Saturday, March 25, 2017

Collecting: more than just gathering stuff

Collection is the act or process of accumulating something. Items from very inexpensive to extravagant. People collect many different things. My husband and I are collectors. It is one of the many things we have in common. For many of our friends and even his co-workers do not understand the drive behind collecting. The desire to collect can originate in many different ways. For many collectors, it falls into three categories, childhood memories and connections. It is the thrill of the hunt for new items. Or the special meaning or symbolism in the subject of the collection. There are many benefits to the brain when someone has a collection.

For many collectors, the joy of collecting stems from their childhood memories. My husband who primarily collects Star Wars action figures and memorabilia. It first began when he was 4 or 5 years ago when someone gave him a Ewok playset and the Cantina playset. However. The bulk of his collection started when he was 17. It’s the memory of getting those playsets as a child which drives his love of collecting. Many of my collection started when I was a teenager. My Coca-Cola collection started when I bought a Coca-Cola bottle with the Argentinean flag on it. It was 1994 World Cup and I thought it was cool. The one bottle turned into a lifetime collection. I’ve also been a long time collector of Precious Memories figurines. I collect pieces which are cute or have a special meaning for me at the time. For instance, one of my favorite pieces is called “Together is the nicest place to be” and it features a couple relaxing on the couch. It was given to me by my husband early in our marriage and it symbolizes exacting how I feel. It does matter what we are doing or where we are, when my husband and I are together is where I want to be.

Another source of joy of collecting is the thrill of the hunt. This is particularly true for my husband. There is a local hobby show called Frank and Sons. It is a large warehouse with individual booths inside where collectors can browse a wide range of collectibles for sale or even trade. Usually when a particular action figure is difficult to find in local retail stores, my husband can go to Frank and Sons and find it. He will look over the piece with a very critical eye, looking for flaws. There could be flaws in the paint, in the sculpting, or in the packaging. He’ll look over the figure while considering the asking price and make a decision about his counteroffer. He is also really good at bargaining with the seller. After a little back and forth, he and the seller will come to a deal which sometimes includes another figure for a lower price. The thrill of looking for the piece, finding the piece and then negotiating a price and the satisfaction when the piece is included in the collection is the satisfaction that comes with collecting.

For some collectors the items they collect have a special meaning or symbolism in their lives. The meaning or symbolism could be what the animal represents or it could have a connection to a loved one who has passed. I have many collections which has special meaning or symbolism to me. I recently started collect owls. In one year, I have quite a collection already. Owls symbolize wisdom and knowledge. I’ve always loved learning. I continue to teach myself new things all the time, so the owl seems to fit my personality. I have also thought owls to beautiful creatures. I’ve also collected wolves since high school. Wolves are another beautiful and majestic creature. Wolves symbolize a strong knowledge and instincts about oneself. Like with owls, I have felt a strong connection with wolves.  I also collect certain animals to represent my children especially my children who have passed. If you’ve read my blog before you know that I lost three children to miscarriage or premature birth. Each animal has a special connection to my children so that I can carry a piece of them with me. It doesn’t matter if anyone else doesn’t understand the symbolism, I do and it is a comfort.

There are many benefits to the brain when someone collects items as a hobby. First, collecting builds observational skills. A collector becomes more cognizant for details and becomes a better finder and seeker for items. For example, my husband’s ability to find the tiniest flaw on an action figure has helped him develop the ability to construct the display case at work which is appealing and inviting. Second, collecting improves organizational skills and enhances pattern recognition. A collection is often organized by shape, size, genre, series, and so on. Organizing the collection into categories enhances the ability to recognize common characteristics and detect gaps or flaws in a pattern. Again, this has helped my husband finds any flaws in a display. Third, collecting may forge a commitment to a good cause. For example, a person who collects elephant figurines may become aware of the elephants’ plight in the wild and make moves to help preserve and advocate preservation of the elephants. Lastly, when collectors are kids, the act of collecting could lead to a future career. For instance, if a child collects rocks, he or she might grow up to be a geologist. Or a child who loves animals and collects plush toys or figurines, may grow up to be a vet or a zoologist or a marine biologist.

In conclusion, if you were to ask any collector regardless of what they collect, their answers might be similar. They find joy and happiness in collecting. It would be joy from childhood or happiness in gathering items of meaning. It is the thrill of finding a particular item to complete a set and the subject of the collection may have special meaning or symbolism to the individual. Collecting benefits the brain and enhances abilities in other areas of life. Collecting enhances someone’s life in ways that benefits them. In my opinion, everyone collects something, some just don’t realize it.  

P.S. the pictures featuring my husband's collection is only a small fraction of his entire collection