What drives a person to collect? This can be a complex question and I am sure my psychologist wife knows a lot more on this subject than I do. I can only give my insight from a personal point of view… so no textbook mumbo jumbo here. We are not talking about hoarding either… that is something slightly different.
I think that I have always collected things ever since I was a child, and I clearly know when it all started. I remember when I was about nine years old and cried to my father that I did not have a hobby like other children. I know it sounds silly, but what my father did for me would probably change my outlook for the rest of my life. He knew that I needed something to fuel my mind. He was a teacher for 53 years so he knew a thing or two about motivating kids.
He asked me if I would like to collect stamps and I thought that was a wonderful idea. He started me out with a big blank catalog and a bag of semi-worthless stamps. These are the sort of things you see in the back of comic books. Pretty soon, I had cataloged all the stamps and started pulling stamps from any letter that came into the house.
After that, I started attending stamp club at the elementary school where I met my first boss, Mr. Rosenberg. He was an incredible man who volunteered his time teaching children about stamp collecting. His house was filled with stacks of old letters, stamps from around the world and probably a small fortune in rare postage. For many years, I would mow his yard, and he would pay me in either cash or stamps for my book. It was always my choice… and he was generous with those tiny, perforated works of art.
As I learned about stamp collecting, I began noticing the finer details of them, especially the engraving from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The amount of detail is staggering and I would spend hours looking at tiny printed scenes under a magnifying glass. Believe it or not, this fascination would lead to a career in the commercial art field as a graphic designer and photographer for over 20 years and counting.
Later in life, I would build and dismantle many collections including cameras, masks, books, toy robots, firearms, motorcycles, CDs and DVDs and now watches.All these things are just that… things. They never are more valuable to me than friendships or memories, but they do define me and show my passions at a certain point of my life.
In a way, you are your hobby. For me, collecting is the by-product of intellectual discovery. I tend to throw myself into any subject matter of interest and learn as much as possible about it. Does it have value to anybody else? I doubt it, but it gives me purpose and a passion. I rarely watch TV because I spend most of my time reading about my hobbies. One discovery leads to another…one friend suggests a new point of view…the new point of view opens a door that you never saw before. Just like browsing the web without purpose, you never know where you might end up.
I live for the next discovery, the next deal, the next tidbit of information that broadens my mind and brings the joy of learning. That is what drives me as a collector of things.