Beauty is in the eye of the buyer
Not every collector has the resources to buy the best of the best, or even close to it sometimes, but that doesn’t mean the door is closed on acquiring cards for your collection. In many cases, if you are able to embrace their flaws, you can find some truly unique cards in the market, and many with stories to tell.
Establish your threshold of “thrash.”
I have assembled some BIG sets, both in value and in number of cards. Whether your mindset is aimed at set building, or key subset building, you need to figure out how much a card can be “loved” before you are no longer interested in recognizing it as collectible. For me, I love the beaten, battered, folded, creased and marked. Basically short of incinerating 95%, I have all kinds of cards in my collection. I enjoy the cards that were loved by their original owners, and find that it adds more to the charm knowing that they were cherished items, and have now hound their way into my collection. The E97 pictured above is a perfect example of this.
There is nothing wrong with a placeholder.
When I was putting together my 1949 Leaf set (produced in ’48, officially released in ’49), because of the short prints and several high dollar cards, several times during that quest I would purposefully pick up low price beaters to “keep the seat warm” until I could find a replacement. In some cases, like the Satchel Paige short print rookie, the example I have, (an SGC authentic which had all 4 borders removed), will stay with the set until I hand it over to my kids. Spending the money for even a low number grade is not in my card budget, but that is perfectly OK, and in my collection, this solution is more than adequate.
No matter what you collect, or how you collect, there is nothing wrong with introducing a little “character” into your collection, who knows, it may allow you to pick up cards that would otherwise be unattainable, minus a lucky win of the lottery.