Why do we collect things?
Let’s dig into the human psyche for a second.
I believe that the majority of collections are formed for one of 3 reasons.
1. Collections give us a purpose (something to do)
Why else would people collect items like bottled water labels or sugar packets? It’s simply something to search for and occupy your mind with. A collection gives you a goal – find another unique sugar packet. It also allows us to celebrate each time that we find something new.
2. Collections allow us to relive memories
Do you collect native items to display in your home each time you travel to a new state/country? Do you collect spoons, mugs, or photographs from every place you’ve been? Others collect because of a childhood memory or in order to remember a loved one. No matter what your reason for collecting, there are most likely fond memories associated with at least a few pieces in your collection.
3. Collections can act as investments
I used to have tens of thousands of baseball, basketball, and football cards when I was a teenager. I was convinced that they were an excellent investment and that one day I would be literally swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck (Ducktails anyone? And yes, I’m aware that Scrooge swam through gold coins, but even as a child I realized that diving into gold coins was a bad idea and should be left to cartoon characters.)
So, ask me how many millions I made on my collection. Never mind, you know the answer. I gave away 95% of my cards to various people and saved a shoe box full (that I still have) for my son to have later if he so chooses. Why did I do this? Much more for reason #2 than reason #3. Some of the cards in that box are worthless, but represent some of my favorite players growing up. There’s some sentimental value associated with them, which is why I’ll end up passing them on to Landry one day instead of just collecting a few hundred dollars on eBay.
But, some people own collections in order to profit on them one day. Coins, stamps, autographs, and antiques are just a few of the examples that come to mind. Hopefully they’re better at it than I am.
Now that we’ve established why we collect, let’s look at the pros and cons.
Everything we just discussed earlier CAN be good if dealt with properly. Collecting can teach determination, it can create and summon memories, and it can even be an investment if you REALLY know what you’re doing.
Collecting Creates Clutter
Some people don’t mind clutter. I can’t stand it. I’m a fairly practical person, so knick-knacks are not my thing. I like a well-designed home and appreciate beauty as much as the next person, but I like to minimize the items that don’t serve a purpose. So, while I love having a teapot to make tea in, two teapots would seem like a waste, and 20 teapots would drive me batty.
Collecting Costs Cash
Let’s say you collect watches. You’ve been collecting for the last couple years and have accumulated 50 watches. They range from garage sale finds to antique time pieces. If we assume that the average watch in your collection cost $50 – some cost much more, but others were gifts – then we can say that your collection has cost you at least $2,500.
What if you collect cookie jars instead? They’re much cheaper and probably only average around $15 a piece since you’ve found several at rummage sales. That’s still $750. For most of us, $750 isn’t going to send us into bankruptcy, but is that your only collection? If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have more than one collection.
Just be careful. I’ve walked into homes where I can essentially see stacks of cash sitting on their shelves and bookcases. Not to mention the display cases that these items sit in. There are plenty of folks that have tens of thousands of dollars wrapped up into their collections.
If you want to keep collecting, but like the idea of saving money, it might be time to consider a free or nearly free collection (like photographs). That way you can still capture your fondest memories or relive your travels, but at a fraction of the price.
Collecting Compounds Crazy
I don’t think collecting creates crazy, but I think it’s certainly possible that it could compound it. In other words, the crazy was already there, it just needed a push, and the collecting may have shoved it a little too hard. Here are 10 people that demonstrate this point well.
10 Completely Crazy Collections
1. Barf Bags
Niek Vermeulen of the Netherlands has collected over 6,000 “airline sickness” bags. The sick sacks originate from 1,142 different airlines and more than 160 countries. He’s been collecting since the 1970’s.
In Niek’s defense, this is probably my favorite collection of the bunch. If I felt differently about collecting, I suppose I could see myself doing this. At least it’s most likely a fairly cheap item to gather and many of the bags probably mark his travels. So, it’s like a photograph, but more practical and not as pretty.
2. Armored Vehicles
Jacques Littlefield from the good ol’ USA owns the largest collection of privately-owned armored vehicles in the world. He apparently displays all 229 of them at his home in California! His collection includes 70 tanks. Don’t worry, all of them have been de-activated.
