Hockey Jersey

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The minute we found out that we’d be having a baby in May, we realized that our monster road trip last year would likely be the last of its kind until around 2015.

But just because we have a baby now doesn’t mean that we can’t go on vacation — it just means that we need to scale it back a bit.

Okay… A lot.

So instead of 10 hours in the car on day one, followed by an epic baseball game, we’re only going 4 hours from home.

And just for two nights. Starting tomorrow.

We’re headed for central New Jersey. Exotic, huh?

You’d think that by chosing a destination as unpoplar as central New Jersey, you know, accomodations would be cheap. They are, no question.

Now I know what you financially-minded folks might be thinking… “Hey, at least Brainy’s vacation won’t cost him so much this year…”

But there’s a catch, see…

We’re going to a game worn hockey jersey expo.

I know, I know, it sounds preposterous.

But for me, it’s like being able to go the hall of fame and actually touch the stuff behind the glass.

It’s really just like any other expo or conference though, you know, with a bunch of people with similar interests getting together. They’re not as dorky as a sci-fi or comic book convention and they’re not so glitzy that their held in Caribbean either…
The Habs jersey on the left is a game worn Maurice Richard jersey...  For the basebal fans out there, that's the equivalent of a game worn Mickey Mantle jersey.

This is my only hobby (photography is work, not a hobby) and this is the Super Bowl for the game worn hockey jersey collecting community.

But seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if I still drop $2500 (around the amount we spent last year on vacation) this weekend.

I’m going to try my best not to — even made a list of things I’m looking for so as to avoid any spontaneous purchases — but I’m not making any promises.

Truth be told, I’ve got 30 twenty dollar bills in my wallet ready for anyone that won’t take a check…

Based on that, I’m already embarrassed by what this month’s spending report is going to look like…

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Fell off the tracks...Well, I told myself that I wasn’t going to go shopping yesterday morning…

I managed that.

I rolled over to look at the clock and 4:15 am and told myself, “Nope, not getting up…”

I did the same thing at 5:34 am.

And again at 6:40 am.

See, at our house, we never even received a Walmart Black Friday flyer… I’m not sure why, maybe our mailman ate it or something, but my guess is that it was a blessing that it never arrived.

I’m not saying that I would have bought anything, I never have, but I have made it a bit of a tradition to hang out in the parking lot of BestBuy, Circuit City, and/or Walmart at unmentionable hours on the day after Thanksgiving.

This year, I slept in.

By “slept in”, I mean that I didn’t get out of bed until 7:09 am.

From there, I went through my usual weekday routine and headed to work.

The office was closed on Friday, but not really. Black Friday has always been one of those grey areas.

I sat down at my desk, checked my email, tied up a few loose ends left over from Wednesday afternoon, and soon realized that I really had nothing left to do.

It was 8:10 am.

To justify the time it took to drive in to work, I wasn’t about to leave so soon, so I fired up the internet and headed to one of my favorite game worn hockey jersey message boards.

There, right at the top, just listed moments earlier, were three jerseys for sale from the team we have season tickets for

You’re kidding me?

I’ve been looking for something from this team for nearly a year without any luck, but today, of all days, there are THREE of them for sale?! Ugh…

A few emails were exchanged, some pictures sent, and by 9:53 am, a PayPal transaction had been completed. I am now the proud owner of two of those jerseys.

So much for a frugal Black Friday, huh?

But wait, it gets even more ridiculous…

One of the companies that markets these jerseys for the various leagues decided to have a Black Friday sale of their own — which they announced in a broadcast email…

In a creative way of doing things, their gimmick was for any player’s jersey in stock who played in a game on Black Friday, the price would be discounted by 50%…

Tell me this isn’t happening.

Needless to say, at noon, as the Boston Bruins were hosting the New York Islanders, I was looking up and down the line-ups to see if anyone peaked my interest.

Thomas PockTo my dismay, Thomas Pöck (one of the few truly nice professional athletes out there) was a healthy scratch. Probably a good thing… I mean, that alone saved me a few hundred dollars…

Of course, there were a number a games to be played later in the day, but that would give me more time to rethink the decision that I’d already made to spend, spend, spend…

In the end though, I couldn’t pass it up. A fifty percent savings was too much to shrug off.

When the puck dropped at 7:07 pm and I could confirm that “my” players were playing, I added two more jerseys to the collection — one from the Columbus Blue Jackets and one from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That’s in addition to the two college jerseys I picked up this morning…

Wow, I’m gonna be holding my head in my hands when the bill comes in just like all those people who bough 50-inch televisions at four in the morning…

Crazy how quickly a sound financial plan can be derailed…

What’d that last, 4 days?

