Delivery Time! Why Do We Collect Parallels?

For most things in life, the majority of people are satisfied to have their item and move on.  Many people own a car for instance, but most don't own multiple cars of the same make and model with different trims.  Most people don't own seven of the same lamp, all in different shades.  And, of course, most people don't order a hamburger...and then order 255 more hamburgers so that they can have all of the different options.

 So why do we need all the different options for baseball cards?

I ask this in all honesty, and not as some snarky blogging commentator because I am also guilty of the multiple copies of essentially the same card.  Take, for instance, a recent trade that I made with blog reader Jordan.  I sent Jordan a Target exclusive Albert Pujols card (good riddance Cardinals!) in exchange for four cards off my want list - all of which are parallels.

Jordan sent me four cards from the 2008 Upper Deck Starquest set - three of which were "uncommons" (except Upper Deck used a hyphen for some reason to make these un-common) while the fourth was a "rare" card.

The Uncommons (or un-commons):

The rare:

As I looked at these cards (and it's been a long time since anyone has sent me some 2008 stuff off my want list), I couldn't help but think, "why do I need these"?

The worst part is, the StarQuest cards aren't the only parallels that I collect.  Anyone who has read my blog in the past month or two probably knows how much I love Ginter - I almost always collect at least one parallel set of that.  I've been running a year-long contest where I've been acquiring diamond parallel cards from the base Topps set.  I collected the entire 2007 Topps Heritage Chrome set (not a true parallel since the chrome set was abbreviated, but darn close).  I'm sure with a bit of thought I could come up with some other parallels that I've chased, but even with the above examples it's clear that I have issues with parallels.

And I know I'm not alone.  Everyone time I put a shiny diamond card on a trade stack it seems to get gobbled up.  Some of you go crazy for Upper Deck Masterpieces or Topps Gypsy Queen parallels.  I'm sure there are even a few of you who collect the Topps Gold parallels every year...

But why?

Why do we feel compelled to have every single copy of a card when that same mantra doesn't hold true in other aspects of our life?  When you plant a garden do you buy every single hot pepper plant so that you own them all?  I doubt it.  Do you order 256 hamburgers at Wendys?  (If you do, you've got more issues than I can possible solve on a baseball card blog, see medical help.)

I feel like such a sucker for collecting the same set multiple times - but I'm sure Upper Deck and Topps love it.  The question is, why do I do it?  And that, my friends, seems to be a question that I can't adequately answer!


  1. I'm sure most of us have asked ourselves the same kind of questions. The more I think about it, it leads me back to the ultimate question, "Why do we collect at all?" Something in me thinks there's an instinctual aspect to collecting. It seems to be a universal thing. Sorry to answer your question with a question. As far as parallels go, unless there's a qualitative difference between cards I'm inclined to just get the one that's most appealing and leave the others.

  2. I'm guilty of it. I like most parallels. I don't know why, but perhaps it is the same reason why some are vintage collectors and some are not, and some people shun relics and some collect them heavily. I think it is a matter of personal preference, really. For every fan of collecting parallels I am sure you can find one who doesn't collect. The other simple answer is that we collect them because they are made available to collect!

  3. I usually ignore the parallels unless there's something I like better about the design than the regular card.

    Back when parallels were first introduced, they were special because they were at least somewhat rare in an era of drastically over-produced cards. Now, they're just a marketing gimmick that makes it tougher to put together the base set.

  4. I think people collect them because it's a little more of a challenge to put together a parallel set than it is a regular base set. Plus, it gives us the opportunity to diversify our collection and also trade with other bloggers/collectors. And yes, I am also guilty of chasing parallel cards as well...

  5. I like collecting parallels simply because my team usually has fewer cards per set than more popular teams. Without parallels, I would probably get 3-4 cards per set and never buy it again...and quickly lose my interest in team collecting. I could see why Yankees, Red Sox, or another big team's fans don't want to collect parallels, because they usually have 4-5 times the amount of cards to gather.

    I think some sets look really great in a binder as well, such as 2008 Heroes, or even the Topps sets with the gold and black beside the base.

    I do wonder about people that collect parallel backs though. Do they display them with the backs showing?

  6. I'm a fan of parallels and love tracking them down of my favorite team/players. They also look good lined up on a 9 pocket page. It's stylish for my binder and are fun to hunt down.

  7. Anonymous5:19 PM

    I like, in this order, Hiflew and Hackenbush's comments. Parallels fit right into goals of many team collectors, but can seem silly for set collectors (and downright frustrating for completists). I tend to be a combination of the 2.

    Also, if a parallel really differentiates itself (in a good way) from the base card, that means a set collector may be more likely to want to get it. The Diamond Anniversary cards and the Gypsy Framed Paper are a great example of this from this year. Those are two sets that I know lots of people were really impressed with.

    The two best examples I can think of from an older period were:
    a) 1993 Topps Finest Refractors - which at the time was the coolest technology and a new concept, and the scarcity of 241 cards total was unheard of at the time,

    b) Pinnacle Museum Collection - I think from 1994 (or 95?). These cards were amazing - they came like 4 or 6 per box, but sold for just as much as the 1 per box Artist Proofs (which just had a stamp).

  8. I think it depends on the parallel. For me it's usually about how the card looks. I have no desire to collect any topps gold cards, but I love the black ones (#). They just look nicer. As hiflew said if you're a Yankee or Red Sox fan, there are way too many cards produced of your players to make it an easily accomplished task.


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