Monday, April 28, 2014

Barry Larkin's Birthday: A Larkin Spectacular! From Mailbox to Binder: The Organizational Process!

Today is Barry Larkin's 50th birthday - and in honor of my favorite player's big day, I thought it might be fun to have a Barry Larkin Spectacular on the blog!

As you probably know, I have a decent sized collection of Larkin cards that I try to continually update on my blog (see the entire collection here).  Despite my best efforts though, that online collection is but a small portion of my total Barry Larkin collection.

Today, I thought it would be fun to show you how I organize my collection of Larkin cards...and in doing so, perhaps those of you have a similar player collection might gain some insight/ideas...or better yet for me, you might have some other more efficient ideas to share with me!

A typical trade for me (when it comes to Larkin cards) is usually me acquiring a big stack of Larkins.  Many times people send me piles of Larkin cards without necessarily asking me which cards I do need and which cards I do not (which is fine by me because I don't actually have a full list of what Larkin cards I own ready to go anyhow)!

All of today's cards are courtesy of Joe who sent me a nice sized pile of Larkin cards about a month ago (however I wanted to save them for this particular blog post - hence the delay in posting about them)!  Joe sent me a stack of 18 Larkin cards which is perfect for the Larkin Spectacular post...some of the cards are brand new to me, others I already had - and so you will get a taste of my entire sorting process from beginning to end!

Step 1:  Open the package, scan the cards for a blog post, update my Excel trading file.

The first part of Step 1 is the best - opening mail!  Whenever I get an envelope of cards in the mail, I immediately open the package up.  Then, sometimes I am able to quickly write a blog post (especially in the summer when the constraints are my time are much, much less than during the school year).  Other times, I carefully repackage the envelope and put the entire package in a small stack of drawers near my desk.
Hidden within those drawers are trade packages yet to be written about - and plenty of shipping supplies.

In that way, when I am able to write a "thanks for the cards" blog post, I'll be sure to know who sent me the cards!

The next part of Step 1 is the actual writing of the blog post.  As I said before, sometimes this is an easy, quick process (especially for a PWE) whereas other times it might take multiple posts to go through (as in the case of the huge box of cards my brother sent me - more on that tomorrow actually)!  A big part of writing the blog post is scanning the cards - but with my new scanner that isn't usually terribly difficult to do (unless the cards are all white-bordered, my scanner hates those)!  I usually tag all of my thank you posts with the tag "delivery time" so that people can quickly peruse my various trade posts.

The latter part of Step 1 can be a tedious step, but it's incredibly important when you like to actively trade with various people.  For myself, I sent out 122 trades in 2010, another 166 in 2011, 107 in 2012, and last year I managed to send out 83 more.  So far this year I'm a bit off the pace, but I still have managed to mail out 26 trade packages.  Why do I cite those numbers?  Because it's virtually impossible to simply remember who I've sent to, who is to be sending to me, etc.  Thus, I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything.

My Excel spreadsheet consists of a page for every single person that I've traded with.  Each trade that I complete gets its own row in the appropriate person's page - and in that row I document what I sent, what that person sent, and the status of the trade (complete, I owe, they owe, etc.).  I also try to keep track of what "extras" I send along so that I'm not sending the same person three of the same Nachos Grande bumper sticker for instance.

As an example, I took a screenshot of Greg's (aka Night Owl's) spreadsheet entry.  Greg and I have completed a TON of trades - and as you can, lately our trading as devolved into a series of "surprising mailings" where we each send each other stuff whenever we run across something we think the other person would want.  Down at the bottom of that screenshot you can see a brief bit of how I organize all my trading partners in Excel - and the two pound (hash tag) signs are my way of designated that either I owe someone or else they owe me!  In the case of Joe, the Larkin cards you see in this post are all from him and so I need to delete the two pound signs since our trade is now complete on both ends!

With that, Step 1 is complete.  I open the package, write a post, and update my Excel document.  Each of the three steps are important for their own reasons - but they do take time (hence why I often have a delay between when a package arrives in my mailbox and when a post actually goes live on my blog)!

Once the preliminary work is done, if the trade package contains any Barry Larkin cards, then my work has only begun!  On to Step 2!

Step 2:  Queue the Larkins!

Step 2 is the easiest step of all - I simply take any Barry Larkin cards that I received in a trade and stack them up in a cubbyhole in my desk.  I usually let the stack accumulate cards for awhile before going through it and initiating the next phase of the sorting process.  As you can see right now, my stack is fairly large and so I'll be doing another full-scale sorting in the fairly near future!

The Larkin stack is the large stack towards the back of the photograph.  The other stacks of cards are random relics for trade bait (possible trade bait draft or eBay fodder?) and a stack of cards for the Trade Stack feature that I run on my blog.  The colored cubes are for a game that I use in my Mathematics of Games and Gambling course.

