After my recent How To Start a Hockey Card Collection blog post received a lot of great feedback, I wanted to dive a little deeper and branch these Hobby How To posts into a series of blog posts for young and/or experienced collectors alike in order to help navigate the landscape that is collecting cards as a hobby.
Let's dive into Part Two: How To Start A Player Collection
I'm going to highlight a few points below that I've learned over my years collecting on how to start a Player Collection. These are a collection of tips (pun totally intended) that I wish I'd been told when I was first starting out in this hobby over 15 years ago and continue to learn from today.
Prospect, Semi-Star, or Superstar?
This step is important when you start a player collection and how you'll move forward with starting this card collection. What type of player will you start to collect?
The Prospect: This player is one that may or may not have been drafted yet, but he's one that has been on your radar for a long time. As far as cards go, they might have a few Team Issued stuff out there, a rookie card or two, or no cards at all, but collecting a prospect will give you an advantage since you can start your collection from the ground up right before they get their first major wave of big NHL rookie cards (Young Guns, Future Watch Autographs, The Cup, etc) and have a solid, balanced collection.
Collecting a prospect will also have your collection grow with their career and all the highs and lows that come with that. It's a nice challenge that is a lot of fun!
The Semi-Star: Collecting a Semi-Star is collecting a player who has already established themselves as an NHL regular, so there cards are ripe for the picking with a quick eBay search. Collecting a player like this will likely save you some money, as the rookie-year hype has passed and their cards will be cheaper compared to the Sidney Crosby's of the world.
If you're looking to collect every single card of a particular player, Semi-Stars area good option that will allow you to have some fun, get to experience cards from a few different products over the years at better value. The downside I've found can be finding those elusive paralled cards, as some sellers may not see the value in listing certain cards up for sale if the player is not the "next big thing" or isn't a household name.
The Superstar: This player has either been in the league for two decades or two minutes, but they are a household name for their superhuman abilities on the ice.
As far as cards go, Superstars will likely be in every major product release and will *usually* command a higher per-card premium than your average or Semi-Star players. Collecting a superstar player will be more financially tougher due to these factors if you're going into this collection with a 'completionist' mindset. While it is possible, it can be tough and other collectors may take advantage of that by raising prices, not to mention the intense competition that will exist for these players' cards after every product release.
Collecting a superstar is one of the most notable ways to start a player collection, as many collectors will not only know of your player right off the bat, the chances of other collectors having cards you need is very high, leaving you having to never search too long for a card or two just in terms of supply and demand.
Retired Players/Hockey Legends: I've added this category as a honorable mention. Depending on the player, they might still show up in products here and there, but they have been out of the game for a while or are currently immortalized in the HHOF. Either way, collecting a retired player can be great because their careers are already completed, meaning you don't have to expect a season-by-season card update every season, which is nice and managable. You also won't have to worry about these players becoming a 'bust' or not, which is a fear among some player collectors I've spoken to over the years.
You can choose to collect cards from their playing days or just stick to newer and modern cards that were released after they retired. The choice is yours!
The Player vs The Hometown Team
When looking at which player you want to collect, the first choice usually revolves around someone playing on our Hometown team. While I totally respect it, I would be cautious choosing a player collection of a player on your favourite team due to the high likelyhood of them being eventually traded away.
I've seen it happen many times before. A collector collects an impressive collection of a certain players' cards, but as soon as they're traded it errupts a massive fire sale and they are cursing the player/teams name all over the place and have sunk a bunch of time and money into something they no longer enjoy, all due to a simple sports transaction. It sucks and while I totally feel their pain, I would suggest to newer collectors try collecting a player you like watching on the ice no matter the uniform they're wearing so your collection can stand the test of time. No matter the crest on the front, the player nameplate on the back with always stay the same.
So if your favourite player gets drafted by your favourite team, then by all means collect their cards and don't let me stop you. But seriously prepare youself for a trade one day, because one day it may be the reality. If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, chances are our favourite players are easily expendable, too.
Start Small. Like, Really Small
While setting goals within every hobby is beyond awesome, you need to start small and build from there before mapping out bigger goals for your collection. Just take it one card at a time and see where the collection goes. That's it.
If you're a person who likes to make goals before starting a new hobby, then maybe start small by trying to collect a certain players True rookie cards and then go from there. The term "True" rookie cards refer to the players original rookie card in a particular set, not a paralled version.
Enjoy each and every card of that particular player and how you acquired it. It's a start of a new collection, so just sit back (just make sure the card isn't in the way) and enjoy yourself.
The Rookie Cards (RC's)
Since we're talking about rookie cards, this is probably going to be one of the busiest years for your player collection. The competition can be feirce, you'll probably get in a bidding war or two, and getting any rookie card of your favourite players while they make their mark and climb the ranks is always a fun time.
While it may be tempting to spend a lot on these rookie cards at first as soon as they are released, please pace yourself during the rookie card year. I've been in this hobby a long time to realize that these cards will most-likely come up for sale once again down the road (at a fraction of the original cost), even some of those 1/1's.
You'll never have 100% of their cards
This is a clear fact that I want everyone to hear. While it may be awesome, having 100% of a players cards is impossible nowadays with all of the parallels and rookie-year printing plates that you'll come across in the high-end products. So collect what you like, enjoy the cards you have, and please don't stress about the ones that you've missed out on.
Other Player Collectors (AKA: Your Competition)
Whether you know them or not, chances are there is another collector out there chasing your favourite players cards as well. You'll outbid them, they'll outbid you, and you'll both end up with two awesome collections at the end of the day.
While your first instinct might be to have a "you vs the world" mentality when it comes to your collection, I would suggest a friendlier approch and actually build friendships with other collectors, even if they collect the same thing as you. I've seen collectors get mad at other collectors who collect the same thing as them and that's just not cool in any hobby. This is for fun, so let's keep it that way.
Who knows, maybe down the road these 'rival' collectors decide to move some rare pieces from their collection into yours. I've experienced that scenario myself many times from other Enroth card collectors who eventually decided to move some cards into my collection, knowing these cards would be going to a good home.
I hoped you enjoyed some of these player collecting tips. I'll update this post if I think of anything else to add.
If you are a player collector and want to add something, please leave a comment in the comment section below!
Author - Aaron
I've been collecting Hockey cards since the late 90's. Mainly the goalies since 2005. I also Co-Host a Hockey Card Podcast.
Daniel & Henrik Sedin
Arturs Irbe (2)
Send me a message to get your collection or website showcased here
Beyond The Crease: A Hockey Card Blog