In the end, though, while I unexpectedly spent a lot of money on Black Friday, I feel that I got some great value…

I know, I know, where’s the value in shredded polyester…

But, hey, at least this year I could afford it!

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Game Worn Jersey CollectionIn the past I’ve talked about one of my hobbies — collecting game worn hockey jerseys.

I know, I know, totally weird to some — c’mon, dirty polyester?

Why?

But seriously, there’s a pretty sizable following and if you can believe it, the economy within the hobby is strong.

My best jersey commanded nearly 5-figures at the height of the boom (October 2007) and today, well, it still commands that same amount.

Almost makes it a wise investment, right?

I kid, I kid…

But the one downside to this hobby of mine is that for years it sucked me dry. Much of my former credit card debt can probably be attributed to my collection — I was easily dropping in excess of $500 per month, on average, adding to the collection. That’s a lot of money.

Some may even say it was wasted money. They might be right.

In 2008, I scaled it back. A lot.

Then, in June, I noticed that I hadn’t made a purchase in over a month — and I wasn’t really missing it.

Same thing in July. August, and then September!

Had I kicked the addiction?

Nope.

I relapsed this month.

Last week I bought a jersey on the secondary market (yeah, this bizarre hobby is big enough to have a very busy secondary market) for $115.

Anything under $300 is peanuts in this hobby so, for a sum that small, it’s not likely to increase in value anytime soon, or ever. Probably not a wise investment.

But, at the same time, for such a small price, I just couldn’t resist.

And that’s the bad part. This jersey’s arrival in the mailbox has me re-energized.

Just today, I was already pricing out $600-$1000 jerseys… Crazyness.

Step away from the keyboard…

Game Worn Edmonton Oilers JerseyLast year I mentioned that I had a hobby — an expensive hobby.

I collect game worn hockey jerseys.

I sure some, actually MOST, are saying, “What? There’s a market for such a thing?” Amazingly, yes. And they’re expensive. Really expensive.

The “best” one in my collection right now would pull in nearly $10k at auction right now. Think about that. That’s crazy!

Back then I said that I’d spent well in excess of $75k on this hobby over the years. And though I never mentioned it, it was also about that time that I put a soft cap on my spending to try to curb the excessive amount of money I was throwing into it.

The limit was two hundred dollars per month. Hardly frugal, but most often times not enough to purchase anything that would interest me.

For a few months I went well over that spending limit, but I was always telling myself in the back of my head that $200 was the limit. Try not to go over $200. You can’t afford it.

It didn’t take long for me to start making deals with myself. Well, I’ll spend $350 now and then next month I won’t buy anything.

Of course, that didn’t work at all.

Something would peak my interest on eBay or in a memorabilia auction, often times less than a week later, and I’d plunk down another $750 for some dirty and torn polyester.

Still, it was progress. I was, in fact, spending less using this wishy-washy method.

Then as I saw my debts falling (and the credit card balances evaporate), I started to think, “Wow, in a few months, when I reach my goal and I’m totally debt free, I’ll be able to blow like $2k per month on hockey jerseys!”

That was in May.

May was also the last time that I purchased a jersey.

This is the first time since the summer of 1997 that I’ve gone an entire month (let alone TWO!) without acquiring anything.

Now, this shirt-less streak originally started because I was reminding myself of the reward (the $2k budget) at the end of the tunnel. That kept me from reaching for my wallet (and keeping tabs on what was on the market).

But now, since it’s been so long since I’ve been active in the buy/sell/trade world of the hobby, I’m finding that I don’t really miss it all that much.

That isn’t to say that I’m abandoning my collection or that I won’t still actively pursue certain jerseys that I’d like to acquire, but I’m no longer salivating over a sweet $2k/month budget either.

For my future finances, that’s a good thing.

And you know what? It’s a good thing for my collection too.

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Game worn Bill Guerin San Jose Sharks jersey — not the actual jersey I was bidding on…So Wednesday night, I ventured onto eBay again, except this time I wasn’t looking for a good deal

Finding myself with a bit extra in my checking account and without any credit card bills in sight (woo-hoo!), I took a big step backwards and went hunting for game worn hockey jerseys. My vice.

I had one in my sights. Thankfully it wasn’t a really high priced one, but still one that would fit nicely into my collection. I set-up a last second sniper bid and went to bed confidently thinking it would be mine in the morning.

I lost.