At this point, Step 2 is complete.  This step basically ensures that all of my unsorted, undocumented Larkins stay in one place until I can set aside the proper amount of time in order to get everything cataloged how I like it!

Step 3:  The Initial Year-by-Year Sorting

Eventually the stack of Barry Larkin cards sitting in my desk will reach precarious heights and so I'll be forced to proceed to Step 3, the initial year-by-year sorting.  This process sounds exactly like you would expect - I take each card from the stack and place it in the correct stack of cards sorted by year.

From there, the cards go one of two places.  If the Larkin card was produced after the year 1997, it gets put into the appropriate yearly slot in a re-purposed Allen & Ginter's box.

Anything in that box will set there until I muster up the energy to sort through another year's worth of cards!  For now, I've been focusing on completing organizing the earlier Larkin cards (since they are more prevalent and I'd like to avoid obtaining too many duplicates)!  I have, of course, showcased a fair number of later Larkin cards on my blog though so I'm not entirely consistent with how I do this part of the organizing (sometimes you just feel like writing about a certain card)!

If the Larkin card is from 1997 or earlier, then I have to do some work to see whether or not I already own the card.  You see, many of my pre-1997 Larkin cards are already scanned and written about on the blog. Others are fully scanned but not yet written about on the blog.  As such, for any pre-1998 card, I have a few things to check.

#1:  Have I already posted this card on the blog?  
This is the easiest case because it's easy enough to scroll to the appropriate year on the blog and see whether or not the card has been written about (I've learned long ago not to rely on my memory)!

#2:  Have I already scanned this card but not yet written about it?
This one is a bit more annoying to check, but still not too difficult.  All I have to do is open up my folder containing all my scanned (but not yet posted) Barry Larkin cards.

From the above image, you can see I have a decent amount of Larkin cards currently scanned and waiting to be written about.  You can also see my card image file naming technique.  I'm a bit of a stickler for consistent file naming!

For example, the 1996 Topps Finest Franchise Subset card is one that I already owned - and I've already scanned it into my collection but it hasn't yet shown up on the blog.  Thus, this card is a duplicate and it will eventually be placed in my box of Larkin duplicates to be used as trade bait down the road!

#3:  New cards!
If the card hasn't been written about, and it hasn't previously been scanned, then it is safe to say that the card is a new one for my collection (hooray!).  Any cards that fall into this category are the most work - but also the reason why I collect (the goal is to get 'em all as they say in Pokemon)!

For new cards, the scanning process usually takes two steps:  One scan for the front of the card, another scan for the back of the card.  I then use MSPaint to "sew" the two images together so that I have a single file for each card which shows both the front and back of that card.

Most of the time, this isn't too difficult.  Remember, part of making the image is the file name so once in awhile I have to do some internet research to figure out just exactly what set the card belongs to!  Other times, I get a card that seems just a bit off and I have to do some additional research.  As a quick test, check out this Topps Gold parallel card of Barry and see if you can figure out what's wonky about it.

Did you find the error?

Larkin is listed as a member of the Astros on the front of the card!  Sometimes I discover variations/errors on my own - and other times what I discover is actually already well known (in this case, it turns out that this is an uncorrected error and that all of the 1992 Topps Gold cards feature Larkin as a member of the Astros).  Hopeful wishing by Houston if you ask me.

Step 4:  To the Binder, Batman!

Step 4 is the most satisfactory of all the steps.  I get to put the Larkin card in its final resting place - my binder of Larkins!  Once a card is fully scanned (front and back) it goes into my binder.  In that way, I can have a bunch of Larkin cards waiting to be added to my Barry Larkin Collection without having a bunch of Barry Larkin cards sitting in a stack somewhere on my desk.  There's something immensely satisfying about reducing clutter while at the same time filling up binder pages!

In addition to all my full organized Barry Larkin cards, my Larkin binder also houses my oversized Larkin cards and one of my most prized possessions:

The Sports Market Report magazine issue celebrating Barry's induction into the Hall of Fame.  The reason it's my prized possession though is because it's my one direct personal tie to Larkin since I was interviewed and quoted in the feature article about Barry Larkin on his big day!

Thanks to Joe for all the great Larkin cards (the rest of which you'll eventually see make their way to my Barry Larkin Collection) and a big 'ol happy birthday to one of the best players ever to grace the Reds' uniform!


Brady Umfleet said...

Thanks for showing us your process I have actually been wanting to know since I started to read your blog.

Joe Frecker said...

Wow, getting quoted in SMR is amazing. That really is a huge honor.
Thanks for sharing your process info, now I see how much work it is for you to reply to chumps like me. I tweeted a picture of my Larkin case today with Birthday wishes. I will send to you via e-mail. Cheers Barry.

The Lost Collector said...

Awesome! Love how organized you are with trades. Wish I was like this. I could try, but I'm sure I'd ignore the spreadsheet after a few weeks.

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