Interview: sports card collector Nick Loiacono
''As a kid, card collecting came naturally because it was easy. Hobby shops were within walking distance, card shows were weekly and if you couldn’t get to either - you could always get your card fix from the ice cream man!''
Real-life collector Nick Loiacono gives us the lowdown on his life-long love of sports cards.
Who are you, and where are you from?
Hi, I’m Nick Loiacono from Long Island NY.
What do you do for a living?
I work in an office full time during the week and I own a small DJ company that keeps me busy on the weekends.
Tell us about your collection
My collection consists primarily of sports cards, specifically baseball. I dabble in other forms of sports memorabilia as well. I have a killer "TTM" (autographs through the mail) collection and recently I’ve started playing around with Funko pops.
How big is your collection?
Too big. I got back into the hobby in 08’ and I’ve really just been hoarding. I’ve spent the last few years figuring out my focuses, I’ll have to spend the next few purging.
Why do you collect sports cards?
I’m really just a nostalgic 36-year-old kid. I collect cards because it appeals to many aspects of my personality. "Box breaking" satisfies the gambler in me, sorting and organizing appeals to my OCD and all of it takes care of my addictive side.
How did your passion for sports cards begin?
As a kid, card collecting came naturally because it was easy. Hobby shops were within walking distance, card shows were weekly and if you couldn’t get to either - you could always get your card fix from the ice cream man! As I got older and started getting my life together I found myself with more time on my hands and after trying a few other hobbies I eventually circled back to my childhood passion.
What was your first item?
To answer that would be to remember the first card I ever received. Instead, I’ll tell you about the first time I got the “thrill” from collecting. I was 10, standing in my local hobby shop "Coins and Stamps". I popped open a few backs of 1989 Donruss and pulled a Ken Griffey Junior Rated Rookie. I was easily the envy of all of my friends for weeks. I still have that exact card somewhere.
What's the one piece in your collection with the most interesting story?
My best piece is a 2011 Topps Triple Threads (TTT) Thurman Munson Cut auto 1/1. Munson cards are very tough to come by, and I happen to PC him, so this card means the world to me.
How I came to get it is kind of fun.
Simply put, I bought the Yankees in a case break of Topps Triple Threads [where cases of cards are opened live on the internet). The break was scheduled for very late at night and, well, I completely forgot about it. It wasn’t until I woke up the following day and checked my phone to see no less than 100 twitter notifications congratulating me, but I had no idea what for. After some quick investigating I found out that the monster was mine. Turns out the kid who pulled it for me had never even heard of Munson… that part always amused me.
What's the weirdest piece in your collection?
When looking for weird cards you don’t need to look much further than Topps Allen & Ginter cards [the First Ladies collection is our favorite at JustCollecting]. Year after year, these are my favorite to collect.
My weirdest piece is probably a “Balloon Boy” relic… which has an actual piece of the weather balloon in it.
Any strange or funny stories from your years as a collector?
Not that I’m trying to promote my blog, but I wrote out my favorite card collecting story a few years back.
What's been your best buy?
A Joe DiMaggio signed ball. It’s the best because I got it fairly cheap through an online auction house. This was the one and only time I bought from an auction. I purposely stay away from them just because of how fun they are!
What's your biggest collecting mistake?
Not having a focus when I started. I was so consumed with collecting that I would just buy, buy and buy anything I would get my hands on. I never paid attention to odds or print runs. Now I’m a bit more cognizant of what my possibilities are.
What's your biggest collecting regret?
Not getting back into it sooner. I can only imagine how complete my collection would be if I could have picked up cards from the late 90s, early 2000s in real time. Going back to pick them up now is just way too expensive.
What do your friends and family think about your collection?
They’re supportive for the most part… but if I ever cry poverty, I get the stock answer from them: “Well, maybe if you didn’t spend all of your money on baseball cards!"
What's the one item you would love to own but don't?
Like most, I’d love a 52 Mantle. A more realistic goal is a Jeter autograph. I’m picky though. It would have to be certified, on card, portrait orientated, and have a good photo of the Captain.
Any advice for new collectors in your field?
I’ve collected every way possible. I’ve bought products with the intent to flip, I’ve built sets in hopes they’d be worth something in the future, I’ve blogged about cards, made videos about cards, traded cards, sold cards - I’ve even dreamed of opening my own shop.
It was only when I narrowed down my focus to cards that mean something personal to me that collecting took on a whole new life. I realized I don’t NEED to complete every Topps insert set, I don’t NEED to own every Mariano Rivera color variation from Topps Chrome.
Once I became comfortable with this thought it was so freeing. This is what works for me; it may not work for everyone.
The bottom line is, collect in a way that makes you feel excited and fulfilled. If you feel anything else, it’s no longer a hobby. If you’ve never felt that feeling I’m talking about, the solution is simple. Save up about $70 and buy a box of 1989 Upper Deck. If you’re lucky enough to find Ken Griffey Jr looking back at you then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Who do you buy from?
I am fortunate enough to still have a few hobby shops around. Many of my favorites have closed over the past few years but now I frequent “Doc D’s” here on Long Island. Doc has a great little shop, knows his stuff and is a pleasure to deal with. I could probably get a bit better pricing from the online guys but I like to promote brick and mortar and sometimes I don’t want to wait for an item to ship to satisfy my fix.
What's going to happen to your collection when you're no longer around?
I have a young son that I’m hoping will follow in my collecting footsteps. If he is not interested I’ll instruct him to get my collection in the hands of those that will truly appreciate it.
How much time do you devote to your collection?
I have two young children so my hobby time has deteriorated, I still like to try and devote at least an hour or two a week to it.
There's a fire in your house – which item from your collection do you save?
My kids, my wife, my dog, my Munson… in that exact order.
What's your favorite cheese?
I love many and all types of cheese, but there’s nothing better than a good old slice of yellow American (deli style).
Anything you would like to add?
For me, the community is really what it’s all about. Although I boasted about my collection, the fun of it is hearing about others. Any one that’s interacted with me knows I strive to help others be as passionate about this hobby as I am. I am constantly sending out packages to collectors in hopes of making their collection more complete. So if you’re reading this and think we can help each other out, please feel free to contact me.
You can read more from Nick over at http://thecardboarddugout.blogspot.co.uk/
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