Why People Collect Stuff and How You Can Collect, Too
What Kings of Things Do People Collect?
Everybody collects something. Maybe it is books, or photographs, or ticket stubs, or rocks, or Pez dispensers, or seashells, or beer bottle caps, or salt and pepper shakers—everyone collects something.
The list is endless. You name it, and someone probably collects it.
Did You Know There Are Words to Describe Specific Types of Collectors?
Medals, badges, pins (military or civilian)
What Is the Difference Between Professional and Amateur Collectors?
Professional collectors are mostly motivated by money; amateur collectors are motivated by love:
- A professional collector will amass a collection in order to resell it. He hopes the items in his collection will increase in value.
- An amateur collector collects because the subject interests him. He may not care about the monetary value of the things he collects.
There is some overlap between these two types of collectors. The professional may have a personal interest in the subject of his collection, and the amateur may hope that his collection will increase in value. The difference between the two is what primarily motivates them.
What Is a Fringe Benefit of Collecting?
Collecting has another benefit. People always know what to give a collector for his birthday or other special occasion. They give him something for his collection.
Sometimes people will happen across something they think the collector might like and give it to him for no occasion at all. Aren’t those the nicest gifts—the ones that say, “I saw this and I thought of you.”
Why Do People Collect Things?
People like to collect things for various reasons:
- To relive their childhood
- To connect with a historical period
- For the thrill of the hunt.
- For the prestige of owning rare or valuable items or having the largest collection of a particular thing
- For relaxation
There can be psychological issues involved in collecting. Collecting can be a way of holding on to the past. Organizing and categorizing the items in a collection can give the collector a sense of being in control. Collecting can give life meaning and provide an “identity.” It can be an entrée into a social world when the collector meets other collectors at conferences, swap meets, or special interest groups. Collecting may be a way of relaxing and retreating into a private world.
Or perhaps a collector just “fell” into being a collector. One day he notices he happens to have a few items that are similar and decides to obtain more of these items and create a collection.
There are as many reasons for collecting as there are collectors. The reasons are not mutually exclusive—a collector can have more than one reason for collecting.
Amateurs should just collect what they love and not collect with the expectation of selling for a lot more than they paid. Yes, some people have made money from their collections, but collections are fads. What’s valuable today may turn out to be something you can’t even give away tomorrow. Remember Beanie Babies? Find some other examples in this article: 10 Collectibles Not Worth Collecting Anymore
How Are Collections Organized?
A collector may choose to collect items of a certain type, but will commonly specialize within that type. Other collectors may collect items with a common theme. There is often some overlap between these two.
For instance, a person who collects stamps or coins may decide to narrow his focus to items from a certain period or a certain country. A person who collects posters may want only movie posters or only psychedelic posters from the 60’s or only World War II posters. A person who collects dolls may only want dolls with china faces or Barbie dolls or Raggedy Ann dolls.
A collection may be organized around a theme. In this case, the object is to find many different types of objects that express the theme--different things, made different materials, etc.
My Pink Flamingo Collection
An example of a theme collection is my own pink flamingo collection:
- I have a large painting of a wetlands scene that includes a flamingo depicted in its natural habitat.
- I have throw pillows with flamingos.
- I have a paper towel holder in the shape of a flamingo.
- I have cups and some glasses with flamingos.
- I have a shirt with flamingos and some flamingo-themed jewelry.
- I have a cloth shopping bag that depicts flamingos.
- I have glass flamingo swizzle sticks.
- And, of course, I have plastic pink flamingos in my yard. (In my back yard, not my front yard, because the homeowners association would probably think they were tacky.)
What About "Special-Edition" Collectibles?
Some people will collect items specifically made to be collected, often produced as a series. Some examples are Hummel figurines, Franklin Mint items, Norman Rockwel plates, and other items manufactured specifically for collectors. You've probably seen advertisements for these items in magazines or on television.
If you want to collect these items because you like them, go ahead and do so. However, in my opinion, this kind of pre-fab collection deprives the collector of the thrill of the hunt, the joy of finding the unexpected treasure, and the fun of creating your own collection. You just buy whatever the manufacturer puts out.
Some people think that these “limited edition” items will increase in value. They usually end up very disappointed when they discover they will be lucky to sell them for a fraction of what they paid.
How Should a Collection Be Displayed?
Certain types of collections need a certain type of storage. For example, stamps and coins are usually kept in binders made for the purpose. However, most collectibles can be displayed around your home. In fact the joy of surrounding yourself with the things you love is one of the reasons for collecting.
Some people like to put their entire collection in one place: one room or one bookshelf. I like to spread my collection out around my home with only three to five pieces in a room or area. It keeps the collection from being overwhelming, and it allows me to enjoy it where ever I am.
There is one caveat to collecting. Don't let your collection get larger than the space you have available to store or display it. A collection does not have to be huge--just a few pieces can qualify as a collection. If your collection becomes too large, pare it down by narrowing the focus of the collection. For instance, instead of all toy cars, only toy cars from the 1950s.
What Does Jay Leno Collect?
Jay Leno, the popular host of the now defunct The Jay Leno Show, has a famous collection of vintage motor vehicles. As of this writing, he has 120 cars and 93 motorcycles stored in a massive garage. Some car collectors specialize in certain types of cars—Jerry Seinfeld collects Porsches, for example—but Leno just buys what ever strikes his fancy. He is partial to high performance cars, though, even "souping-up" some of the cars in his collection.
Although Jay Leno has a garage staff, he actually does some of the maintenance and restoration of the cars himself. He keeps them all in running condition and often drives them.
Jay Leno’s car collection is extremely valuable--valued at over $50 million at the time of this writing--but he clearly collects for love.
What Is the Difference Between Collecting and Hoarding?
Don’t confuse collectors with hoarders.
- Collectors catalogue and/or display their collections. The collection has a unifying theme.
- Hoarders just have piles of useless junk. They don’t feel pride; they feel shame.
Many People Have More Than One Collection
How many different collections do you have?
© 2014 Catherine Giordano