This is one from the archives, and gives an interesting insight into the origins of the credit card collecting hobby. This interview was recorded in 1989 with Greg Tunks, who founded the credit piece hobby and is to partly thank for where the ACCCS is today.
Credit Card Collector magazine: What does it feel like to be the founder of the credit piece hobby?
Greg Tunks: Nothing.
CCC: Okay…how about, did you think the credit piece hobby would grow as fast as it did?
GT: No. I thought it would grow faster.
GT: Yes. I thought it was reasonable to expect thousands of Credit Card Collector subscribers by now.
CCC: What made you think that?
GT: I felt all the basics were here in credit card collecting that could attract large numbers of people. Much like the beer can collecting hobby that took-off in the mid-’70s. It went from practically nothing to having over 5,000 members in a little over six years.
CCC: So are you disappointed?
GT: No. At first I was, until I understood the situation. For a while, I thought the hobby might turn-out to be a complete and total failure. That’s because I didn’t understand how hobbies start. There’s not a lot to study on how to develop a hobby starting from scratch. But the few things I’ve learned over the years, show me the hobby has moved quite well. As a matter of fact, I’m quite pleased with its progress.
CCC: What have you learned?
GT: I learned that to be considered a large hobby that you only need 250 members. I’d always thought you’d need thousands. I guess I thought that since my major experience with hobbies comes from my background in coin collecting. I’ve always felt credit cards were just as much a legitimate collectible as say coins or stamps or currency. So I was thinking in terms of a hobby that size.
The one thing to keep in mind with those hobbies is they’ve been around at least since the turn of the century. They appear so large simply because they have a head start on us. Another thing I’ve learned is numbers aren’t all that important. In other words, now that I look back on it, if Credit Card Collector really wanted a subscription base of let’s say 1,000, I think it could have been done. It would have just been a matter of reducing the subscription fee so low that everyone would have signed-on because it cost practically nothing.
I see hobbies that charge $5 a year to join and issue a quarterly newsletter and attract great numbers of people. We could have done that since thousands of introductory information and sample newsletters have been sent out in the last three years; but all that would have done is given us quantity.
I’ve learned and now believe that quality is more important than quantity. When I say quality, I mean having people join us who are serious enough to make a $20 commitment to learn about a new subject and then act upon what they’ve learned. I feel for $5 most people would have signed-on but that’s not enough of a financial commitment to get them to act. Action is what makes a hobby grow, not numbers.
CCC: Speaking of numbers, how many people subscribe?
GT: I’d rather not say.
CCC: If you had it to do over, what’s the one thing you’d do differently?
GT: One thing for sure I’d do differently is accumulate a lot more credit pieces before I started the hobby. I initially bought $2,500 worth of credit pieces. That was a lot of money to put into pieces for a hobby that didn’t exist. As a matter of fact, I was starting to lose a little sleep over it.
CCC: Lose sleep?
GT: You have to remember, back five years ago when I started acquiring pieces the consciousness of the collecting community wasn’t as receptive as it is today. I can remember going out to dinner with another couple. It was mentioned in conversation that I was collecting credit cards and I had just paid $2 apiece for a group of some paper cards. When the couple heard that they just laughed and laughed. They really couldn’t control their laughter. They couldn’t believe anyone would actually pay money for an expired credit card.
CCC: What did you say?
CCC: Have you had any other unusual experiences?
GT: A few years back, I was doing a live radio show about collecting credit cards. It was a rock station that tried to turn everything I said into a joke. I felt the pressure but figured just keep talking since it was live. Then came the clincher when one of the DJs said, “A person really has to be some sort of a fruit cake to do something like this, don’t they.”
CCC: What did you say?
GT: I was so caught off-guard by the statement that I said something like, “There’s a little craziness in all of us.” Then I started laughing. The interview went straight down from there.
CCC: So what did you learn from that experience?
GT: I learned when an interview gets to a point where statements like that are thrown-out that it’s time to end the interview. I also learned not to let interviewers rush me. Whenever you do live broadcasts there’s a tendency to continue speaking even when silence would be the best response. That’s because you feel obligated to keep talking so there won’t be any dead air. I don’t feel that way now. Now I’d stop an interview that I didn’t feel was being productive.
CCC: What’s the most pleasant experience you’ve had?
GT: Watching the hobby come from nothing and grow into something.
CCC: Do you see the “something” growing into anything?
GT: Yes, greatness.
CCC: What great things do you see?
GT: Basically it breaks down to two. The first is a change in attitude of credit card issuers. Eventually, issuers will realize there’s a vast untapped collector market available to them. All it will take is the first issuer to get a taste of the collector profits by selling some plastic. It will evolve where eventually there’ll be commemorative credit cards, much like coins, stamps, collector plates; you get the idea. Cards will also be issued in limited editions and series.
Someday we’ll see issuers catering to collectors so much that when it’s brought up in the future to the younger generation that issuers discouraged collecting in the past, they’ll find it hard to believe such an attitude ever existed. In other words, I see a complete reversal. It may be a while off, but I have complete confidence in the American way of doing business that if someone thinks they can make a buck, they’ll do it. I firmly believe there are many dollars to be made. Someone will eventually wake up.
The second thing is the formation of collector clubs. Take for example the charge coin collectors, they’ve already met three times out on the east coast. It’s just a matter of time before a club is formed. I also see the formation of a gas card and a bank card club. There’s enough people interested in each area where specialized newsletters are possible. The clubs would start small, just like Credit Card Collector did, but they’d eventually grow as long as the right people were in control.
As time goes on, I see collector clubs and newsletters on all specialized areas like airlines, department stores, paper cards, metal charge plates, and so on. It’s just a matter of time.
There’ll even be a general club, such as the American Credit Piece Association. There’ll be clubs that come and go and publications that do the same. There’ll come a day when even the Credit Card Collector’s position will be challenged. It’s all part of a healthy and growing hobby.
CCC: So you have some pretty high hopes.
GT: Not really. I don’t consider these things “hopes”. It’s just the way it’ll be. Enough seeds have been planted in the last three years that it’s just a matter of time before things germinate. The work has been done. It just takes time to see the results. They’ll come.
CCC: If you were conducting this interview, what’s the one question you would ask?
GT: Ask me if I enjoy what I’m doing.
CCC: Do you?