There are many aspects of this hobby that confuse me but the need for some hobbyists to disparage others is one that leaves me totally perplexed. Whether it's one dealer bashing another, one collector criticizing a fellow collector or either of the above talking trash about someone else's collectibles, this is all part of the "put down" game.
My first real experience in this "game" took place at the 1996 National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, CA. After walking the floor for hours, I narrowed my sights to one major piece - a high-end 1954 Bowman Ted Williams. It was the finest example of this card I had ever seen and one that I had been looking for to help complete my Ted Williams card run.
Before making an offer on the card, I asked a couple of dealers what they thought of it. Two of the three dealers had the exact same piece of advice for me. "That one's not so great, I can find you a better one," they both explained. The third dealer, was very complimentary of the card and recommended that I purchase it if I wanted to own one of the best examples out there.
I remember this incident so vividly due to the obvious transparency of the two dealers mentioned above. In defense of the two dealers who downplayed the card, I realize that they make a living selling collectibles. Their prime objective is to sell items from their own inventory, not to help facilitate deals on behalf of their competitors. That being said, the blatant agenda displayed really turned me off as a collector. If you do not want to help your competitor make a sale, I understand, but please do not insult my intelligence by claiming the card isn't all that nice - and follow that up by offering to find me a better one that you don't even have.
In fact, I later found out that at least one of the two dealers never even saw the card in the first place. He just wanted to steer me away from buying it. Surprising? Well, maybe not, especially for the cynic inside us all but it certainly was disappointing to say the least.
Since then, and through my travels at PSA, I can't help but notice this problem when it raises its ugly head. Interestingly enough, I probably see this game being played twice as often by collectors than anyone else. It's one thing to think that your collection is the best. As collectors, we all have pride of ownership. It's another thing to intentionally disparage what others collect or what they own. There's just no need for it, especially in a hobby like ours.
The good news is that there seems to be more of a community feel to the collector world these days and that feeling is growing, even between those who are in direct competition with one another on the PSA Set Registry. You see, there's nothing wrong with healthy and friendly competition. It just takes a turn for the worse when competition becomes nothing more than trash talking.
Think of it this way, it's like two fighters that step into the ring together. There are those who make derogatory remarks about their competitor's heritage, haircut and mother during the press conference. There are others who remain respectful of their opponents and let their fists do the talking.
For the sake of the hobby, let's all strive to be like the second guy. He's the guy who usually wins the fight anyway.