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Dealing With Collection Envy

There are more collectors than ultra rare cards. That is a fact. While excess demand is great if you’re in the seller’s seat, its negative effects extend into the personal side of the collecting experience. With cards regularly going to the highest bidder and the average collector having a very limited budget, jealousy is unavoidable. Very few collectors can say they’ve never experienced collection envy.

Collection envy can be devastating. Not only does the inaccessibility of the cards you want cause frustration and anger, but social media shoves a constant pressure to compare down the modern collector’s throat, and that can suck the luster right off the treasure trove you’ve got sitting in your binder. Just looking over one nice post can immediately put a painful pit in the bottom of your stomach and turn you off to the goals you’ve worked so hard on. 

Collection envy happens to everyone. And it is poison.


Fortunately, early onset collection jealousy doesn’t have to last forever. In fact, it doesn’t have to last long at all. Here are some tips for dealing with collection envy that come from my own experiences with this unfortunate side effect of being a committed collector.

First, ditch the feed. Social media becomes habitual. You look at it first thing in the morning, right before you go to sleep, and on average for over two hours in between. I’m not one to get into the pros and cons of social media as a whole, but I have seen firsthand the negative ways it can foster collection envy. Social media constantly pushes the best cards people have in their collection and ignores the sentimental cards, cheaper cards, cards contributing to complete sets, and the experience of working to obtain those cards. If you’re going to thrive as a collector on social media, you have to be able to step away sometimes. If you find yourself becoming disenchanted with the collection you once felt was awesome, ditch the feed for a day or two and just go through your own collection. Catalogue what you have, appreciate each artwork, and reminisce about Pokemon in your life. Spending time with just your cards away from an exaggerated onslaught of the best of other people's possessions will give you a chance to build up your confidence before heading back into the modern collecting world.

Second, write out your collection goals. Odds are your jealousy was sparked by cards in someone else’s possession and not by the journey they took to obtain them. One way of getting your mind back on track is acknowledging the journey you are on. Make a checklist of all of the items in the series you’re chasing. At the end of making the list, check off everything you’ve already obtained. You’ll get to catalogue your own precious gems and also see how far you’ve come. This simple act will help restore some of the respect you almost lost for the progress you’ve made. We all love the moment of finishing the race, but we can't afford to forget the value of the race itself. Collection envy forces this respect out of our minds and replaces it with sour discontentment.

Third, talk to the person you’re jealous of. Ask them about their collection, their goals, and what it took to get the card that you’re most in awe of. Contextualizing their success can give you cool tips for meeting your own goals, a realistic perspective of what the card cost, a better appreciation of the movement of cards within the collecting universe, and perhaps even a new friend. Collection envy dehumanizes the collectors behind the cards and can lead you to think not-so-nice thoughts about people you might have otherwise been friends with. And that just ruins the hobby for you. Reach out and share the experience with those you’re jealous of, and you’ll even get to enjoy a little bit of their success with them.

Fourth, take a break from buying. You’re looking at this article puzzled right now. “Why on Arceus’s green earth would not buying cards help me with collection envy?” I understand your skepticism, but hear me out. If we are caught up in the throes of collection envy, our mind is not in a good place to buy. We are focused on flashy cards and other people’s goals. Spending money when our motivations are off just leads to purchases that are not satisfying. Every purchase should be a considered act that furthers a personal goal. If you buy under the spell of collection envy, you will feed the beast and be dissatisfied in new, more powerful ways. Ultimately, buying cards out of collection envy can ruin the hobby if you are not careful. If you take a break from buying until you have your wits about you again, the collection envy will starve and wither away, leaving a clean foundation on which you can build a new appreciation for what you have. Money is powerful because it represents time and effort. What you spend money on, then, is what you serve. Would you rather serve your goals or a bad attitude? I’ll give you a hint: successful collectors aren’t serving goals that are not their own.

Ultimately, the climb out of the pit of collection envy is a hard one. It won’t ever be an easy journey, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible one. Being honest with yourself about what you feel and why you feel it will go a long way in making you the most successful collector you can be. Every extra hour at work to earn bonus income should be channeled into purchases that improve your life or experiences. Watching out for collection envy and dealing with it when it strikes is a non-negotiable for reaching your goals in the most satisfying manner. And when you get there? We’ll all be cheering with you.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker