Why People Collect Stuff and How You Can Collect Too

Updated on December 15, 2017

What kinds 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.

Everyone enjoys collecting something.

It is fun to collect things.
It is fun to collect things. | Source

Did you know there are words to describe specific types of collectors?

Word
Item Collected
Arctophilist
Teddy bears
Deltiologist
Postcards
Falerists
Medals, badges, pins (military or civilian)
Horologist
Clocks
Numismatist
Coins
Phillumenist
Stamps
Plangonologist
Dolls
Tegestologist
Beer mats
Vecturist
Subway tokens
Obscure words to describe collectors.

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.”

Many people enjoy collecting toy cars.

People often like to collect things that remind them of their childhood.
People often like to collect things that remind them of their childhood. | Source

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.

10 Collectibles Not Worth Collecting Anymore

Some collections are organized around a theme.

I enjoy collecting things related to flamingos.
I enjoy collecting things related to flamingos. | Source

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.

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" collectables"?

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 dispalyed?

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 collectables 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 1950's.

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 Porshes 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.


Happy collecting!

Many people have more than one collection.

How many different collections do you have?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Catherine Giordano

    Pease share. What do you like to collect and why do you like collecting it?

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      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        7 months ago from Orlando Florida

        Dr. Tony Hyman: You are a perfect example about the value of being a collector. Thanks for sharing your story.

      • profile image

        Dr. Tony Hyman 

        7 months ago

        Cigar history. In 1952 at age 12, I collected a dozen cigar boxes to put things in and was struck by the fact they were all made in different states. I quickly learned as a skilled library rat that nothing had been written about cigars whereas tons was available about cigarettes and began a life-long study that began by asking "I wonder how many different makers and boxes there are." By the time I enlisted in the navy at 17, I already had 2,317 boxes. At 79, I've learned there were 100,000 US cigar factories, more than one million brands and I am still collecting. I have written more than 500 books and articles about the history of cigar making and selling, 230 of which are currently posted on my website CigarHistory.info. My collection of boxes, photos, letters, catalogs and other ephemera exceeds 40,000 items. I like collecting cigar history because I learn something new every week...and see a new box every day... and I love surprises. Also, I'm making a small contribution to the story of America because that industry actually made significant impact to the history of the labor movement and elsewhere. No, I don't smoke.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        16 months ago from Orlando Florida

        helensturart: You have identified another joy from collecting. It is a way to feel connected to people of long gone eras. Thanks so much for your comment.

      • helenstuart profile image

        Helen Stuart 

        16 months ago from Deep in the Heart of Texas

        I love to collect ancient arrowheads, spearheads, effigies, and even a little rock with an ancient drawing on it. At first I thought, "I can sell these for a bundle" and I'm going to have to sell some, as my collection keeps growing, I also give quite a few away. But mainly I think of the ancient people constructing these tools, no internet, lightbulbs, and mega fauna after them for dinner, and it gives me faith in survival of the world.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Thanks Iris. I appreciate the vote and glad you liked the hub.

      • nightcats profile image

        June Campbell 

        4 years ago from North Vancouver

        I have a collection of dinner bells. I have bells made of metal, bells made of fine china, bells made of pottery, a bell made from a goose egg and a bell that was crocheted. There are probably more substances but I forget exactly. I don't collect any more, but I still display them in a cabinet.

      • Iris Draak profile image

        Cristen Iris 

        4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        Congratulations on your Hub of the Day, Catherine! :) This was really interesting and I liked the table with the names of collections. Voted up!

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Tony: LOL A very good way to describe HubPages--it's a collection of my hubs, hubs I like, and other hubbers. Now, how am I going to get them onto my display shelves?

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Tony55: Thanks for your kind words.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Smallbiz, It is fun to collect. Find something you already have, add a few more, and viola, a collection.

      • DealForALiving profile image

        Sam Deal 

        4 years ago from Earth

        Really good hub worthy of HOTD. Congrats!

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Dzy, Thanks for telling me about your collections. It is really interesting to read about what people collect and why.

      • smallbizloandepot profile image

        smallbizloandepot 

        4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

        nice article. the info is very valuable and i may start a great hobby like this. thanks for sharing.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        4 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Most interesting and well put. Congrats on HOTD!

