Recently I launched a second Twitter account, @ChecklistGuy celebrating my jump into vintage sports card checklist collecting. I wanted to explain why I decided to tackle a new hobby niche and perhaps motivate you to find your unique hobby segment to explore, so here are ten reasons I collect checklists.
1. Everyone needs a niche
It’s helpful in the hobby to find a segment that appeals to you since there are so many different things one can collect; checklists are a way to focus my time and collection.
2. They have character
Marked checklists have character. I like them because they show the progress some kid made collecting when the cards came out; they’re nostalgic. On the other hand, balancing the fact that kids used to use these things and didn’t immediately put sports cards into sleeves makes tracking down high-grade unmarked checklists even harder, which leads me to my next point.
3. They provide collecting balance
There are scarce low population high-grade cards that make collecting checklists challenging (to me, it’s fun tracking down scarce cards), especially considering how many marked ones there are. There are also years when the card companies short printed the checklists (1963 Fleer Baseball, for example). At the same time, there are checklists in almost every vintage set. Few people dedicate their collections to them, so you can usually find a bunch for sale (particularly lower condition ones) which is nice when I feel like adding some volume to my collection.
4. There are interesting cards to discover
There’s a niche within checklist collecting, and it has to do with acquiring all the variants. I wrote about why this is previously on the blog in the article “Why are there so many vintage checklist variations?“. Companies often double-printed checklists with the previous series to advertise the next one and with their own series. They would often be edited or corrected, between series print runs, as Topps found mistakes or updated the set mid-season.
5. Checklists helped bring me back into the hobby
I’ll write about this more in the future. But checklists motivated me to get back into the hobby. I was selling off my dad’s old cards and came across a 1957 Topps 3/4 Bazooka checklist. I didn’t know what the card was since it wasn’t numbered/labeled, and I barely knew anything about vintage sports cards. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it could be worth anything, but I did my research, sent it to PSA, and it came back a PSA 6 (the picture below is not that card). And while I can’t quite remember what I sold it for all those years ago (>$650 today), it made me interested in learning about the hobby again.
6. Checklists are affordable
Sure, a high-grade 1956 Topps baseball checklist is going to cost a lot. But there isn’t a lot of competition for a mid or lower-grade 1978 Topps checklist (available for <$1) or a 1975 Topps Football checklist ($2-3). Even the PSA 9 1978 Topps checklist pictured below sold for only $12.59 in June 2021. That means that while I can’t necessarily buy a slew of PSA 10s (since they are often Pop 1s or non-existent), the checklist niche won’t break the bank.
7. Some checklists feature star players
Interestingly, a few checklists feature stars, so you can get a Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays card at a steal of a price compared to their base cards. The pictured 1967 Topps 2nd Series checklist with Mickey Mantle is an order of magnitude cheaper than his base card in a similar grade.
8. Checklists teach hobby and sport history
You can learn a lot about how cards were distributed, famous players, and the hobby’s history through checklists.
9. Checklist artistry
Many checklists look unique in their sets compared to base player cards and are incredible works of art. The 1964 Topps Hockey checklist is one of the most eye-appealing cards in the hobby, and I can’t wait to add one to my collection.
10. Collecting checklists is manageable
Technically, and this is related to point one above, I can collect every checklist the card companies made without too much trouble (mainly if I buy lower-grade cards).
So there you have it, ten reasons I’m a vintage sports card checklist collector. Is there any hobby niche more appropriate (completing a checklist of checklists) for an engineer than this one?