To say a lot has transpired over the past couple of weeks would be a vast understatement. To make a long story short, (trust me, the long story is below!)
1) I have decided to quit collecting Jose Canseco baseball cards (Video of the explanation is below).
2) I’m selling my collection.
3) I’m writing a book about my hobby experiences. Please let me know if you are interested in reading it!
While I fully understand most of you will not care a lick about this, I also know some folks out there would like to know why. Plus, I feel like I owe it to everyone to share the wild ride of it all. I’d be thrilled if you had the time to read the story of my journey.
Allow me to start at the beginning.
As a “pseudo card dealer”, I have bought and sold approximately 10 million cards over the past decade. While the number may sound impressive, please keep in mind the vast majority of them were junk wax commons. Even still, 10,000,000 is huge … to me, anyway. Back in 2013, I ended up selling out everything I had, except for my childhood Jose Canseco baseball card collection. Because there was nothing “special” about it, I ended selling it too – it was very base heavy, with tons of doubles. After it sold, I started asking myself “what if I did this right?” I started picking up an Artist’s Proof here, a First Day issue there, a couple of refractors, etc. Soon, I started getting several game used Canseco cards and happily marked off parallels that I had never before held in my hand.
I had such a blast marking them off in my checklist, taking pictures of mail days and posting them online for you to see. Heck, even the evolution of my checklist was rewarding – from MS Word, to Excel to an online document eventually to a full blown custom website. While this was the most serious I had taken my collection ever in my life, I wasn’t about to claim that there was anything special about it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought my collection would have grown to what it is. Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote at the end of 2013:
Within two years of the time I wrote this, I had hung out with Canseco at his house, landed the cover of Beckett and had a special NSCC promo card made of the cover I was on. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that could have happened.
Later on in the next year (after I wrote that article), I started picking up steam with my collection, but it wasn’t until 2015 (shortly after I was at Jose’s house) that I landed my first true 1/1 I ever picked up to my recollection: a 2015 Topps TEK Black Rainbow:
I even remember where I was – at a stop light on my way to church to pick up our son from Youth Group. The seller spelled his name wrong – “Conseco” and I was the first on the scene. With a few clicks, I was the proud owner of a 1/1 Jose Conseco … errr … Canseco 🙂 I was elated to have finally beaten all of the other big Canseco collectors. Man, I have so many stories for each and every one of my cards. I love it!
It was all down hill from there.
To understand my collecting habits, you have to know me. I went into this thinking I would be able to keep it casual, but that just isn’t my style. I poured myself into it. When all was said and done, I amassed 230 1/1 Jose Canseco cards and 1,000 unique game used / autograph cards. Here is a screen shot from an article I had written a few months back:
Perhaps some of the beloved items in my collection that I would place just as high (if not higher) than the 1/1’s are the plethora of proofs, prototypes, and other cards that aren’t supposed to exist. I remember when I first saw these 1992 Ultra boardroom prototypes. I was instantly hooked.
Or these Fleer bankruptcy paper proofs that aren’t supposed to exist. My gosh, I heard angels singing when I saw these.
With over 5,000 unique items, inside of three years of serious hardcore collecting, I went from having virtually nothing, to assembling the #1 largest unique Jose Canseco baseball card collection on the planet. I am proud, grateful and ashamed all at the same time, but more on that later.
HOW I DID IT
To become a supercollector, you may automatically think of someone who is absolutely obsessed with a certain player, and has limitless funds. While I’m sure both would definitely have their merits if supercollecting is your goal, I went about it a different way. I would say my main ally was passion. I *LOVE* this hobby. More than I should. I spent a tremendous amount of time making fun graphics and shooting them all over social media. Things like this:
Or even this:
Heck, I’d even enlist the help of Disney
Even Trump and Obama lent a helping hand. Thanks guys 🙂
It’s completely normal to morph yourself into your favorite player, right?
Even sharing my successes got a graphic:
After writing my heart out, making graphics (which weren’t JUST for marketing purposes … I truly loved the art of it all), hanging out with Jose at his house & being on the cover of Beckett, multiple radio / internet interviews from Beckett, Topps, Blowout and Sports Collectors Daily, I started being offered Canseco cards by multiple people on a daily basis. At some point, I started routinely getting called out on video by the breakers themselves when a high end Canseco was hit. People would write me and say “I was just called the Tanner Jones of Don Mattingly collecting!” or similar. It got to a point where it seemed like 4 out of 5 “important” cards would be offered to me before ever seeing the open market. If they hit the open market? No problem at all. I would be the first one to see it, and either purchase or start negotiations well before anyone else had a chance to see it. The only way I’d miss a reasonably priced card I needed is if it were set to go to auction and went for higher than I’d want to pay.
Check out this listing someone posted the other day – they put my name in the title, and that isn’t the first time it has happened!
