I've had a fair number of occasions to discuss "the line," when it comes to my Wallach collection, and just memorabilia collecting in general. When it comes out in conversations that I collect baseball cards, and specifically Tim Wallach cards, more often than not it leads to generalized discussions of cards and memorabilia. I'm always interested in where people think "the line" is. And by that I mean, when it stops being a collectable that anyone would want in their office or home, and more of an indictment of the person who wants it. I like hearing other people's views on it, if for no other reason than I want be sure I never cross any perceived lines, and it's an easy topic for non-collector's to engage in.
In general terms, I wouldn't feel good about owning anything I think belongs in a museum, or that the player or their family would likely want for themselves. A random game used Derek Jeter jersey is certainly cool. Even one from a World Series game would be cool. But say, the one he made his MLB debut in, or last one he ever wore is probably crossing that line for me. Aaron's home run ball #713 would be an incredible souvenir, the next two don't really belong in some one's trophy case in an Atlanta suburb. They belong on public display or with the Aaron family.
There's another "line" too. The creepier one. Relics from things that didn't happen between the foul poles. I don't see examples of them very often, and am struggling to think of one off the top of my head, but everyone knows them when they see them. Sandy Koufax prescription medicine bottles might be rare and historical in nature, but why would you want them? There are exceptions of course, such as say a Babe Ruth paycheck from the Yankees. Not really something from between the lines, but I would still call it fair game. I think the players fame, fairly or not, is also a factor. I'm more inclined to say a Ted Williams birth certificate is probably ok (albeit not something I would ever want, and I would find to be more weird than cool), where as a Von Hayes birth certificate seems wildly inappropriate.
I've never really had occasion to question where the "line" is with my Wallach collection. But I was recently presented with my first hard line in the sand. And I've decided to pass. Someone is selling a high school year book from Wallach's junior year of high school. No thanks.
Now, I'm not sure yearbooks are really out of bounds. It's at least a gray area enough where I don't feel like a terrible person by mentioning it's existence (but I'm not posting any pictures from the listing beyond the cover), so maybe I'm being a huge hypocrite, but I just can't imagine where something like this would fit in my collection. On one side of the argument in favor of it, it does have a baseball team picture, but on the other side, this was never meant for public consumption. If a player agrees to work with an author and wants to put things like old pictures out there, fine, but it's the player's call. Not some random classmate's from the 70's.
My mother is a retired public school teacher. She taught at a Junior High School in Phoenix for a few years, and one of the kids to pass through her classroom was a guy named Mike Bibby, who went on to have a pretty decent NBA career. She doesn't really remember him, but the proof is right there in a year book back in her studio closet with all the other year books she amassed over the years. I can't imagine trying to sell it, which helped me in my choice not to buy one of these.
I don't know where your "line" is, and I'm not going to judge you for it, but I think it's interesting conversation. When it arises with my non-collector friends, I often cite the auction of a Michael Jordan student I.D. from UNC and an expired Driver's License as interesting dilemna's. As a card collector, I think that's probably about as difficult a call as you could be presented with. In a lot of ways they're like the ultimate low production card, but it also strikes me as a wildly invasive relic that is extremely personal in nature.
My "line" is still being established, but for now, high school year books fall on the wrong side of it.