When to Pivot Your Collecting Focus

Sometimes, you have to look at what you’re not looking for.

When I went to the Sport Card Expo in Toronto back in November, one of the things I wanted to buy was an Auston Matthews Young Guns rookie card. In fact, there were a few different rookie cards of current stars that I was looking for.

The problem was, they were all more than I wanted to pay. Much of the new stuff was graded. And even ungraded copies of cards that I wanted were in the neighborhood of $500 or more. 

That’s when I reminded myself of one of my long-standing card collecting strategies: know when to pivot your collecting focus, because you won’t know what you might find. 

1961-62 Shirriff Hockey coins Chicago Black Hawks team

For example, I stumbled upon a set of 1961-62 Shirriff Hockey coins, complete and in fantastic shape. I wasn’t necessarily looking for this set at the Expo – it found me – but it was always on my mind as something cool that I wanted to have one day. And it cost me way less than a Matthews Young Guns card. 

1961-62 Shirriff Hockey coins of New York Rangers Gump Worsley, Irv Spencer, Harry Howell, and Andy Hebenton.

I spent a lot of time also looking for 1963-64 Parkhurst Hockey cards to finish my set, and found quite a few of them. Now, I’m only seven cards away from competing that 99-card set. 

However, when I asked one dealer if he had any 1963-64 Parkhurst Hockey, he told me that he had a bunch of 1953-54 Parkhurst Hockey cards – a set I wasn’t necessarily trying to build. He insisted I take a look and promised to cut me a great price. 

I ended up buying 13 different ’53-54 Parkies from him for $110 CDN – that’s less than $9 each for cards that are 70 years old! Some of the cards have creases, but most were in fantastic shape. (Heck, I have a few creases and I’m not even 50 yet!) Included in the lot were cards of Hall of Famers Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Mosienko. 

These 1953-54 Parhkhurst Hockey cards have seen better days. But at $9 each, what’s your point?

Needless to say, I did not feel like I missed out because I did not buy recent cards of current players.

The takeaway here is that if the new stuff is too expensive for your taste, pivot your collecting focus and look elsewhere. You will usually find something you like and will never run out of things to collect. 

Note: This article is an updated version of an editorial that originally appeared in Volume 1 – Issue 16 of the Puck Junk Newsletter. For stories like these, plus news and updates about hockey cards and collectibles, subscribe to the newsletter here.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

7 thoughts on “When to Pivot Your Collecting Focus”

  1. Great advice Sal. When I started to collect in Elementary school, my goal was to complete the O Pee Chee each year. As time went by, I just collected cards from my favorite team. Now forty years later, after a 4 year absence from the hobby, I just collect three types of cards from my favorite team. I couldn’t be happier.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Michael. Sometimes, narrowing your focus can make collecting a much more enjoyable experience. What three types of cards from your favorite team do you collect?

  2. Hi Sal I listened to the podcast on the Toronto Expo and heard you talking about some of your pick ups. It was nice meeting you and Clemente. These coins look very nice they may have been the best find. Hope to see you guy’s again.

    Jordan P

    1. It was nice meeting you too! I won’t be back for the Spring Toronto Expo, but will make it a point to be at the Fall Toronto Expo.

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