Many people wrote to me saying how I am an inspiration to them on either a daily or weekly basis. This was all so very flattering, but also very disconcerting. I truly hope I do not sound like I’m bragging, because that isn’t the case. I am writing out all of these things to be a cautionary tale for you, in addition to documenting my story. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve noticed an epidemic of people saying they were hiding their “epic mail days” from their wives, and even experienced the destruction of a marriage that was made very public on social media – it wasn’t the only divorce I’ve heard of due to sports cards, either. And that doesn’t even get into the potential other relationship issues this type of “cardboard addiction” that can happen between a husband and wife.
To think that I may have had a hand in such things is terrifying to me. While I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for all of you who have gone out of your way for me to land the best Canseco cards out there, I have a legitimate concern that my example / lifestyle has been leading some down the wrong path. If I have had any part (directly or indirectly) in directing you toward a negative path, I sincerely apologize. Collecting baseball cards and directing others to collect baseball cards is not my mission in life. My mission in life is to glorify God. As a Christian, I believe this takes many forms. From leading others into a relationship with Jesus to making disciples of the nations, to feeding and clothing the poor, to loving and caring for your family. I have found that obsessively collecting can almost be the antithesis of all these things I hold so dearly. I have probably had more fun than anyone else in this hobby of ours, but I deeply regret if my passion has rubbed off negatively on any one of you in taking this too far. As with anything in life, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. A bowl of ice cream is a blessing; 10 bowls of ice cream is diabetes.
MY LARGEST ACQUISITION EVER?
So, onward with my story…
I was constantly being told that I had the most impressive and complete baseball card collection of any player collection out there for anyone. I never sought out to become the best or most well known; I think that any perception my fellow collectors had of me was all a byproduct of my extreme passion for our hobby. As the 1/1’s, /5’s, /10’s and prototypes continually rolled in, it almost seemed like an old hat. I thought back to my excitement of that first 1/1 Tek I landed at the stoplight on the way to church a few short years ago. My excitement had not really died down; I just felt more accustomed to it, I guess. There just didn’t seem to be anything else big out there to accomplish.
As a supercollector, you are always looking for the next “high”. At this point in my collecting career, I felt like I had nothing else big to accomplish. After making it to the pinnacle of your collecting niche, where do you go? I had to face the facts: everything else from here on out would just be a slow burn of acquisitions as the card companies would release more new material.
Then, I got to thinking. What would be the biggest thing I could do with my collection?
Over the past couple of months, I had been in talks with the supercollector I mentioned in the screenshot at the beginning of this article about acquiring his entire collection. AJ has spent a decade meticulously putting together a world class Canseco collection far before I started. I have spent years drooling over cards he had that I knew I would never be able to touch. Over the years, we have gone from collecting competitors, to frenemies, to friends. I can safely say that outside of my own collection, there is nobody else’s collection out there that I would rather have than his. This is no small feat either, because there are some amazing collections out there of Canseco.
Recently, our talks became serious and ended up becoming a plan. I was going to do it. The plan was to fly up north to make the largest purchase I had ever made, outside of a house. Visions of 80 or so 1/1’s were dancing in my head, and all told would put about 200 cards that I didn’t have in my collection. I would then end up selling off and trading away the doubles for others I did not yet have.
Guys, I cannot stress how big this was to me. It kept me up at night dreaming and planning. Simply put, this hobby could not offer me anything better. Think about all of the vintage “finds” over the past several years. You know the kind – the ones where a guy was rehabbing a house and found a bunch of beautiful tobacco cards worth tons of money. Or Mr. Mint’s purchase of all those beautiful 1952 Topps cards. To me, this was my find, and it wouldn’t be anymore exciting to me than if they were all tobacco cards. I want to be clear here with what I’m saying: Rare Jose Canseco cards meant MUCH more to me (as they do with a handful of other guys) than any Babe Ruth bat knob or Ty Cobb cut auto ever could. This to me, was the jackpot. The deal of a lifetime. It is important to note that AJ never intended to sell his collection. He just felt that based upon my position, that it made sense to move them to me. We had done a deal a while back where he purchased a few cards from me and in return, he swore off buying any new 1/1’s from that point on. That may have made the thought of him selling to me more palatable.
I had discussed this with my wife a number of times, and while not thrilled, she said ultimately it was up to me to decide (YES!!!! Here I come, AJ!) I had one last discussion with her the night before I was considering purchasing a plane ticket … and guys … let me tell you. I cannot tell you how excited I was to document everything in pictures and write up an article of the whole thing. Every last piece of it was absolutely incredibly exciting. Oh, the nights I would stay up writing, documenting, taking pictures of my newest cards, etc. The fulfillment of posting them on social media and displaying them on my website. The Youtube video reveals. It would be pure, unadulterated joy. True satisfaction. The biggest high at this point that I could ever have collecting cardboard.
The discussion with her went similarly to the previous conversations we had. She was not feeling the love of the collection like I was, but said if I was praying about it and felt God was okay with it, then she was okay. The stars were aligned and the doors were all opened. The problem? I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Like something was tugging on my conscience to pay attention to the still small little voice. I may have heard it before regarding this subject, but perhaps I just wasn’t ready to listen … or didn’t want to.