It doesn’t happen very often, I have to admit, but I was outbid.

The strange thing is that there wasn’t that feeling of disappointment when I saw the email letting me know that I had been outbid — an obvious sign that I didn’t really want the item in the first place.

But throughout the day yesterday, it had me thinking, I was totally prepared to PayPal out a few hundred dollars the night before.

Since I lost, I still had that money in my checking account…

You know what I did?

I sent it to the mortgage company instead.

That should teach me not to lose any more auctions. ;0)

Or perhaps I’m just turning over a new leaf.

Nah…

Conestoga WagonTook a few days off from blogging. Seems this month isn’t going as well as I would have liked — no concrete numbers or anything, but my checking balance isn’t allowing me to attack my credit card balances the way I’d like. Such is life, right?

But that brings me to the real subject of this posting. That’s life. And you know what? Life is fair.

I’ve found that life is ultimately fair for the most part because it’s pretty much a cause/effect type of thing. There are consequences to actions.

Just this month, I can’t attack my balances the way I’d like in part due to the fact that I splurged on some hockey jerseys earlier in the month. Dumb.

Counter productive and dumb.

So for the rest of the month, I’ve got to go back to the basics and focus on the goal…

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Yes, that actual jersey is in Brainy Smurf's closet.Earlier this week, J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly had an entry regarding his efforts over the past year to curb his addiction to collecting comic books and it’s something I could relate to.

While comic books aren’t exactly my thing (I can honestly say I’ve never read one), I too have a collection that at one point turned into an addiction and cost me a lot of money along the way.

My vice is “used” clothing. No, no, it’s not some gross perverted thing. It’s not like that at all. Specifically, I collect game used hockey jerseys. And believe it or not, they’re very expensive.

My collection currently stands at over 200. Among the collecting community (and, yes, there is one), that’s a pretty large collection. Not the biggest, but it’s right up there. I’d have to estimate that I’ve spend in excess of $75k over the years growing the collection. Yes, that would buy a lot of comic books!

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a step back while I’ve become much more aware of where my money is going. I’ll no longer use a credit card to buy a jersey. In 2002 alone, I spent a whopping $14k on hockey jerseys. That averaged out to well over a grand per month — FOR USED SHIRTS?!

This year has been my best ever, I’ve done my best to limit myself to one jersey per month and a top price tag of $200. I know, that sounds like a lot, but you have to think there are people out there shelling out that kind of money for a baseball card. Here, I’m getting the actual shirt the player wore in competition. That’s a lot cooler than a piece of cardboard in my opinion.

In the past, I had no ceiling. If I saw a Ron Francis Hartford Whalers jersey on the market for under $5k — it was destined for my closet. Those days are over.

Anyway, J.D. lists 10 Ways to Curb the Habit. Many of them, I’ve done in my own effort to cut the spending, others, well, they need some work.

1. Reduce exposure to hobby news. Unsubscribe from magazines and RSS feeds. Delete bookmarks. Try not to talk about your hobby with other collectors. The more attention you pay to your collection, the more you’ll want to spend money on it.

This…I have done. I used to get automatic updates from eBay whenever a jersey from a specific team was listed for sale. That’s a thing of the past. I also deleted bookmarks to dealer sites and the two big message boards in the hobby from my home and work computer. That isn’t to say I don’t visit gameworn.net (the better of the two) semi-regularly still, but it’s not as often as it once was.

2. Don’t be a completist. Collect what you like and will use, but don’t feel compelled to collect everything. For example, Marvel Comics publishes its Essentials series of comics compilations. It’s okay for me to purchase Essential Spider-Man — I’ll read that repeatedly and enjoy it. But why did I buy Essential Ghost Rider, a book I will never read? I only bought it to have the complete collection. That was a waste of $15.99.

I’m guilty of this. My goal is to have a game worn home and road from my favorite team from each season. It’s also a goal to have the jersey of the best player on the team — which naturally costs a lot more than an average player. With the 2007-08 season right around the corner, you can bet I’ll have my eye on certain players deciding which home and road sweater I want for my collection.

3. Similarly, don’t collect just for the sake of collecting. Collecting can be addictive. When you buy a new Hummel figurine, you feel a bit euphoric. But the momentary pleasure is less than the time before, which was less than the time before that. Collect because you genuinely want an item, not out of habit.

I’m past this. It used to be about the package in the mailbox for me — it was exciting. But now, it’s more about the hunt for specific shirts. I guess I am still doing it all for the “sake of collecting”, but I’m not as reckless about it as I once was.

