The village constable, a surly Cossack, watched this every day, and finally, on a day when he was particularly cranky, snarled at the rabbi as he was in the middle of the square. “Where are you going, Rabbi? the Cossack asked. “I don’t know,” said the rabbi in a soft voice. The answer infuriated the Cossack. “Where are you going?” he asked again, and again he was told, “I don’t know.”
There is much that links our hobby to the wider world at large, but I think the most important is the understanding that the passage of time ultimately has a dramatic effect on what survives as valuable and collectible.
For older collectors, that’s a pretty significant distinction, because for the better part of nearly two decades, the hobby has gotten twisted around to the idea of the companies that produce cards and collectibles apparently making the decisions about long-term collectibility. That, my friends, is an illusion.
I am not suggesting that all of the glitzy stuff that is being produced these days (in relatively miniscule quantities) will fizzle out in 20 years, but merely observing that – just as it is in the wider world – we just don’t know.
Which leads me to a story (parable, really) that I am going to try to tell as best I can remember it.
A rabbi in a Russian village in the mid-1800’s would walk across the village square every day at noon for morning services at the synagogue. Year after year, rain or shine, he would walk slowly across the center of the village to attend services, without exception or interruption.
With that, the enraged Cossack grabbed the rabbi by the scruff of his neck and dragged him to the local lockup. The Cossack rudely shoved the rabbi into the cell, and as the iron door banged shut, the rabbi quietly said to his jailer, “You see, you just don’t know.”
I hope I told that adequately. I’m not suggesting that the Conlon Collection card pictured here, which I think are among the coolest things produced in the hobby in the last 30 years, are going to be more highly regarded in 20 years than some of the shiny stuff offered in those expensive packs. Since roughly 1990 or so, the card companies (for example) have been telling collectors what’s collectable (ie. valuable), a designation that is implicit in the price of the packs that house these creations. I just take comfort in the fact that the passage of time is going to render the final verdict.
“You just don’t know.”