A lot of discussion recently around card condition, grading and the business of “slabbing” cards, i.e., sending them off and paying for professional assessment and the plastic protection.

The great thing about collecting is that there’s no rule book – there are plenty of guides, and lots of people willing to offer advice, but no hard and fast ways that things must be done. What to collect, how to sort, store and calculate values is pretty arbitrary, and everyone has their own ideas.

For me, just like anyone, I love it when near mint items turn up. To see collectables in the same state as they were issued so many years ago is a bit of a thrill, a real throwback which can conjure up those feelings of youth and the simplicity of our lives as children. That to me is the essence of collecting – capturing a time and a place when worries were few, and my small hoard of personal possessions were the one thing I could control in the crazy world of adults.

Which brings me back to the concept of seeking out near mint cards now in this era of collecting, and potentially investing. Notice I never use “mint” when talking about condition? I don’t accept it, as anything that has been handled – even once from packet to plastic sleeves – cannot possibly be perfect. I’ve even seen cards come straight out of packets with imperfections, especially the coloured border series of the eighties. Either way, when collecting was such a huge part of my everyday life, I was always on the hunt; whether it was at the local milk bar, swapping with friends in the playground, or even scouring the gutters in my street.

I never owned mint cards then – everything was imperfect; dog-eared, creased or at a minimum with knocked corners – and that was the way I liked it, then and now. Unlike mint cards, those imperfections tell a story – a tale about their owners, the many hands that they have passed through, and the things they have seen. A mint card is like a fancy car that sits in the garage, never driven, never seeing the light of day, a possession with no life or meaning of its own.

I’ll take the story, the true meaning in my collection every day, because to this collector, that’s where its value lies.

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