Growing up, in the 80's, hockey card collecting was a pretty simple gig. It involved a trip to local convenience store to pick up a few packs of that year's OPC hockey cards. After opening and sorting that week's treasures, it was off to visit friends and schoolmates to trade my doubles for the cards I needed.
Price guides, graded cards, swatches and autographs were years away. It was as simple as "got it, got it, need it, got it". After completing that year's set, it went into a cardboard box and into my closet along with my other cards.
The first set I started collecting was 1980/81 (yup, I missed out on the Gretzky rookie year by one - OUCH). I had every year, including the sticker books, up until 1987. After years of collecting, I had just outgrown hockey cards (so I thought), and decided to store my collection in the basement. That was until 1990 hit and the explosion of hockey cards to the market.
I didn't get back into collecting right away, but I must admit, I was very intrigued by all the different card sets out there. It only took me a couple years before I got back into collecting. Being a set collector growing up though, created the problem of too many cards to collect....but I gave it my best shot.
For the next 3 or so years, I tried to get my hands on as many different cards as I could. I loved all the different set designs and inserts. My wallet however had a differing opinion. I soon realized that I could no longer go down the set collecting path as I had been for years. I would have to change my collecting habits. For a while, I tried collecting the older sets (going back into the 70's). While that was a lot of fun, I found it to be even more expensive. As well, I was still not truly enjoying what it was I had. I purchased some cards, put them in sheets and stored them. They had no real meaning to me.
That changed in 1997 when I went to a local card show. A quick search around the tables yielded no new purchases. In fact, it seemed to be the same ol' stuff. Until I came across a table with a box full of commons. They were sorted by player and one of those players just happened to be my favorite - Trevor Linden. There must have been 40-50 different cards in there. Best of all, they were priced at a whopping .10 cents each. All of the sudden, the lightbulb went on.
I bought all the different Linden cards I could find that day. I went home with over 50 cards (and spent less than 10 bucks at the show), but I hadn't been so happy after a treasure hunt as I was on that day. I thought I must have all the different Linden cards out there. I later found out that I wasn't even close (Pacific parallels are still my nemesis). My Trevor Linden collection was born that day.
For over 10 years now I have searched high and low - local shows, ebay, and hockey card trading boards in the hunt for Linden cards. Along the way, I have discovered a ton of new cards out there along with other die-hard Linden collectors. Currently, my collection sits at over 900 different Linden cards as well as other collectibles. The highlight of my collection would be my first 1/1 I found (my prized 1998/99 Topps Gold Label Class 2 One of One) along with my ticket stub from December 17, 2008 - Trevor Linden Jersey Retirement Night.
I have said many times that I get more enjoyment out of finding a .25 cent Linden common that I need than I would a high end card of somebody else (Ovechkin included). That to me tells me that I am collecting what it is I should be collecting.