While every sports memorabilia or card collector shares a passion for the things they collect, there are also things that vary so drastically with collectors that it is hard to believe they are of one and the same hobby. People are attracted to vastly different genres, teams, players, eras and items. While some collect game-used items, signed balls, programs, photos or tickets, others are attracted to cards, autographs, posters, equipment, trophies or sports related jewelry.
Along with "what" people collect there is also a great disparity in "why" people collect. For some it is purely for the excitement of the hunt. Others collect because they want to own and surround themselves with things that have a personal meaning, while others amass items with an eye towards financial investment.
Whatever may be the reason that sparks the inspiration to collect certain things, almost every sports collector has one thing in common with every other sports collector - they love to show their treasure to people who appreciate them. Ask anyone who collects and they will tell you that one of the greatest enjoyments in collecting is having the opportunity of sharing the things they love with others who also love them.
While manufactures and teams are always looking for some new item they hope fans will want to purchase for their collections, the one thing that has caused the biggest change and stir in the modern sports collecting world has been PSA's creation of the Set Registry.
An online repository of the world's finest sportscards, tickets and autographs, the PSA Set Registry gives collectors the opportunity to track what is out there and who has what. It also encourages the building of sets, offers a unique and fun way to compete with other collectors, and the chance to showcase collections. The PSA Set Registry also gives collectors a chance to come together on an annual basis for the PSA Set Registry Awards that recognizes the most outstanding collections and collectors by awarding induction into the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame.While it may be the actual PSA Set Registry that garners the attention of most serious collectors, many are also finding the enjoyment of visiting the PSA Set Registry Showcase, where collectors can show and share their treasures and interact with other collectors in a safe environment.
One collector who specifically enjoys the Showcase is Jason Mays. A self-proclaimed loyal PSA graded card collector and Set Registry participant who, along with collecting the cards of Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron, Jason has also been working hard to complete the all-time finest Dan Marino Basic Topps collection.
"Sports Market Report" had the opportunity to spend some time with Jason who gave us some insight as to how he first contracted the collecting bug and how his current collection is going. We began our chat with him by asking about his childhood in Lenoir, North Carolina, a small town west of Charlotte.
Jason Mays: I was a very active kid with an active imagination. I loved sports from an early age, especially baseball and football. I played both with my older brother. We were always outside with a football or baseball pretending we played for our favorite teams - mine being the Miami Dolphins and his being the Dallas Cowboys. Back in those days I also spent a lot of my time on my bike, at the local card shop, or at baseball or football practice.
SMR: How old were you when you first realized that you had the collectors bug?
JM: I started to collect things at a very young age. At first it was action figures, especially GI Joes. To this day I still have quite a few GI Joe items including a 1985 Snake Eyes action figure that included his pet wolf, Timber. It is still sealed in its original package that has been graded AFA 85 NM+ by the Action Figure Authority.
SMR: Were you also into collecting cards as a kid?JM: When I started playing baseball I started collecting cards. If I'm not mistaken, the first pack of cards I ever bought was a 1985 Topps Baseball pack. At that time I was looking to collect any Atlanta Braves player but especially Dale Murphy. By 1989 I had a new favorite player - Ken Griffey Jr. Back then I would buy Griffey inserts at the local card shop. I had collected every Griffey card from 1989 to 1994 but his elusive 1989 Upper Deck rookie card was out of my range. Back in those days that card ran between $80 and $90. One of my favorite moments of collecting baseball cards came two summers ago when I purchased a 1989 Upper Deck foil pack on eBay for $6 and, you guessed it, I pulled out the Griffey rookie in absolute fabulous condition. PSA has yet to grade it, but I intend on sending it in soon. SMR: Tell us a bit about your education and career path.
JM: I am a graduate of Ashford University with a B.A. in Organizational Management and in the fall of 2010 I plan to pursue my Masters Degree from Johns Hopkins University. While I was working on my undergraduate degree I enlisted in the Air Force where I served as a technician on the A-10 Thunderbolt fighter which has been nicknamed the Warthog. Then, after separating from the active duty Air Force, I went back to school to complete my degree. Upon completion, I went to work for Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in the quality department managing the calibration program. I am also an active member of the Air National Guard where I'm a technician on the A-10C Thunderbolt fighter plane. I do that one weekend a month, which continues my military service and gives me a little extra card money (laughs).
SMR: Are you married?
JM: I am married to my lovely wife, Brooke, and we have an eight-month old son named Maddox.
SMR: So you lead a very busy life huh.
JM: Yes. My usual morning routine is pretty hectic, getting Maddox ready for daycare and myself ready for work. Then there is the ever-changing work load at the office. After work I can usually be found at the grill, riding my mountain bike, spending time with my family, and also on eBay searching for cards. I can't think of a single day over the last three years that I haven't run an eBay search for a PSA graded Willie Mays or Hank Aaron card.
SMR: Are those the cards you are specifically collecting now?JM: I mainly collect PSA graded singles of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and Miami Dolphins players, especially Dan Marino. Along with cards I also collect patches from places I have visited and especially military patches.
SMR: What is the attraction for the player's cards you collect?
