Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 4.14

When it comes right down to it, I just don’t care a lick for my Mom’s collection of carousel horse figurines, or TheRealBoy’s array of musical instruments. I’m happy it makes them happy, but that’s it. You’d think I’d be invested in my own collections (say, maybe my Doctor Who action figures) but now that those are packed away, I don’t much miss them and I’m left to wonder why I spent all that money along the way.

What compels people to collect? What do you collect? Why?


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. Also, I am tired and I read your first sentence as

    “When it comes right down to it, I just don’t care to lick my Mom’s collection of carousel horse figurines, or TheRealBoy’s array of musical instruments.”

    And I thought, well ick, I wouldn’t want to lick carousel horses either!

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever collected anything. I’m assuming that merely failing to throw things away doesn’t count.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that people do it to feel connected to the subject of the collection.

  3. I’m always trying to keep clutter to a minimum so I wouldn’t make much of a collector. Some activities I like involve accumulating a number of objects but I wouldn’t call this collecting. However if I had more disposable income I would certainly have a bigger art collection

  4. I don’t really collect anything, at least nothing specific. I save pictures and occasional … trinkets? from events and stuff. A button here, a pen there. But every so often, I go through and toss stuff out, because I’m not really overly attached to much.

    I used to collect pens. I’d steal pens left and right, all different kinds. I had a TON. Random, I know.

  5. In the pre-Amazon dark ages, I knew people who collected things because their friends and realtives didn’t know what to give them.

    At some point, my wife picked up four of the Comedy/Tragedy masks. Family and friends decided that she was collecting them. For the next decade, she got a half-dozen little metal or ceramic masks every year. Finally she put her foot down, donated all but four to Goodwill, and told everyone as firmly as possible that she would rather have a giftcard if they didn’t know what to get her.

  6. The only things I go out of my way to acquire are one-celled organisms that make food. I have several strains of lactobacillus for making different kinds of yogurt. Matsoni is my favorite. It makes an intensely white, creamy yogurt and it works at room temperature. I have a sourdough culture that contains a real witches brew of bacteria and yeast and probably some molds by now. I’ve got a couple of cultures for adding flavor to cheese, although the cheese itself is formed mostly by enzymes. (I don’t collect enzymes.) I also have a water-kefir for making soda. In the past I’ve had about 20 strains of beer yeast, but these require constant reculturing so I eventually let them go out of laziness.

    The thing I love most about this collection? I regularly get to eat parts of it!

  7. I’ve never understood the desire to own a shelf full of matching dust catchers. Collecting something useful (that you actually use) is another thing altogether. I own more tools than any one person probably should. This is due mostly to my inability to stick with one line of work. I don’t, however, keep stuff I don’t use at least once in a while.

  8. My dad is a hoarder. Mom collects Lady Alexanders, tea cups, little wooden houses, depression glass and a bunch of other crap. Growing up in a house with an unreal amount of crap probably turned me off of collections. My home is quite sparse. The only thing I do collect is pamphlets from the 30s-60s on being a good wife. I think they should be saved for future generations.

  9. @davew: I like your idea of collecting. I’ve been making wine for a while and just started beer making. If I knew where to get some good quality raw goats milk I might try cheese making if I knew where to get the proper little bugs. It would be fun to try and reproduce some of the great hard Spanish and soft French goat cheeses that are so very expensive.

  10. I can’t say it’s a “collection” but I do have a large number of pets.

    I do collect fossils, shells, rocks, and cephalopod related stuff. I’m not a collector in the sense of getting stuff because it matches ot is desirable, I collect things which I find interesting or pretty regardless of value.

  11. @James Fox:

    Raw milk is definitely best. I wish I could just get unhomogenized milk. I’m can live with pasteurization. Right now for cows milk I use a mix of 1 part cream to 7 parts skim milk. This ratio produces something like what raw milk is before they puree and cook it. I’m wondering if a similar trick would work for goat’s milk.