Talk about an expensive collection! On the other hand, I suppose he could probably get some of his money back from museums…or the scrap yard.
Derryl Ogden, from the U.S., has more than 16,000 neckties in his collection. He started collecting in 1934. Talk about an easy Father’s Day gift! Derryl actually wants a tie.
I feel like someone should let Derryl know about Gösta Adolfsson from Sweden. He has a collection of over 7,000 tie clips. They should get together.
4. Clothing Tags
Tao Chun Lin (China) has a collection of 102,005 clothing tags. Why Tao, Why?
On the other hand, it would be an easy collection to compile if you were willing to simply rip them off clothing as you walked through Macy’s.
According to cat-world.com, Jack and Donna Wright of Ontario set the record by owning 689 cats!
Tang Yu, from China, has the world’s largest collection with 30,000 unique teapots. His collection includes teapots from all the way back in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279).
My mom collects teapots. Looks like she has some work to do.
7. Spice Girls Memorabilia
Poor Elizabeth West is recorded as having the largest Spice Girls collection in the world. Elizabeth, did you do this on purpose?!
She has over 2,000 unique pieces of memorabilia including costumes that the girls have worn. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop shaking my head in a condescending manner.
8. Two-Headed Animals
Yes, that’s what it says. Two-headed animals. I’m not going to lie. Despite my reluctance to collect, I’m relatively jealous of this particular collection. Can you imagine a yard full of two-headed animals?!!!
Todd Ray, who is apparently a former Grammy award-winning producer, has spent over $150,000 acquiring 22 different two-headed animals. From the sounds of it, all 22 are alive including a king snake, a goat, and, my favorite, a turtle named Myrtle, Squirtle, and Thirdle. That’s right! The turtle has 3 heads! It’s the only 3-headed creature currently living. He also has some “preserved” 2 headed specimens to go along with the live collection.
9. Cabbage Patch Dolls
I don’t know if you’ve seen this video before, but these fine folks have 5,000 cabbage patch kids. But, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Joe and Pat built a 6,000 square foot, climate controlled home JUST for their cabbage patch kids. Meanwhile, they live in a 1,000 square foot mobile home next door.
It’s obvious that their collection has become an obsession. The really creepy part is that they almost seem to place the same worth on their “kids” (don’t call them dolls!) as they do on their own flesh-and-blood daughter. Joe and Pat seem like the perfect example of a collection “compounding crazy”. Judge for yourself.
You can read about the interview here.
10. Luxury Cars
Last, but certainly not least, is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. He is believed to own around 500 Rolls-Royces – the largest private collection in the world. In fact, during the ‘90s, his family accounted for almost half of all Rolls-Royce purchases!
However, Sultan Bolkiah doesn’t stop there. His entire car collection is believed to contain over 7,000 cars and be worth around $4 billion! Besides his 500+ Rolls Royces, he also owns more than 550 Mercedes, 450 Ferraris, 380 Bentleys, 170 Porsches, and a whole lot more. Lamborghinis, Koenigseggs, Jaguars, very rare concept cars, even Formula One Race Cars.
Many words pop into my mind when I read about this type of abundance, but “irresponsible” is near the top of the list. Why on earth does anyone need that many cars? Think about what that money could have been used for instead. The possibilities are endless.
You probably don’t have a collection that rivals any of those, but keep in mind how much money and time can go into collecting. I’m certainly not trying to vilify collecting. My message is only to be careful. If your goal is to save money and live a more frugal life, collections can become a hindrance if not handled correctly.
Many of us can point to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars that have been spent on our collections. And while they may fulfill some sort of need in our lives (memories, sentiment, purpose), all of those needs can be found elsewhere. A vast collection is not the only answer to remember a loved one or pursue a passion.
After all, how many mugs do you really need?
Your turn: What’s your opinion? What do you collect? Comment below.
Most of the collections listed in this article
were found at www.guinnessworldrecords.com
Two-Headed Snake photo provided by Jason Pratt