Trading — the Oft-Forgotten Lifeblood of Collecting

Collecting cards doesn’t have to be about merely buying and selling

So, can I make a confession? I don’t do much trading these days.

Why? For a variety of reasons, really. For one thing, it’s not super easy to find people that I know that collect the same stuff I do. For another, I’m not real motivated when it comes to dumping off stuff. And for another, a lot of the time, it just seems like a hassle of nickel and diming that, frankly, I don’t need.

Recently, though, I was reminded just how great trading can be sometimes. I won’t name my fellow co-conspirator here but I was intrigued when I saw a card up for trade in a collector group to which I belong. Said group includes folks specializing in vintage cards but not everyone collects the old stuff that I do there.

But the card in question I was interested in was Roger Bresnahan’s E90-1 American Caramel card. The card was particularly intriguing to me because it’s not a tough card but not really a cheap one, either.

BresnahanI first started collecting the E90-1 set a few years ago. Once I got near the halfway point, I kind of abandoned it and sold off a bunch of the cards. Long story short, I wanted the money to buy some other stuff and my E90-1 collection was kind of stuck in the mud. One of the cards I dumped was Bresnahan. Last year, I picked up the quest and am more than 2/3 of the way through the set.

Bresnahan’s card, by Hall of Famer standards, is not a hard one to find. It’s generally one of the more common Hall of Famers on eBay. My particular quandary, however, was that I couldn’t find a lower-grade one at a price I wanted to pay. Prices on a lot of candy and tobacco Hall of Famers have gone up and Bresnahan’s is one of those. I first bought a low-grade Bresnahan a few years back for around $40 but now that same card is about double that. The cheapest one that’s sold on eBay recently was a PSA 2 that went for about $120.

Most of the cards I need for the set are of the tougher variety but Bresnahan’s was one of the easier cards I needed. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $75-$80 for a low-grade example- – and that’s even if one came around. The cheapest on eBay right now is (admittedly, for a nicer one) at an overpriced $150. I kept hoping a beater would surface at a lower price but no such luck. Even though the finish line for the set is getting closer to me, I still wasn’t ready to fork over that much for a lower-tier Hall of Famer.

The guy who dealt me Bresnahan is one of the few people I’ve swapped cards with in trades over the past few years. He’s always extremely easy to deal with and that made working something out much easier. He also deals in lower-grade stuff like me so it just makes for a good match. In the end, I got my Bresnahan, and a low-grade E91 and E95 card for a graded (SGC 30) T207 Broadleaf. Dollar value, it was about as even a trade as you could find, IMO.

E95 - Matty McIntyreE91 - Wid ConroyI didn’t need the E91 for my set but didn’t have the E95 and pick up cards from that set and others as I find them. The E91 is helpful since it can be used for a potential trade for another caramel card that I do need for a set. In short, I got two cards for sets I needed and it didn’t cost me a dime. It cost me a nice card that I didn’t particularly need but one that the trader was happy to get.

Here’s the thing. Trading isn’t just a lost art to me. It seems like it’s sort of disappeared as a whole. Don’t get me wrong — it still happens. But I remember the days of going to card shows and it seems like more trading got done there than actual buying and selling. That’s probably the 12-year-old me remembering those deals as a kid but trading was much more rampant before.

The Internet has opened up so many buying and selling possibilities that most people gravitate there. And while some folks do send cards to others back and forth, real life bartering seems to have really dropped off compared to what it was.

That’s kind of a shame. Trading is how a lot of us growing up really changed our collections. It was a way to get some different cards into your collection without spending money. And as a young collector, that was pretty critical to me in my early collecting days. Heck, I remember trading cards with other kids for players we didn’t even care about. It was really all about changing up your collection just for the sake of doing so. A way to pass the time in between playing Legend of Zelda, and such.

In short, the deal I made here is really what trading is all about. Both sides make out and, more importantly, fill collecting needs without spending any money other than postage. And anytime you can do that, it’s a win-win situation.

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