  12. I have a few hundred vinyl albums, plenty of hippie/punk comic books, Hot Wheels with surf themes, dozens of Simson’s figures, several model rockets, and a small collection of bongs and pipes.

    It drives my wife nuts. She’s the only thing I’ve made it a point to lick.

  13. @davew:

    If you live close to a dairy farm, you might be able to take some from their bulk tank before the scheduled pickup. It was a long time ago, but when I was a kid we used to go to the local farm and get the unpasteurized milk directly from the tank. It would separate in the fridge, and then we would skim off the cream.

  14. When I was younger I collected comic books. Then I had a family and ran out of money so I gave them all to the kids to do whatever they wanted with them.

    Now I collect experiences. I store them in my memory and replay them later.

    One that gets replayed a lot is sunset over monteray bay. I had just run two miles down the beach with my friend. We same in bay after the sun set and then walked back to our hotel. I really like that one.

    Oh, and no one licked anything.

  15. What compels people to collect? An excellent question and I’ve no answer. Years ago I was almost sucked into the Magic The Gathering phenomenon. Thankfully, I was able to look at affected friends from a third-person point of view and only ended up getting a few packs of cards. …

    On the other hand, definitely kitchen knives. I just love a good kitchen knife and, even though I have plenty for almost all needs (basic requirements: a parer, a slicer of 8 to 10 inches, a 8 inch chef’s, and for real cooks a boning knife and something with heft like a cleaver or santoku), but I can’t help adding new treasures every couple of months… lovely Shun pattern welded, Kyocera ceramic… swoon.

  16. I like to collect magazines. Especially science magazines. Now, I will give away some kind of magazines, like Times, which I did, but I would never give away my Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazines, plus my only copy of Seed magazine.

  17. Various things over the year. When I lose interest in them, I sell or donate or give away the items. At one time, I had a large collection of Depression class in a specific pattern and color, and I used it. When I got tired of it, I sold it at a consignment store that was operated for the benefit of disable adult community home. Right now, I have over 100 Christmas tree ornaments that are rocking horse (or -ish, such as a rocking camel) in all sorts of media – blown glass, carved wood, silver, just no plastic or no mass-produced Hallmark types. But those are packed away except at Christmas..and I haven’t decorated the house in several years.

    My books aren’t a collection -they’re my library, but I don’t hoard books like some do. If it’s a bad book, or something that I know I nor my spawn will ever read again, I donate it to or similar org. And if I get more than 2o or so books out that I’ve not read, I don’t buy any more until I can get to those.

    My mom has a big collection of antique glass ‘hens on a nest’ dishes. Can you say eBay?

  18. I collect stuff in that I don’t throw anything away, just like Steve.

    I also have lots of pets, like Noadi.

    Other than that, my attention span is too short and my interests far too varied to really collect any one thing. Plus, I’m broke. I can barely afford my orchestra and roller derby habits!

  19. @geek goddess: “My books aren’t a collection -they’re my library, but I don’t hoard books like some do. If it’s a bad book, or something that I know I nor my spawn will ever read again, I donate it to or similar org. And if I get more than 2o or so books out that I’ve not read, I don’t buy any more until I can get to those.”

    I would say I collect math books as I buy them faster than I can get through them. I made the mistake of selling a bunch when I flunked out of a math PhD program, and I’ve lived to regret it

    I used to collect coins as a kid, but I was more into the lore of coins and currency than the actual collection.

    @Elyse: Speaking of lickable collectables …

  20. I usually collect to sate my obsession of the month.

    And then once I’ve sated that desire, I usually spend a week denying that I collected anything, and disavowing my nerdiness.

    But then I watch a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and realize that geek is chic, and then expound upon the wondorous nature of living in a universe with 11 dimensions (hypothetically).

  21. I’m an insane collector of old pen and paper RPG stuff and when I have spare money Ebay is my best friend (recent lack of money meant that I missed some really cheap old 2nd Edition RQ boxed supplements – damn!)

