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How to Afford Expensive Cards

Collecting can be hard when you’re on a budget. The cards that are constantly hyped up are also financially out of reach for the majority of collectors. But is every expensive card completely unattainable? I say no. Here are a few steps that I firmly believe every collector can follow to end up with a collection that is more prestigious, more valuable, and more satisfying.

Acknowledge that no card is “too expensive.”

Too often, people count themselves out before they ever start. It’s true that you can collect cheap cards and have a great time, but it’s no secret that the most expensive cards cost what they do because they’re universally more desirable. Unfortunately, that desirability tends to serve only the deepest pockets. The first step to making yourself a rare card holder is NOT luck; instead, it’s acknowledging that card values are not arbitrary. If you never recognize that cards have a fixed price in real dollars, rather than the ominous “big price tag” that seems too lofty to even consider, you’ll never be able to strategize and plan the necessary steps to acquire them. No card is too expensive. Such a thing does not exist. Pokemon has not yet developed to the point where any single card is unobtainable to a determined suitor.

Pick one goal

Lack of focus kills more collections than lack of money. You heard me right: when it comes to owning a satisfying collection, increasing the efficiency of your spending is more important than increasing your spending. When you vary your goals and engage in bad habits--like valuing quantity over quality or purchasing the cheap cards in a set first--you set yourself up for burnout and feelings of “my collection isn’t good enough” and “I’m spending money but not getting closer to my goals.” Setting one goal and focusing on it until it is done will keep you on track, protect against wasted dollars, and set yourself up for collecting success.

Avoid impulse purchases

Rewarding yourself is logic that is not applicable to collecting. To be able to collect at all is already a reward. Even if you are putting blood, sweat, and tears into your collecting experience, being able to prioritize a hobby is a luxury. If you can come to understand that the process of working hard to reach your collection goal is a reward, you’ll set yourself up to be strong-willed in the face of impulse purchases. Packs, mystery boxes, raffles, box breaks, and chance lots are designed to keep you failing. Any time there is a lottery element involved, you are more likely to fail than you are to win. Impulse-driven purchases try to convince you to spend half your money on a slim chance at reaching your goal instead of going the extra mile up front and guaranteeing your goal. Don’t fall for it!

Get creative

Everyone thinks they want to sell Pokemon cards for a living. The reality is that the people who are selling Pokemon cards for a living are making most of their money on other people who think they can do the same. Trying to buy and sell Pokemon cards to increase your collection size is a bad idea with a high risk of failure. Instead, you need to find other sources of income that can positively contribute to your sense of self-worth while also bolstering your available funds for collection purchases. When I was in 7th grade, I realized I needed more income to keep purchasing collections from my friends, so I went to work folding boxes for $5 an hour at a local cookie company. All through my school years, I mowed lawns, sold candy, took odd jobs, worked at local establishments, and pursued opportunities to earn extra cash to fund my collecting. Some of those collectibles I purchased back then are worth 20-30 times what I originally paid. People respect someone who’s willing to work hard for what they want. If you’re an adult now (most of you are), you can find a few hours at almost any joint for minimum wage. That’s guaranteed money for your time--guaranteed money doesn’t exist within the Pokemon card world. Take those opportunities and trade the social media scavenging for a real source of income that indirectly rewards you with measurable collecting success.

Actually save your money

This is perhaps the simplest and yet least-practiced habit you can form in collecting. People spend so much time getting caught up in trying to flip $1 cards for a few pennies in profit that they never earn additional money, and the funds that are available to them remain tied up in high risk/low reward “investments.” You are better than that. Don’t be stupid. If you have to lock the money away and not look at it, do so. Whatever you do, make sure that the money you’re working hard for is going toward the things you want most. Most people could have nicer cards and collectables if they were to choose them over things like eating out, expensive coffee, weekend partying, and designer clothes. When you’ve followed these steps and realized that even the biggest cards you could dream of have an actual price, every little thing you give up along the way to save becomes a piece of that dream card you own. A $4 coffee seems like a cheap way to have a little fun but it is 4% of the $100 card you’ve longed for over the last several years. Save your money; stop making excuses. You’re keeping yourself from meeting your own goals.

It might seem like I’m being an old, condescending, unrealistic geezer. The idea of saving money is often considered a luxury only available to people with excess income. For some, I’m willing to admit that this is the case. But if you have the time to read this article and are actively collecting trading cards you are probably not one of those people. I recognize there are awkward intersections of luck, privilege, opportunity, and circumstance that are always influencing what does and does not happen. However, I also believe wholeheartedly that following the advice I’ve given above is the only way to make sure you succeed in spite of whatever lemons life gives you. No one is ever going to succeed for you, but everyone has the potential for some success. You want that dream card. I want you to have it, too.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker