It is often said that “If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them”.
After watching a fascinating programme ‘Collectaholics’ on BBC2 on Wednesday evening about collectors and their collections I started to think about why people collect and how it can become an obsession.
Collecting is for some people a childhood hobby, for others it may be a lifelong pursuit or one that begins in adulthood. When I was a child, I remember collecting a variety of things from decorative erasers to stamps and shells from visits to the beach but became bored of my collections very quickly. Perhaps because they were very random items that had no real personal meaning for me. Today I wouldn’t class myself as a collector as such, but I do admit to having a bit of a thing for old brooches (especially Art Deco style ones whether authentic or reproduction) and glass paperweights as for me they invoke memories of my grandmother. I don’t actively seek out new and rare examples to add to my collection though, it’s more a case of stumbling across something that catches my beady little magpie eye when I’m out and about.
Collecting is a practice with a very old cultural history. The collecting hobby has been called a modern descendant of the cabinet of curiosities which was common among scholars with the means and opportunities to acquire unusual items from the 16th century onwards. The Victorians in particular filled their homes with a vast array of curios and collectables.
The hobby of collecting will often go hand-in-hand with a genuine interest in the objects collected and what they represent, for example collecting postcards may reflect an interest in different places and cultures. The beauty of collecting is that you can collect anything and it doesn’t have to be expensive, although some collectors will spend large amounts of money for that one special or rare item. People collect for a variety of reasons; for investment, to preserve the past or simply for the joy of surrounding yourself with items that make you nostalgic or happy.
Various terms exist to describe people who collect specific items, for example:
- philatelist – stamps
- numismatist – coins and banknotes
- lepidopterist – butterflies and moths
- coleopterist – beetles
- dipterist – flies
- arctophile – teddy bears
- oologist – birds’ eggs
- deltiologist – postcards
- notaphilist – banknotes
- tegestologist – beer mats
- phillumenist – matchboxes or matchbook labels
- scripophilist – old bond and share certificates
[Source for terms: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com]
Although there can be a dark side to collecting, when the collection becomes more of a compulsion than a hobby, collecting is still mostly associated with positive emotions. As long as your collection does not impact negatively on your life and makes you smile, then just enjoy the childish excitement you feel when you stumble across something new to add to your collection of treasures.