Taking My Hacks

In Awe of the Journey

Joe Orlando

During the past year, and after a lot of procrastinating on my part, I finally decided to start the process of looking back into my family history. Genealogy, another term for the study, is seemingly becoming more and more popular. I think it is a very natural part of the human makeup, to be curious about where we came from and how we got here.

Some even take it a step further by going the genetic testing route via services like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. It's all done in hopes of tracing our personal journey as far back as we can go and to learn more about who we are.

Going into the process, I would describe myself as someone who had a decent idea of where I came from because my parents talked to me about the different nationalities and cultures in our family. It was a part of my upbringing that I really loved. My parents were proud of who they were and where they came from, which rubbed off on me. This was especially fun when it came to food, and since I am mostly of Italian descent, the delicious calories were plentiful.

It is always surprising to me when people know very little or literally nothing about their family history. I can remember being out with friends at dinner a few years ago when one of the women asked another what her ancestry was. At first, the woman responded by saying, "I don't understand what you mean." After being asked again, she said, "I'm American." A dead silence, followed by some pretty obvious eye rolling, enveloped the table.

Everyone else understood the question and were also quite certain this young woman was not of American Indian descent, which is why the awkward silence entered the fold. To make matters more perplexing, this woman was an educated professional, yet she couldn't grasp that her ancestors originally came from somewhere else ... not America. At that point, I think I may have asked someone to pass the ketchup to help draw attention away from this embarrassing exhibition of heritage ignorance.

Moving on ... it was clear that here was an example of someone who wasn't all that interested in knowing where she came from, and this was most likely a product of her parents feeling the same way and not exposing her to their history. Most people, however, do seem to care. I am still working on my family tree and have uncovered some eye-opening stuff. For those of you who have not gone through the process, I would highly recommend it.

As you go back in time and trace your family to other parts of the world, what continues to amaze me is the journey itself and how one small change could have completely altered history. In fact, you might not even be here at all if one move had been different. It's the premise that movies like It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Destiny (1990), The Family Man (2000) and more are all based on. One decision, albeit big or small, can change the course of history. Everything had to happen exactly the way it did for me to be writing this column today or for you to be reading it. It's kind of overwhelming when you think about it.

Everything that has occurred in our lives, from the good to the bad, led us to where we are right now. So, let's bring this plane in for a landing and connect it back to collectibles. Look at your collection - whether the items are 25, 50 or 100 years old, think about the journey they must have gone through to end up in your possession today. Every card, autograph, photo, ticket, bat and more has a story of how it got to you. Some avoided the trash, while others avoided being sold to someone else before you had a chance to acquire it. There were so many possible outcomes, but somehow, some way, it ended up in your hands.

Imagining the journey each collectible went through to become a part of our hobby today is much of the fun, but it can also leave you a little awestruck.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
President & CEO
Collectors Universe, Inc.