Lance Gunkel, CFP®, CFA, Managing Director
March 24, 2022
I am a collector.
Over the years I’ve started (and abandoned) many collections, including stickers, pens and pencils, buttons, Boston Celtics memorabilia, coins, and sports trading cards.
Like many boys, baseball cards were my passion; I would save allowance money, and then my brother and I would ride our bikes to the corner minimart to buy a pack of cards (which included an inedible stick of gum). We’d immediately rifle through the pack to see if we scored any good players, and we’d then ride back home to add them to our collection, which we kept in plastic pages to keep the corners mint.
I spent countless hours with my neighborhood friends looking through cards and proposing trades. By far my luckiest pack was a pack of Fleer basketball cards that was a gift from my Great-grandma Jane: it included the now much sought-after Michael Jordan rookie card. I added the card to my collection with no idea that 35 years later it would be worth several thousand dollars.
In my life, I have had some fantastic days, occasional down days, and many “normal” days. This is like my packs of trading cards—most contained common cards worth very little, a few contained cards I very much disliked (such as any of former Piston Bill Laimbeer, a rival to my favorite team the Celtics), and then a couple of contained rare, fantastic cards like my Jordan rookie.
Despite the common cards being average, I enjoyed them all the same. I looked through the stats on the back, read factoids on each player, and relished combining cards to make big trades with my friends. The commons were important to my collection in the same way that average days should be important in my life.
Each individual common card isn’t that exciting in and of itself, but assembling a whole bunch of them makes for a fun and satisfying collection; the same goes for a life built around mostly “normal” days. It’s easy to look past them, but I try to appreciate them and find little things each day for which to be grateful. The bad days are also important. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but they can teach resilience.
In the past two years collectible cards, especially the Jordan rookie, have escalated in value. There are days I’m tempted to sell it, but I haven’t done so yet. In the end, I know I’ll hold onto the Jordan for a long time, as I will with all my common cards. They serve as good reminders that they are each valuable in their own way and, together, they’re priceless to me.