Collecting artifacts associated with Major League Baseball has never been more popular than it is today. Likewise, collecting the right artifacts can be equally rewarding, both personally and financially. Over the years I have been asked by collectors with six and seven figure collections what they collect and why. One of the constant themes in those discussions centers on understanding the relationship between Relevance and Significance:
Relevance is the notion of one topic being connected to another topic in a way that makes it useful to consider the first topic when considering the second. When considering artifacts related to Major League Baseball, their relevance or actual connection with the contest or enterprise must be determined and assessed when considering adding them to a collection.
Significance refers to the quality of being worthy of attention. This denotes and implies a comparative assessment between like items. There are any number of factors that influence significance.
The premise behind this Relevance categorization schema is that the more closely related an artifact is to either the conduct of an actual game or the functioning of the organization, the more relevant it becomes.  Please know that the items shown below are not intended to be an all-inclusive listing for each category; rather they serve as illustrative examples for each.
Category I: Direct connection to the conduct of the game; not commercially available to the general public.
-Stadia Items
-Correspondence and Official Business Communications/Documents
Category II: Personal Effects of Affiliated Parties
-Personal Items (non-baseball related)
Category III: Event Related Artifacts (Day of)
Category IV: Commercial Products; Team Affiliated
-Souvenirs in General
Category V: Commercial Products; Non-Team Affiliated
-Baseball Cards
-Advertising Products
-Promotional Items
-Player Endorsed Products
Category VI: Chronicles
-Wire/Press Photos
Any organizational, team, or period collection should include items from each of these categories. Collections on whole should also be managed by category as well so they don’t become disproportional in their holdings compared to items of a higher category. By this I mean that in the aggregate, the collection should feature/include far more Category I artifacts than anything else as those are the most relevant to the topic or purpose of the collection. Each collection should also be managed so that within each category, there is a representative sampling of and for that category as well. Once again, the lower the category, the fewer examples that becomes necessary. For the sake of the integrity of collection, you should fight to urge to acquire something simply because it is available and affordable unless required or necessary to support research as opposed to displays.
Evaluating and assessing the Significance of the artifact is of equal importance.  This relates to the concept of categorization since it allows for and supports comparative assessments of same or similar items within a category.  There are a number of factors or characteristics that help to establish significance or why anyone artifact may be more significant than a similar or like item. Those factors or characteristics include but are not limited to:
-Association with an Individual
-Association with an Event
-Relative Density or Number of Surviving Examples
For example:
-An artifact may be in poor condition, but it is significant because it is one of the only a few known surviving examples.
-An artifact my not be rare with respect to surviving examples, but the artifact is in superior condition and the type of artifact is condition sensitive.
-An artifact may not be rare (by type of artifact) or in particularly strong condition when condition density is not an issue, but it is related to or tied directly to a player or event of particular significance.
When considering both Relevance and Significance, a good general rule of thumb is that as Significance becomes more important, Relevance becomes less important.
Applications of the concepts of Relevance and Significance include:
-Shaping artifact acquisition plans (new starts). This refers to serving as diagnostics to help an individual/organization figure out what they should try to go after and why in a prioritized effort.
-Shaping artifact acquisition plans (existing collections). This refers to serving as diagnostics to help identify gaps in the collection by category, density, and significance. For individuals or organizations that have to make acquisition choices/decisions based on fixed spend plans, evaluating competing artifact acquisition options for both Relevance and Significance can help objectively identify the better purchase option. The same construct could apply when devoting time and attention to trying to locate/court donations or loans of artifacts as well.
-Shaping artifact liquidation plans (existing collections). This refers to serving as diagnostics to help the individual or organization see what they can live without and why. Part of this may involve decisions associated with “upgrading” a particular artifact or holding.
-Shaping or influencing artifact selection for a particular display/theme or event. This refers to serving as diagnostics to ensure balance of and interest in the project.
We hope that all of this will be of interest and help to you. In addition to sharing this information with the original audience, it was also shared with two current Major League Baseball Museum efforts who found it to be both original in thought and helpful in application.