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The Hobby – It's So Much Bigger Than Most of Us Realize

Taking My Hacks

Joe Orlando - January 24, 2020

Human beings see things through their own lens.  This is as true in the hobby as it is in life itself.  We all have our own perspective, and our perception differs based on our personal experience.  For some, that experience is vast and for others it is limited due to what they have or have not been exposed to throughout their lives.  In the collector world, one of the ongoing mysteries is trying to determine the sheer size of our endeavor.  How big is the hobby?

I have been a collector almost as long as I can remember, and my memory goes back to a very young age.  I have worked in the industry for more than 20 years at Collectors Universe.  As part of that experience, I have traveled a lot, both domestically and even a little internationally for the business.  I have been to plenty of big shows, like the National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC) and tiny ones at malls or hotels in small towns that were advertised in the local paper.

There are people reading this that have far more experience than I do, but I think it's fair to say that I've seen a lot in the hobby during my lifetime.  One of the most eye-opening experiences I've had in a long time happened this summer at the NSCC in Chicago.  As an employee of PSA, I have attended nearly 20 consecutive NSCC shows, but this year something dawned on me.

After walking up and down our enormous line a few times - a line which was dozens of people deep most of the time - I walked over to another booth and grabbed the attention of a hobby executive I knew, someone who had been in the business for a very long time and was well-connected.  I brought him back to our booth and I walked him up and down our line.  The purpose wasn't to brag about how busy we were, but instead to ask him one simple question.

I stopped him after reaching the end of the line and simply asked, "Do you recognize anyone in our line?"  He replied, "No."  I responded with a smile on my face and told him, "Neither do I."  In that moment, we both realized a wonderful thing. The hobby is simply much bigger than we ever appreciated.

There have been years, not too long ago, where I could go through the same exercise and recognize or name most of the people in our line at nearly any point during the show.  This year, there was a moment when not a single face was familiar to me, and it wasn't because we were in a foreign place or I bumped my head on a door before walking into the show either.

Of course, it's important to note that the collectors who attend shows represent a small fraction of the overall market.  Most people enjoy the hobby from the comfort of their own homes these days with the help of the internet, but the impact of this show experience was still meaningful in context.

In life and in the hobby, people flock toward their tribes.  We tend to think we know everyone.  I don't mean that literally, but those of us who have a lot of experience believe we know almost everyone there is to know, at least everyone we feel we should know ... but it's not even close.  We are creatures of habit.  We tend to run in the same circles, but those circles are limited.  No matter how many key contacts we have in our phones or how deep our mailing lists are, it's a drop in the bucket.

As a result, our little bubble becomes the entire world instead.  While lots of collectors enjoy sharing, so many others, even ones with stellar collections, are private individuals for one reason or another.  Collecting is enjoyed by legions of people you and I have never met and probably never will.  The great news in all of this is that the hobby is, without any doubt in my mind, so much bigger than most of us grasp ... and that is exciting for everyone involved.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
President & CEO
Collectors Universe, Inc.

Article provided by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) at

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