I can’t quite explain it, but sitting in my living room with my wife that night, I felt like it would be a selfish endeavor. It felt as if I already had the world’s fastest car by a country mile, but wanted to add 1,000 more horse power just because. So I told her I no longer felt okay or right about making the purchase. With my mind going a mile a minute, I started thinking to myself If I’m not buying this collection, then what am I still doing here collecting? There is nothing else left for me to accomplish.
Almost in the same breath, I told her “Maybe I should just go ahead and sell my collection as well.” Did I just say that out loud? What was I thinking? Years of dedication, and just like that, gone? How can I go from one extreme to another within minutes?
She looked shocked and smirked. “I’m not going to tell you what to do either way – you do what you feel is right.”
Just like that, on the evening of June 8th 2018, I had made the decision to walk away from the thing that I had been hyper dedicated to for the past 3 years.
LIFE AFTER COLLECTING
I had contemplated quitting collecting a number of times over my collecting “career”. I always wondered what it would feel like. How I would feel. Would I be letting people down? Would they be disappointed in me? What regrets would I have? Haven’t I passed the point of no return? How hard would it be to sell everything? I then realized that it wasn’t hard at all. It wasn’t a long, arduous road; it literally stopped once I decided to do so. I told AJ about my plans, and to say he was shocked is an understatement. He also was excited, because with me out of the game, the restriction of not getting any 1/1’s from here on out was lifted. That’s right – AJ is back!
Throughout all of Saturday, I felt free. I felt a huge amount of peace like I hadn’t in a longtime. Sunday, however, was a different story. Simply put, I felt bad about it all. I asked God to give me clear direction on what to do, because I considered slipping back into it all. A mere couple hours later, we were sitting in church and our pastor said the following: (this snippet is less than 1 minute long).
My eyes almost popped out of my head. Snickering to ourselves after hearing that, I dug my fingers into my wife’s leg as to control my laughter. I thanked God for a clear sign.
On the car ride home, we told our son my decision and what all had transpired. Then my wife said:
“So, here is something I haven’t told you yet. You know that I’ve been praying for you about this decision during my runs. What I didn’t tell you, is I’ve also been praying that God show you if you are supposed to sell your collection – even before you ever mentioned considering selling!”
It is truly amazing to me how good God is, and I am overjoyed in how it happened so I can share it with you all here.
This all transpired a couple weeks ago. I have since disabled all tricks I had in place that gave me an edge and ultimately put me in the position I am in. I have politely declined 20 or so purchase requests and have for the first time, I have not felt the compulsion to check all of the websites I used to check countless times each day.
If you are a supercollector or aspiring to be one, this is huge. You may be tracking with me when I say there is a compulsion to keep your phone on you at all times, and to check for new listings any time you get a free moment. EBay, COMC, the forums, various social media outlets and various other websites were all places that funneled cards to my collection, so I kept a vigilant watch on all of them. The anxiety of losing a card I needed to someone else kept me alert at all times. If an extremely rare card would be listed auction style, I would frequently lose, because other collectors would simply be willing to pay more than I would.
Part of what makes it easier for me to walk away are the memories that I can hold onto thanks to how much I’ve documented over the years, and it has been greatly enhanced by your positive feedback. What I’ve written for you to read is satisfying, but what you have written for me to read has added a tremendous amount of depth to this chapter of my life. I can look back at this journey with no regrets of walking away. I have no worries that I left anything to conquer on the table because I have squeezed every drop of satisfaction and enjoyment I possibly could from it.
To wrap this all up, I’ll share a few of my closing thoughts:
- Please do not think I am condemning collecting as wrong/bad/evil because I am not. My addictive/obsessive personality made it an unhealthy lifestyle for me. I LOVE this hobby and will continue to be slinging cardboard, making fun customs and writing (I need to write as therapy to help me through this!) I just won’t be collecting Canseco anymore. I may keep a nice base collection as a fun reminder.
- Please take a moment to think long and hard about where you are in your collecting journey and where you are in life. If you feel that you have sunk into the situation I was in, or worry you may get that way, I will be more than happy to try and help talk you through everything. Perhaps God has brought me through this journey to help *you* along in your journey. I would be overjoyed if I can help you through an addiction situation. Please let me help you.
- Though this article is long, it is only the tip of the iceberg. I am about to finish writing a book. I hope that you will find it entertaining enough to read. Perhaps I’ll share some/all of my tricks that catapulted me to the top of my collecting niche!
- Last but not least – you guessed it. My collection is for sale! Everything is pictured at www.CansecoCollector.com if you want to take a peek. It will be sad to see it all go, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing. I am also VERY happy that some cards in my collection may find their home in your collection. (Queue the circle of life song). I’d love for these to filter throughout the hobby and hope the story of my journey will follow them into your collection. In purchasing some cards, you will also be helping me out. I have a tremendous amount of ground to cover in selling, so please consider grabbing some 🙂
I am humbled by and thankful for all of you. For all the kindness that you have shown me over the past several years. This has been a wild ride and was truly thrilling from start to finish. I will close by using a quote from the esteemed Dr. Seuss which pretty much sums up everything about me closing this chapter in my life:
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.