By Kevin Glew
A common lament in the hobby these days is that there are no young collectors left. With the rising cost of packs and the advent of video game systems, MP3 players and cell phones, youngsters have found more exciting things to do with their time.
Or have they?
A recent review of some popular online hobby forums revealed that there are still some young collectors out there. Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly recently caught up with five hobbyists – all 20 years old or younger – to ask them about their collections.
Hayden Allison has met over 400 NHL players while assembling his autographed puck collection. But the ambitious 13-year-old says the best part about collecting has been spending time with his dad.
Over the past seven years, his dad, Brian, has traveled with him to dozens of signings in the Kitchener, Ont., area, helping the dedicated teen acquire close to 600 signed pucks. On those adventures, Hayden has rubbed elbows with current superstars like Alexander Ovechkin and legends like Guy Lafleur. His most memorable experience, however, was meeting his favorite player, Vincent Lecavalier, at a private signing in Toronto.
The young collector’s goal is to amass a signed puck from every living NHL player.
“Hayden actually e-mailed Ken Dryden because he holds public office (Dryden is a member of parliament in Toronto) and said, ‘Do you think you could sign a puck for me?’” explained Brian. “And he invited Hayden to his office in Toronto and we went up and sat with him for about half an hour.”
One player Hayden has yet to meet is Wayne Gretzky. But the devoted teen has e-mailed the manager of Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto to try to set up a meeting with The Great One.
“After each meeting, we always do a little write up in a scrapbook,” noted Brian. “Each player has their own page and a write-up about Hayden’s meeting with them . . . We want it to be a good memory.”
At just nine years old, Colby Laferriere might be the world’s youngest Magic Johnson collector.
But when your dad owns a card shop, it makes it easier to add to your collection.
“Most of my friends just collect Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and they’re like, ‘Oh my God you’re so lucky to have a dad that has a shop,’” said Colby, who has been collecting for two years. “They come in to the store all the time.”
Colby’s dad, Steve, is the owner of Card Collector’s Paradise in Cumberland, R.I.
“I’m definitely not forcing him into collecting,” said Steve. “It’s just an interest he has. It’s basically something that we can do together and when he works with me at the store, he’s always helpful.”
On top of his Magic Johnson collection, Colby also chases cards of players from Boston teams.
“I love all Boston teams. I grew up watching Super Bowls with my dad and World Series with my dad. I’d be up at 10 o’clock at night when I was four just watching those,” said Colby. “I have a lot of Kevin Youkilis. I really like him. I have a good amount of Ellsbury and Big Papi too.”
Steve says that his son’s room is overflowing with cards, but he’s grateful that Colby loves the hobby as much as he does.
“When I do a show, he chooses to be up at 6 in the morning to get ready with me,” said Steve.
Bauer is the name of one of the world’s largest hockey equipment manufacturers, so it’s only fitting that Aaron Bauer collects hockey jerseys.
“I used to tell my friends that my family made hockey equipment as a joke,” said the 19-year-old New Jersey native.
But with the prices that jerseys demand, Bauer probably wishes he was somehow linked to the lucrative equipment manufacturer.
“It’s been tough to make choices between a new jersey or text books,” said the Emory University student, who’s a diehard New York Rangers fan.
Bauer owns close to 30 jerseys – five of which are game-worn – and a collection of autographed pucks.
The jewel of his collection is a game-worn 2008-09 Fredrik Sjostrom Rangers jersey, but he also covets international jerseys. He owns national team jerseys from Norway, Iceland, Finland and the U.S.
After Bauer’s dad sparked his interest in hockey, the young collector grew captivated with the different jersey styles. He’s now one of the youngest game-worn jersey collectors in the hobby.
“I remember going to the MeiGray Expo last summer and people were just shocked that I was so young, but it was still lots of fun,” he said.
Kyle Hess was just 12 years old when he purchased a game-used Glenn Hubbard bat off of eBay.
In the eight years since that transaction, Hess has added more than 60 game-used items – including jerseys, hats and helmets – to his impressive collection. Tracking down game-used items can be an expensive hobby for a 20-year-old college student.
“My biggest challenge is being able to afford a lot of things,” explained the Atlanta native. “There have been times when I could’ve added something to my collection that I’ve been wanting for a long time, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the funds to cover it. I do run my own photography business, as well as buy and resell items on eBay for a profit to make money for myself . . . so that currently helps me with growing my collection.”
This focus of his collection is his hometown Atlanta Braves.
“I think the number one piece would be the Mark Kotsay game-worn 2008 Atlanta Braves home jersey which he wore while becoming the second player in Atlanta Braves history to hit for the cycle,” said Hess. “And it just so happens that his double to reach the cycle in that game was his 1,500th hit as well. It’s a very historic jersey which I could imagine seeing in the Braves Hall of Fame.”
Hess enjoys game-used items because he feels like he’s collecting pieces of history.
“I’d like more one-of-a-kind game-used pieces, just like my Mark Kotsay cycle-worn jersey,” he said. “They may cost a lot more to own, but I’d just love to have museum-quality pieces.”
Sebastian Lang-Wehrle is a Boston Red Sox fan in Eschbach, Germany.
The 18-year-old fell in love with the Bosox when he visited his dad in Beantown.
“In 1995, my dad had a scholarship at Harvard to get his MPA degree,” explained Lang-Wehrle. “He’s my link to baseball and the U.S.”
When his dad returned to Boston for a class reunion in 2005, Lang-Wehrle went with him and attended his first game at Fenway Park, which further fueled his passion for collecting Red Sox cards and memorabilia.
Lang-Wehrle now owns about 2,500 baseball cards, as well as bobbleheads, McFarlane figures and autographs.
“My favorite item is a personalized autographed photo of Mo Vaughn (my favorite player) which my parents got for me, after standing in line for three hours at an open autograph session in a mall in Boston in 1995,” he said.
But the German teen has built most of his collection through the Internet, trading on hobby message boards and purchasing cards off eBay.
“I’ve played baseball for about eight years now, and I also closely follow the major leagues, especially the Boston Red Sox,” he said. “Collecting trading cards or any memorabilia brings you even closer to the game. Especially for me in Germany, as I can only watch baseball on TV and not sit in Fenway Park.” SCM
MORE RESOURCES FOR SPORTS COLLECTORS
- Get current market values for 400,000+ baseball cards issued between ’81 & ’09
- Get the Ultimate Yankee package
- Interact with other sports collectors in Tuff Stuff’s online forum
- Sign up for your FREE email newsletter from Tuff Stuff
- Read the latest 7th Inning Stretch Blog from Tuff Stuff Editor Scott Fragale