Friday, August 27, 2021

Analog collector in an increasingly digital collecting world

Earlier this year, Topps, the company that currently has the sole license to produce official Major League Baseball cards, launched NFT trading cards. These are "virtual" uncopyable images that can be transferred a bit like cryptocurrency. There's all sorts of lingo that goes along with this like "blockchain" and so on. Digi wonks go nuts for this sort of thing.

This has made me realise that I am an analog boy at heart because I have zero interest in this. To me, it has as much appeal as collecting "baseball cards" by right-clicking save on a Google image search.

Topps apparently get 20% of any sell on fees so every time this gets sold on they get a cut. I can see the appeal although people sell them on eBay to circumvent the official system and avoid the fees. A card can change hands multiple times during its lifetime. The idea that every time it's sold on the manufacturer get a percent cut is a corporate executive's dream.

On the same day that Topps launched their digital cards, a packet of real baseball cards arrived in the post. I'd bought them off eBay and really enjoyed looking through them. I appreciate the tactile feel of cards 'in hand', feeling the different kinds of cardboard, the different finishes, spotting blemishes and imperfections.

I even don't mind cards that have been "loved" and have slightly worn edges and corners. Those cards have a history to them. They have character. I try to take good care of my cards, but I have added a bit of "character" to some of them, myself. 

The digital replacement movement is pernicious. This month I have been going to a lot of football matches (going while I can - who knows if another lockdown is coming!) and on three occasions the clubs have offered a virtual programme instead of a printed one. It's not the same thing. 

A printed programme is a tangible souvenir of an event - a record that something happened that acts a reminder when you see it. A PDF on a hard drive is a poor, ersatz alternative. You can't idly flick through it while waiting for the kettle to boil. 

(I was very pleased when I watched a game at Pontypridd Town this week to discover the club have reverted from virtual to physical programmes!)

I feel okay about realising I'm an analog collector. That's just me being me. Although it does mean I need to find room for all the stuff I acquire!

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