  22. I think people collect because they like having something to show off, or because they’re lonely and their collections keep them company, or to have control over something…
    I don’t really collect anything, either. Sometimes I buy those Charming Tails figurines, because sometimes they’re just so darn cute -and they are really good at collecting dust, themselves. I collect books, I suppose, and lists of books I want to read.

  23. I collect NCAA mascots. I have about 75 as of now. When we are traveling we always stop at a college or university and go to their bookstore to see if they have a mascot. They are all different and interesting. Every now and then my Kansas Jay sings the fight song out of nowhere which is creepy. Otherwise – Otto the Orange is fun to squeeze and my Banana Slug makes everyone laugh.

  24. @junco:

    Thanks. I’ll check it out. Unfortunately our closest goat farm went bust, but I can still ask them. The problem now is everyone wants to sell “cow shares” to conform with state law. My problem is I don’t need a little milk every week; I need a lot of milk about 4 times a year. It’s still worth asking though. Maybe sometimes they have some unaccountable spillage. These things happen.

  25. I used to collect all sorts of stuff. On a trip to Scotland when the exchange rate was (I’m not making this up) $1.20=1pound… I bought a bunch (a big bunch) of these David Winter cottages and castles and brewery and… well I have a town. It’s collecting dust in a very quiet corner now (a dark corner). I checked once on ebay, it’s all worth zip. The kids will never want it, they collect their own stuff! I smell Salvation Army for it next move. I did enjoy it for many years though.

    I’ve got tea pots. Accidentally. Bought a few and now people keep giving them to me. I packed up about half and don’t miss them a bit. But still…way too many teapots and I’m just not that kind of girl. My sister in law once sent out am email saying “look NO MORE CHICKENS. I haven’t collected chicken stuff for the kitchen for over 10 years!” I’m guilty of sending her endless chickens.

    I still collect duck/bunnies. I can’t afford to collect them anymore… but I keep an eye for more. A duck bunny is a vase/planter that looks like a duck one way and a bunny the other. I also have a lot of old planters that are in YELLOW. But can’t afford those anymore as they used to be $2-5 and now are BIG time collectors things. Oh and they had to be WEIRD (like the dog with three faces, or the frogs that have open mouths where you put flowers).

    I also collect one piece of glass from an antique store in Marais whenever I go to Paris. It’s usually something like an old mustard jar, or a baby bottle from the 30’s. I buy just ONE, and it goes in my kitchen on a shelf and I enjoy looking at it. Actually I use the measuring cups and there is a towel rack that is also lovely. But JUST ONE, and then I go take photographs.

    It will all end up in the greatest garage sale ever, or as I have informed the kids in my will “look just torch the house with all the junk in it and take the insurance money, it will be easier..”

    Did I mention my husband has possibly on the most complete Eurpean high speed train model collections in the US. And that he belongs to a CLUB where all they do is collect European train models? (there has to be a club for everything). It’s ALL old white dudes with a basement FULL of trains and children that are saying “when you die, that’s all in the trash.”

  26. The only thing I ever “collected” per se that I can recall was when I was obsessed with obtaining a copy of each of the four mysteries written by Sarah Caudwell. I read the last one she wrote a couple of years after she died, and after cursing the fates for a bit, embarked on my search. The library had them so I did get to read them, but I wanted to own all of them. I set myself a rule that I would not buy them online – that would be too easy. I must find the book in the flesh, as it were.
    One turned up at my university’s bookstore – I can only assume they had a box of them they’d forgotten in a corner somewhere. Two I found in used bookstores on the Island with relative ease. The last one was driving me batty for a long time, but I finally managed to find a copy in a gigantic warehouse-style used bookstore in Ottawa. Yaaaay!
    I think people may actually collect things for the same reason we play video games. It offers a challenge with a clearly defined goal and the pleasure associated with beating the challenge, without being excessively difficult or painful. Personally I’m trying to come up with some new hunt I can come up with since completing the last one.

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