The dictionary definition of a collector is: a person who collects things of a specified type, professionally or as a hobby.
Are you a collector? Or are you baffled by it? Do you think it’s all just clutter.
If you are one of those people then let me explain if I can what it’s all about with my own experiences.
When you think of collectors, you can obviously think of the bad side of it, the phenomena known as hoarding. But you need to know, you can be a collector on all scales from those who have whole garages filled with Star wars memorabilia, to those who simply want to complete a book series they are reading like Harry Potter. Collectors come in all shapes and sizes. Some spend a fortune on things like vintage cars, or Faberge eggs and some spend next to nothing because they collect things like certain brand packaging or stones they find on beaches.
Growing up a wee bit short of funds myself, I began collecting matchboxes. My father worked in London restaurants and clubs in the eighties and used to bring home matchboxes branded with the name of the bar and such. This was in an era when smoking was allowed inside buildings and instead of business cards or flyers, businesses printed matchboxes as advertising. The boxes or matchbooks were so colourful it caught my childish eye and thus I started collecting them. It was nice for my father too because it meant he could easily please his daughter with free things. I came to value a matchbox more than a bought gift at Christmas. It was thrilling every time he brought home a new one. He was always keeping an eye out and would even get regular customers who travelled to bring him new ones for me. It became something that bonded father and daughter and I still miss that part of my life. If you have children, I can’t recommend enough to do something similar.
Unfortunately, the jar I put my collection in got broken and my mum who suffers from OCD, eventually got rid of my collection, though I still retain one box as a keepsake to this day. It was hard to collect anything at that point for anyone in my family because my mum who I love dearly would eventually just throw everything away. But the perils of living with someone with OCD is for another time and a different blog.
My next collection is one I still have today. Comics. It began in the nineties when the X-men cartoon was being shown on TV. My mind was blown. I thought all comics were like the Beano, boy based and not funny to me. This x-men was emotional, it was drama and I was hooked. Back then there was a little comic shop in my town, so finally I braved going in. It was as scary as I thought it would be. All the customers were men and teenage boys and they all stared at me. I nearly ran a mile. However the shop keeper then came out from the back and spied me, a woman shopkeeper. She quickly took me under wing and got me started collecting X-men comics. For years I read and collected them and other Marvel comics. Lets just say I could fill a few bookcases with how many I have. But by my mid-twenties the story-line was getting too gritty for me, so I stopped collecting. Let me be clear. You NEVER really stop collecting comics, you just take more time and shift your focus. So to this day I still have my back issues to collect to try and complete a series, you don’t have to be up-to-date in the story-line. That’s the joy of collecting, you set your own rules.
Randomly, in my twenties I got into the habit of collecting teapots. I had loads. I like tea but i’m not obsessed with it as some are. I have no idea how this new collection came about, I think I was just filling the void from comic collecting. But one day, I looked at all these teapots and saw them as simply useless hunks of junk that collected dust. So I got rid of them all. And that also has its own joy, to sell or give them to another collector and see their happiness with an object you found.
I realised going on, that in the main, I preferred collecting useful things. Though I became aware that even collecting useful things can be odd. I had a friend who collected Bic lighters. He freely admitted it was weird but at least they were useful. It’s important to not judge peoples collections, if it pleases someone and isn’t unhealthy or harmful to others, then let them be.
I had stumbled into my thirties and opened up my bookshop. It became apparent to me just before I did so, that I collected books. I had always accrued books because I’m a voracious reader but I never really thought of it as a collection. People with a lot of books will just call them libraries or proclaim to be a bookworm but for me I have a library and a collection. You may wonder what the difference is. Well for example, I collect Agatha Christie’s Poirot series but more than that, I will have several copies of the same book because of the different artwork on the cover. Thus a bookworm falls into being a collector. I honestly didn’t even notice when the shift happened, probably years ago but I will never not collect books, it’s just a part of me. As I write this now in my small flat, seven bookcases line the walls and I keep demanding my boyfriend build me another as books are overflowing.
And speaking of my boyfriend. When we got together in my mid thirties, it was only then I got a real insight of what a real collector is, for he is one. Here are some of the things he currently collects and has done most of his life. Nintendo merchandise, model railway items, railway books, Pokemon cards, Yu-gi-oh cards, James Bond toy cars, Pokemon merchandise and many other little random things like train tickets, certain coins and other things that I can’t fathom. Even for me who is a collector, this level of collecting has been a learning curve and something I’ve had to learn to adapt to because the consequence is, a lot of stuff. But he displays it all nicely and that is important. In my opinion when a collection goes past the point of being able to display it all nicely, then it’s pointless and borders on hoarding. If your collection is in boxes in the loft, it’s time to get control and maybe streamline.
In my late thirties my boyfriend and I went to Japan, the mecca of collecting. We had a great time collecting silly things like Gashapon toys together and also Pokemon bits and bobs as his Pokemon obsession transferred to me too. I also collected stamps from every station we visited which was free and gave us fun memories, plus we loved just photographing the special manholes that are dotted all over japan, like a weird sewer spotter. And that’s a massive part of the hobby of collecting, the hunt! The old adage goes, it’s about the journey not the destination. That often applies to collecting. It’s often more fun hunting for the thing you’re collecting then getting it.
Probably the best thing about collecting however, is when you do it with someone else. It’s more fun when you can share your passion. Whether it’s with loved ones like I did with my father or currently do with my boyfriend. But there are always others out there that you can find who also collect the same thing as you and want to talk to you about it, swap items or even meet up. Great friends can be made when you collect something and I fully recommend giving it a go.
So for those of you who don’t collect. Give it a go, it won’t do any harm and you might have fun and meet like minded people. And if you are already a collector, then tell me about it. You can tweet me using the hashtag #imacollector
Pictures are always welcome. Below are a couple of the Japanese manholes I was talking about.