Monday, February 22, 2010

In Between Naps - February 2010

One of Rob Dewolf's passions is collecting cards of Cleveland Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. A former minor league baseball player who advanced to Triple-A in the Padres organization, Rob's current job in the newspaper field requires him to get up at 4 a.m., six days a week. Hence the name of his column, which happens to be when he finds time to write about various aspects of the hobby. Rob lives in central Ohio with his wife and daughter and their miniature dachshund, Abby.

Technically, This Is A Great Time To Be A Collector

Like many folks this time of the year, I find myself wondering what the next 12 months will bring. Quite naturally -- for me, at least -- that includes daydreaming about what might happen in my world of collecting. This year, a nice surprise between Christmas and New Year's Day had me looking further into the future.

I received an e-mail via my Web site from a gentleman who was researching a Nap Lajoie postcard. The card, issued by the Raymond Kahn Co. in the early 1900s, had been in his possession for a number of years. A former postcard dealer, he bought it as part of a collection years ago but never got around to adding those cards -- including the Lajoie -- to his "for-sale" inventory. Thankfully.

The e-mailer found an image of a similar Raymond Kahn postcard of Lajoie on my site and was curious about what I knew about the issue. After trading a couple of e-mails, I was thrilled to discover that the postcard he had, while similar to mine, was definitely a different variation. A half-hour phone call later, we had struck a deal for me to buy the card. A few days later the card was in my collection.

Day I received his first e-mail: Wednesday.

Day I received the postcard: Monday.

Elapsed time to complete the transaction: five days.

In today's world, I suppose the quickness in which a buyer and seller are able to seal a deal isn't that noteworthy. E-mails, digital images and PayPal have reduced collectors' reliance on the postal service, Polaroids and checks. That's not news.

But what amazes me is how quickly we've come in such a short time. I don't consider myself an "old-timer" when it comes to collecting baseball cards and memorabilia. I'm still closer to 45 than I am to 50. I work on a Web site for a living, so it's not like I'm oblivious to the advances in technology that seemingly are made on a daily basis.

Yet it seems staggering that it wasn't THAT long ago that collectors traded by mail want lists and for-sale newsletters that were crammed with black-and-white, fuzzy, Xeroxed images of cards. If a possible deal was really a whopper, the buyer and seller might use fax machines to expedite the process. But the bottom line was, adding items to your collection took time and patience. Heck, even figuring out what cards you were missing from a particular set could be a challenge.

If you had told your collecting colleagues in the mid-90s that the day wasn't far off when you could sit down in front of a portable computer in your kitchen and peruse full-color, vibrant images of hundreds of thousands of baseball cards that were for sale from countless sellers worldwide -- and you could pay for them instantly and have them in hand within days -- well, you know that their reactions would have been.

Heck, if you were around during the early days of eBay, you remember when 95 percent of the listings had no images with them because so few sellers had a scanner or digital camera. That changed pretty much overnight.

OK, enough of me sitting in my virtual rocking chair, whittling a stick and reminiscing about the good old days. What the heck lies ahead for collectors?

Will we see a day when we can send actual cards -- not just images but the cards themselves -- cross-country or around the world? I'm no scientist (flunked biology my sophomore year in college, as a matter of fact), but I wonder whether someone will figure out how to break down the molecules of a card and transport them to a destination, where they'll be reconstructed in their original state. Talk about card alteration!

A far-fetched idea? Of course it is. Right now.

Or what about ways to find all those unknown cards that remain hidden in attics and basements? One day will we all have hand-held devices that we can set to detect any pieces of 100-year-old cardboard in a 5-mile radius? Who needs a metal detector when you can have a T206 detector?

Collectors today should never forget how lucky they are to have so many tools to educate themselves and build their collections, tools that as recently as 15 years ago would have seemed as outrageous as the Baseball Card Molecular Transporter 1000 -- available soon on at 20 percent off.

I can't wait to see what else is in store.

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