        I began collecting miniatures. Miniature "anything." (I'm a sucker for 'cute'). It started when I was a child, and was handed down some antique cracker-jack prizes from a great grandaunt. One was a miniature high-button shoe, another was a man's style shoe of the 18oos era, and several other such unique items. There was a larger item, still in its box; a miniature harmonica barely more than an inch long, that actually plays (if you know how).

        Next, I began collecting post cards, but not just any postcards; only as souvenirs from places I'd visited. After that, an aunt of mine gave me some adorable 'cat postcards,' which depict cats in assorted anthropomorphic roles, including crazy mishaps and mischief by youngsters. They are my favorites, and I still have them.

        After I became an adult, I started on sew-on patches along with postcards, as mementos of places I'd been. I have two jackets with these patches sewn all over. This trend began when my kids were in Girl Scouts, and there were patches from the various events.

        Souvenir demi-tasse spoons were added to the mix; I have two display racks full...except that one of them was disassembled to be refinished, a project still unfinished these 12 years later...and I don't know where the spoons from that rack are--packed away somewhere in some box...lost track of when we moved--so right now, I have only one rackful on display.

        I'm a train buff, so when Franklin Mint came out with a steam engine series of plates, of course, I 'had to' have them.

        Then, there was a set of music boxes featuring cats. Check.

        I will collect anything cat related.

        I have no illusions about value. I am definitely in the amateur collector category; I collect the things I love, and resale value be damned! I like them; I'm not planning to sell them.

        Voted up, interesting and useful.

      • EditPhotos profile image

        Edit Photos 

        4 years ago from Earth

        Nice hub - I guess some of us are now collecting hubs!

      • tony55 profile image

        femi 

        4 years ago from Nigeria

        I liked collecting stamps when I was little and Found some 1890 British coins in a house we moved into donkey years ago.

        Nice hub keep up the good work.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Susan: Thank you so much for saying "beautifully constructed." It is what I aim for and it is nice to know that you think I hit the mark.

      • SusanDeppner profile image

        Susan Deppner 

        4 years ago from Arkansas USA

        What a beautifully constructed article! Interesting and very deserving of HOTD honors. Congratulations!

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Janshares: Maybe all those obscure names will come in handy in a game of scrabble so something. Thanks for praising my hub. It's great to compliments from people wo are more successful than I am.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        heidithorne: I read my notifications which took me to your comment and that is how I found out I was HOTD. It's a first for me. I collect very casually--things that I love. Being a "serious" collector might be too much for you as it is to me, but you might enjoy casually collecting.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        heidithorne: I read my notifications which took me to your comment and that is how I found out I was HOTD. It's a first for me. I collect very casually--things that I love. Being a "serious" collector might be too much for you as it is to me, but you might enjoy casually collecting.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        heidithorne: I read my notifications which took me to your comment and that is how I found out I was HOTD. It's a first for me. I collect very casually--things that I love. Being a "serious" collector might be too much for you as it is to me, but you might enjoy casually collecting.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Pawpaw, I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment..

      • janshares profile image

        Janis Leslie Evans 

        4 years ago from Washington, DC

        Very informative and well-done, Catherine. This is an excellent presentation on collecting, well-written and formatted. I had no idea about all those obscure names for collectors. I guess hoarding would be considered on the extreme end of collecting, in a way. Congratulations on HOTD, well-deserved. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        4 years ago from Chicago Area

        I was a book collector when I was young, but today? No way! I have no collections of anything. But I have had friends and family who are BIG in collecting. And, you're right, it's easy to get gifts for these folks. Beautiful hub and well deserved Hub of the Day! Congrats!

      • Pawpawwrites profile image

        Jim 

        4 years ago from Kansas

        Thanks for the look into collecting, and why we collect.

      • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

        Catherine Giordano 

        4 years ago from Orlando Florida

        It's s nice that your dad has a hobby he enjoys. Did he give you a lot of toy cars when you were a kid? Perhaps he wanted them as a child, but couldn't have them. Thanks for the comment.

      • SimilarSam profile image

        Sam 

        4 years ago from Australia

        I've never been one for collecting but my dad is completely obsessed with collecting toy cars!

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