T212 Obak beaters I currently have?

At the moment, this INCREDIBLE card lives in a box and is downright neglected compared to its double that I enjoy each time I open that “old cards” binder.

This is not about blowing up my collection or getting rid of everything. I see it more as optimizing my collection. Where my current collection (mostly) reflects the cards that gave me the most joy at the time I acquired them, is there a chance to reshape it into a collection that gives me more joy now?

Unlike shedding bulk, the decisions here can’t be taken lightly. They’re a gamble. What if I’m wrong? What if a second page of vintage Hubbell cards isn’t all I imagine it to be? Yes, I’d love to complete my T205 Brooklyn set, but who trades a gorgeous Einstein rookie for a beat up Kaiser Freaking Wilhelm? Yes, I’d love to add the 1952 Bowman Brooklyn set to my binder but would I give up a Roy Campanella rookie card to make it happen? Jeez, this is scary territory, and I don’t really know the answers.

Still, I expect to follow some version of this in the coming months, if not as early as tonight’s vintage sales thread hosted by SABR member Dylan Brennan. I’m sure I’ll make some bad decisions along the way, but the good news is I don’t have to bat 1.000 here. I just need to get more right than wrong. And besides, it’s only cardboard. (Wait, did I really say that just now? Strike that remark from the record! Where’s the backspace? Where’s the undo? Somebody call a doctor!)

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

5 thoughts on “Thinning out our collections”

  1. Yes, too many cards. Can really only
    enjoy them if are able to display.

    I’m a NYY fan now but started out
    a Brooklyn D fan so the “Boys of
    Summer” cards are definitely my
    favorites. So, I have bought replicas
    from Larry Frisch. Because my
    originals are long gone. But, I remember what they look like.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For oldsters like me, you don’t even have to use your smart photo to get sharp pics of cards you’re selling. I’ve always use
    the scanner on my printer.
    I started buying and selling for my collection on eBay 23 years ago and still find it the easiest (if not the cheapest) way to go, even tho what the post office charges for mailing has gone up quite a bit. Doing it though eBay still gets me a discount on postage and widens the market.


  3. “Doing nothing generally takes far less effort than doing something”

    I have grand visions of one day finding time to put cards up on eBay, COMC, or Sportlots, or making a serious effort at listing cards in TCDB to trade, (or better yet, winning a billion dollar Mega Millions payout and opening my own card store without really worrying too much about making a profit) yet those visions get easily derailed. They usually get derailed by finding a seller at a card show who is blowing out a large lot (think 15,000, 25,000, 35,000) of cards for less than the price of a jumbo box of 2022 Topps Series 2. Which then starts the organizing process all over again, but you never know what you can find (a 2013 Topps partial set that has clearly been searched – surely the Machado rookie and all the Trout cards are gone – no, they just pulled the Brewers and Dodgers; why is there a 1975 Topps Henry Aaron and a 2008 Ginter Scherzer rookie in this tub of cards – they must be saved). On the other hand, it creates duplicates and makes parting with cards easier when time comes.

    Of course, I still get joy out of silly things, like pulling a 1988 Topps George Brett out of one of those lots and completing a 1988 Topps set. So I’m not at the marginal level of joy point yet. I do think keeping cards stored in boxes is underrated if you will revisit those boxes. Sometimes I rediscover cards I pulled from packs, other times I discover something I never knew I had. So I revisit boxes when I have cards that slot in them and skim through what’s there.

    I’m nowhere near the “trade something I’ve collected for something else I might want stage” of my collecting. I think part of that is knowing how long it took to piece some of those sets (or even partial sets) together. Another is that the chase is still on for those incomplete sets and trying to land that last elusive card for a great deal.

    But part of my process is being organized; if the cards (even the bulk duplicate stuff) were unorganized I wouldn’t have as much joy.


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