...I'm speaking from experience when I say the key to a happy collecting life is the moment when you accept that you can never collect everything in a given category, because there will always be at least one thing out there that you can't afford, can't find or don't know about. The feeling of completism will always be out of reach. Once you admit that to yourself, the world becomes a fun museum and you can cherry-pick some nice items that push your buttons without the pressure of having to acquire all of them.I have a completist's mindset, but in a different way. I'm just trying to find out how many different sets of track & field or Summer Olympics cards have ever been made. Yes, I collect them. Just over my left shoulder right now I've got a display case featuring such various athletes as Helen Stephens, Sergey Bubka, Walter Davis, Jack Lovelock, Jan Zelezny, Ed Moses, Hassiba Boulmerka, and others. I've got a binder with a whole lot more. Then there's my collection of track-oriented board games, which is nearly complete: the Bruce Jenner Decathlon Game, the Wheaties Sports Trivia Game of Champions, and the Boston Marathon Game. In the late 80s there was some FloJo-oriented track trivia game, but it's as rare as an honest D-I athletic director.
But most of the collectors at the National didn't appear to have experienced that epiphany. This was especially true of the baseball card collectors (by far the largest contingent of attendees), a disturbing percentage of whom seemed to fit all the worst collector stereotypes: nerdy, overweight, socially awkward. As I watched these guys -- and believe me, all of them were guys -- feverishly flipping through bins and albums of cards, trying to cross out items on their want lists, it occurred to me that they seemed to take very little pleasure in the act of collecting. They were more like addicts trying to cop a fix, and I found their frantic, joyless movements from dealer to dealer rather depressing.
I've also got a fairly large collection of track movies and books. Browsing through Ebay or Amazon.com for those isn't what gets my motor running, though, it's finding them in more complex ways. It was far more fun to find a still-shrinkwrapped On The Edge at a convenience store markdown bin for $5, or a used copy of The Self-Made Olympian at a coffee shop for $3.95.