4. Log how much your hobby costs you. Every time you buy a Beanie Baby, write it down in a dedicated Beanie Baby journal. Keep a running total. Begin to ask yourself: “Would I rather have this Beanie Baby collection or a new MacBook?” (Or whatever.)

Done. When I set up my finances in Microsoft Money, I set up an entire detailed category for the hockey jersey collection. The bottom line is what stunned me into action. Oddly enough though, I can’t think of one instance where I’ve experienced buyers’ remorse.

5. Budget. If you have a collecting habit but aren’t ready to give it up, consider setting a budget. Instead of compulsively buying every piece of Princess Diana memorabilia you find on eBay, allocate $25 or $50 or $100 per month. A collecting budget is an excellent way to allow yourself to indulge a habit without breaking the bank.

Done. Like I said, the new routine is one per month with a top price tag of $200. I don’t have a “rollover” plan in place if I don’t spend the $200 any given month, but over the summer, I did pick up a $500 jersey over the span of 3 months and steered clear of anything else tempting.

6. Set a limit. If you now own 20 Wedgwood pieces, you might limit your collection to 25 items at any one time. Whenever you go over this number, sell a piece to make room for the new one. I now have one bookcase for comic books — when it’s full, I’ll make room for new books by getting rid of something.

Can’t do it. There have been times, I’ve looked at the entire collection and considered selling off some of it, but… I dunno, I guess I just don’t see any real benefit from downsizing right now.

7. Narrow your focus. Is there a subset of your collection that interests you most? When I cut my comics budget, I began to concentrate on newspaper comic strips. They’re more entertaining to me, anyhow. And because comic strip compilations are more obscure, the hobby is more challenging. I spend less, but I have more fun.

Done. In the early stages, if I liked the color, or even the number on a jersey, I’d buy it. Not any more. My focus is on my team, and a couple individual players who used to be on my team. That’s it. There are still shirts that catch my eye from time to time, but I’ve been able to walk away saying, “It’s too bad he never played here…”

8. Instead of changing focus, you might collect something completely different. If your collection costs too much to maintain, switch to something less expensive. Instead of collecting old records, for example, you might pursue sheet music. Or canning jars. Or business cards.

Some in the hobby have done this sort of thing — when the cost of a game worn jersey became too great, they switched to collecting game used sticks, or helmets, or gloves. None of those things really interest me and eventually, you have to think that eventually it would lead to game used jocks. Um, no thanks.

9. Buy it later. As a collector, I’m often afraid that if I refrain from buying a book, it won’t be available later when I’m better able to afford it. That’s silly. While it’s true that I might pay a little more for some books, most will actually be cheaper down the road when I have my debt eliminated.

I’ve leaned this direction for the past year or so. Resale value on star players is very good — often times you can make a lot of money on your initial investment. Marginal players though, drop. So instead of buying them direct from the team or even a connected dealer the minute the player is finished wearing it, I’ve been holding off and waiting for them to hit the secondary market on eBay or craigslist — often times for far less than their original price tag. I don’t always get the player I want this way, but it still fills the holes in my quest to “complete” the collection.

10. Enjoy what you have. Take pleasure from the items you already own. When was the last time you listened to each of the albums in your CD collection? Have you looked through all your baseball cards?

This used to be a problem. We solved it a couple of years ago by purchasing a heavy-duty industrial clothing rack. We set a room in the house off as the “Jersey Room” and I can hand well over 100 of them on the new rack — it has this “colorful wall of polyester” look to it and each day I’m reminded of the size of my collection. It’s been a good thing and it’s kept me from adding to my collection so rapidly.

All that said, while the collection, not to mention the addiction, has certainly cost me loads of money over the years, it has had its bright spots. As I mentioned, if you select marketable players, the value rarely drops and often times increases.

My collection has become a, sort of, emergency source of funds to fall back on. Would it hurt to sell that Ron Francis jersey? Yes, it would, but to know that I could probably get $7500 for it… well, that makes it hurt a lot less.

I’ve only sold maybe 10 jerseys ever, and that was when I was generating funds for the down payment on my house. I remember vividly how my dad turned his nose up at the fact that I was blowing entire paychecks on dirty ripped shirts only to see me come up with $8k in the span of a week selling those “worthless” pieces of clothing.

Slightly off topic, but I did end up re-acquiring all but one of the jerseys I sold back then, so if the owner of a 1993-94 San Jose Sharks Bob Errey road jersey is looking to sell, let me know! I’d really like to get that one back.

Can You Dig It?

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