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What Is Collecting - Is It A Hobby Or An Obsession?

Nov 24, 2007
People collect, amass, store and hoard just about anything. Some are put up for display (like fine art), yet, others remain in attics and basement, sealed away forever. People collect just about anything including: marbles, coins, political memorabilia, cookie jars, autographs, sports memorabilia, jewelry, Pez dispensers, snow globes, stamps, vinyl records, sports cards, comic books, toys, ceramics, jewelry.... why the list is endless.

People have always collected something either as a hobby or an investment. In fact, one of the first American numismatists began collecting coins in 1817 and it was a collection of American cents from each year. But, coin collecting has a history going back to ancient times when the ancient Romans were interested in and collected Greek and Roman coins.

There have been many famous people who have collected one thing or another. It is reported that a certain U.S. attorney has amassed a collection of more than 200,000 railroad nails and a Russian countess collected bedpans that had previously belonged to rich and famous people. King Louis XIV of France thoroughly enjoyed his daily visit to the French Royal Coin Collection, noting that he could 'always find something new to learn.' In addition, actor Buddy Ebsen, who portrayed the loveable hillbilly Jed Clampett, was fond of collecting ancient coins. The flamboyant rock star Freddie Mercury, of the band Queen, was an avid stamp collector as a boy. Many famous musicians have huge vinyl record collections, including Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Peter Wolf (of the J. Geils Band), and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), just to name a few.

Many collecting hobbies have "sub genres." For instance, collecting vinyl records can be divided into any number of specific categories. One could collect specific genres of music (Big Band, Jazz, Classical, etc.) or be partial to a particular record label such as Capitol, Reprise, RCA, Columbia and many others. Some may also collect 45's, picture discs, record sleeves, colored vinyl records, picture discs....well, you get the idea. It is well known that famed pop artist Robert Crumb (who designed the famous album cover for Janis Joplin's "Cheap Thrills" LP) was keen on collecting 78 rpm records and had amassed quite a collection.

Maybe you know someone who collects Pez dispensers. They may have famous celebrities, cartoon characters, specific colored ones, and different years of release and so on. Comic book collectors could also collect a specific type of comic, like super heroes, Archie comics, adult comics, Disney comics or even black and white comics from years gone by.

But, exactly why do people collect? They could gain a measure of satisfaction and pleasure from simply displaying the objects they collect. Sometimes, it is the nostalgia bug that compels people to collect items from a specific era. It could be an item that is associated with their childhood, a famous person or a world famous event. Some collect because of the intrinsic value of an item, and the fact that the item may be desirable to others and can command a profit if they sold it. An item could also have a specific provenance that could compel interest.

Now, is collecting an obsession or some form of "pack rat fever?" The Webster's dictionary defines the word collect to mean "to gather (stamps, books etc.) for a hobby." A collectible is something "that can be collected, suitable for collections; as by a hobbyist-any class of old things, but, not antiques, that people collect as a hobby." It further states that a collector is "a person who collects stamps, books, etc. as a hobby." Products are also manufactured with "collectibility" in mind, such as "limited edition" items like vinyl records, coins, art prints or even cookie jars.

Moreover, the collectible's market has expanded in recent years and fueled by annual price guides, books on the subject, television shows, collectible conventions and Internet auction sites; the collectible's market is now a global phenomenon. There are also professionals who specialize in a certain market and they share their expertise and help to even value these collectibles. There is a science of sorts in how people "grade" certain collectibles (i.e., mint, excellent, fair etc.) and most of the time condition is paramount. All these elements drive the market and help create a desirability factor for specific products and items.

But, the one element missing from the dictionary definition of "collecting" is the drive and passion that people may have for whatever they collect. So let's go a few steps further with our definition of "collecting." Let's define it as: The art of acquiring items or products that you are specifically passionate about and want to retain, either for monetary gain or personal satisfaction. Let's explore this definition in detail.

Is there an art to collecting? There certainly is. One must know where to find exactly what it is that they are seeking. Let's assume you collect vinyl records. Is it best to place an advertisement in a trade publication, local or national newspaper, shop online, or pursue the rummage/garage sale methods? What about going to the "record conventions" that are held in major cities all over the country? Is that the best avenue to pursue? There is an art (some call it a science) to knowing where the best place is to find whatever collectible that you may be looking for.

Furthermore, in the dictionary definitions of collecting, a key term is missing, passion. There is a direct correlation to the drive and motivation a person feels and how successful they may be in acquiring their collectibles. This is a very important element, the enthusiasm a person has, the passion, is what makes whatever they may be collecting, an enjoyable experience. And, obviously the more they put into collecting, the more that they will get in return, not only in monetary terms, but, simply put, the more fun they will have pursuing their hobby.

So next time you shake you're your head at your spouse, friend or family member and call them a "pack rat," remember that they are not only passionate about what they are doing; but actually find a great deal of excitement and personal satisfaction in doing what they are doing. It is one of the most rewarding and pleasurable things a person can do.
About the Author
Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can pick up a copy of his ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Visit his shopping site at http://www.ezshoppinghere.com
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