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The efficacy of swapping stocks for cardboard ...

In my travels around cyberspace, I see discussions in sports forums about the relative merits of sports cards – particularly vintage sports cards – vs. traditional stocks and other speculative venues as a safe haven for investments.

I should state upfront that when it comes to the debate about investing vs. collecting, my credentials as they relate to the former are less than stellar. Collecting for the sake of collecting, this I know something about, but trying to turn that into a nickle’s worth of profit is probably not an area of great expertise for me.

As I’ve noted before, I am not particularly proud or embarrassed about this; like so much in life, it is simply the way it is, and were I capable of remaking the universe, this aspect would be so far down the list as to be essentially unreachable.

But I will concede that blasé attitude has cost me a lot of money over the years. My only defense is that I’ve been aware of the tensions between investing and collecting as far back as when I was a teenager, and made decisions at that delicate juncture that would solidify my lifelong credentials as a non-investor.

About the time I stopped being much of an active collector as a kid, say 13 or so when the peer pressure developed to set aside such childish things, I also made a decision – quite consciously – that I would stash the cards away, thinking that I would give them to my own son someday.

I also made it a point to set aside only one copy of any individual card as a means of ensuring that I was not doing it as an investment. To that noble, if ill-advised end, I gave away any doubles that I had to some younger kids in the neighborhood.

From that inauspicious start, four decades later I remain hopelessly inept in the investment end of things. In the 1980s when I put together nearly a dozen 1950s and 1960s Topps sets – card by card – I concentrated on finding the best bargains I could in collectible condition, probably anything from a strong VG to EX-MT or occasionally even better than that. And I was woefully deficient in policing the idea of centering.

As a final note, I should point out that the best bit of investing in baseball cards in my life was actually engineered by my then-wife around 1983 or so when she bought me the entire Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Postcard Set as a Christmas present.

Oh, I may be exaggerating a bit, since I made money over the years in spite of myself, but you get the idea.


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