Taking My Hacks

Style versus Substance

Joe Orlando

We all have our pet peeves in life and this is certainly one of mine. People either have substance or they don't. Some try to make up for a lack of substance with material things or ridiculous behavior but, the more they try to compensate, the more pathetic they appear. Unfortunately, we seem to be living in an era that glorifies the style over substance attitude. All you have to do is check out all the horrific characters on reality television shows, who are inexplicably worshiped by many young people in America.

Time to jump off the soapbox again...

When it comes to the hobby, this battle between style and substance is something that certainly affects the value of collectibles. There are many hobbyists that want to argue about the price of a card, an autograph or the weight assigned in the PSA Set Registry based on the accomplishments of the athlete. For years, I would get emails from a passionate collector about Tim Duncan prices. He would vehemently argue that Duncan prices needed to rise because the San Antonio Spur was such an outstanding player.

I couldn't agree more with this Duncan advocate, at least as it relates to Duncan's on-the-court performance, but there is so much more that goes into the value of a collectible than mere accomplishment. While it may be somewhat frustrating to the purist, style can play a big role in the appeal of an athlete and their collectibles. There are some athletes that can perform and do it with flair. Those are the ones who seem to rise to the next level in the eyes of collectors and fans. They are the ones with the "X" factor. Duncan, while a tremendous basketball player, does his job in a workmanlike manner and that doesn't captivate spectators.

The greatest example of that may be the man who calls himself The Greatest of All-Time - Muhammad Ali. Ali was, no doubt, a great fighter but the truth is he probably wasn't nearly as great as the average collector would like to believe. If you ask most hardcore boxing fans or historians, they would tell you the same thing. I know some of the readers would like to shoot me right now but please do not misunderstand. I have great respect for Ali's boxing ability. I just think it was his flair or style that helped generate so much demand for his collectibles, certainly more than his substance or performance ever did.

It's the same reason that power pitchers in baseball are generally more appreciated than finesse pitchers; the same reason power hitters are generally more popular than slap hitters. Let's face it, numbers and accomplishments aside, more people would rather watch Nolan Ryan throw blazing fastballs past hitters than Greg Maddux spot his changeup even though you could argue Maddux was the superior pitcher. Along the same lines, more people would prefer watching Mickey Mantle blast baseballs into outer space than Rod Carew bloop a single to the opposite field.

It may not be fair and it may not be reflective of an athlete's skill but, in the hobby, style may be the difference between a star and a superstar. It also may be the difference between modest demand and huge demand. In the end, don't be surprised if those so-called "undervalued" collectibles never achieve the level of demand they deserve, especially if the athletes lacked style in their game.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.