JM: Well, my real ongoing focus, which is very much a work in progress, is to collect the cards of Mays, Aaron and Ernie Banks. To me that collection represents a historical snapshot of three of the greatest sluggers of all time. All three are Hall of Famers and members of the 500 Home Run Club. They have been MVPs and they each started in All-Star Games. When I first started this collection my main goal was to get PSA graded Topps All-Star and MVP cards from 1958-1961. Then, as my interests expanded, I found that all three players are featured on so many cards of the era - Fence Busters, Power Plus, and an array of leader cards. That made it clear to me of just how big of an impact these three players had on the game. I have long been fascinated with Willie Mays. As a kid I can remember opening a pack of 1989 Bowman cards and finding a Mays insert depicting his 1951 Bowman release. I was amazed to read about such a great player who shared my last name. So from then on my fascination with Mays grew and I decided I wanted to own an original or vintage Mays card. Over time I have managed to slowly acquire some nice Mays cards.
SMR: What about the other players whose cards you like?
JM: I grew up in North Carolina and of course there were no local professional teams to root for when I was a kid. Therefore, I became an Atlanta Braves fan. I was a huge Braves fan for as far back as I can remember. As a Braves fan you can't help but be a fan of the great Hank Aaron and all his accomplishments. As for Ernie Banks - I have long admired him for his accomplishments on the field and for his true enthusiasm for the game. I am a fan of anything to do with the game of baseball. I root for the Orioles in the American League and the Braves in the National League. So even though I really like Mays and Banks and Aaron, I am also a fan of many other former and current players. On the football side, I grew up watching the Miami Dolphins on television. When I was a kid Dan Marino was in his prime. I am still a huge Dan Marino and Miami Dolphins fan to this day.SMR: We all have a tendency to focus on the collectors who have the big major collections that are out of reach for the typical collector. That is why we were interested in talking to you. You represent so many collectors who don't have unlimited funds but are still as passionate about the hobby as those who have multi-million dollar collections. How large is your personal collection?
JM: My collection is a very manageable size. I only own about 70 PSA graded cards and two dozen or more patch, relic and autographed cards. That is why that I am more focused on the PSA Set Registry Showcase where I am registered as quikjam-baseball: Mays-Banks-Aaron. In addition to what I have presented in the Showcase, there are many great collections published that I love to look through. I am really glad that SMR is spotlighting my Showcase because I think it will generate more interest in the Showcase with other collectors. I think it's great that through the Showcase PSA recognizes the collecting efforts put forth by all registry participants and not just the collectors who have the big money collections or that have put together a specific set.
SMR: Everyone has a few favorites in their collection. What are yours?
JM: I really like my Mays cards from 1957, '59 and '60. I also like the 1963 and '64 Banks cards. As for Aaron, the 1967 is my favorite. Then there are the 2005 Prime Cuts Mays Relic/Auto, the 1987 Marino that I have in PSA 10, the Dan Marino AFA 90. Those are some of my favorites. I have bought and sold several examples of each of those cards until I found one that fit my centering standards. I have placed a clear focus on centering and eye appeal regardless of the card's grade.
SMR: Speaking of grading, how important do you feel PSA, PSA/DNA and the Set Registry are to you and the collectibles hobby overall?JM: PSA grading and the PSA Set Registry are an integral part of my collecting experience. I specifically enjoy the peace of mind knowing my cards are authentic and the encapsulation protects them over the long run. Like every card collector, I had been burned a couple times in buying cards that had been trimmed. After that had happened a few times I decided to focus on buying cards that were graded by PSA. My mindset is that if you want a card that grades at an 8, then buy an 8 and don't waste your time trying to find raw singles that you hope will get an 8. Today, for the most part, I seek out cards that are already PSA graded. That means I don't send in many raw cards because I don't buy many raw cards. I highly value "Sports Market Report" and the Pop Report. I also really enjoy the PSA Set Registry. It allows me a place to show off my cards and enjoy those of other collectors.
SMR: So it sounds like you are pretty dug in on PSA graded cards.
JM: That is correct. To me personally the most desirable items are PSA high-grade singles of Hall of Famers from the 1950's and 1960's, and as with everything I buy, I put a major emphasis on centering.
SMR: As someone who collects the cards of Mays and Aaron you know they will always be desirable. Do you have any other ideas about what may become desirable in the future?JM: Like you say, I see Hank Aaron and Willie Mays cards continuing to be a hot commodity forever. I also think that the cards of any and all New York Yankees players will always be desirable. For me, my collecting is not about trends or investing. My goal is acquire an attractive collection that I can really enjoy and that I can share with my kids and grandkids in the future.
SMR: Do you have any interests or hobbies outside of sports and card collecting?
JM: I enjoy traveling, watching and playing sports, grilling, music, mountain biking, and spending time with my family. But when it comes to card collecting I really feel that I have an association with every one of my cards. For example, I can tell you what if anything significant was going on in my life when I bought each card in my collection. For example, I bought my 1959 Banks #350 the day my son was born. I got the 1963 Banks for my birthday, The 1967 Topps HR leader card featuring Mays and Aaron was the first PSA card I ever bought. Every one of them has a story behind them. There is a great story about my 1957 Mays card. I had been in contention to win that card in a catalog auction but lost in the waning moments. To my surprise, it resurfaced on eBay a few weeks later and I was dead set on bringing it home. I remember that auction ended on a Tuesday and after I made my highest bid I became the winner. It shipped out to me and arrived on a day that my brother and his wife were visiting us. My brother was blown away when he saw it. The icing on the cake happened on the very last day of my brother's visit when we learned that my wife and I were expecting our son Maddox. I always think back to that week and call it the "Mays Week" because in the same week I got two brand new Mays - a Willie and a Maddox.