A Collector’s Mindset

Tam K. on collecting the old-fashioned way:

(I’m not going the internet auction site route, because it always feels to me like the gun collecting equivalent of hunting over a baited field. It’d be like having a computerized database of exactly what old sports cars are in which barns across the country, or having clear wrapping paper on your Christmas presents.)

In all the various things I collect and/or accummulate, I generally limit myself to things I find in the wild at garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, and the occasional antique mall. I could hit eBay and fill out my collections easily and, sadly, start new collections too easily. But that’s so… cold. I get a lot of satisfaction in digging around and finding something on my own and holding it in my hands.

So much of collecting is hunting for things, of almost getting them but not quite. The thrill of finding a stash of Herb Alpert albums in an estate sale, the brief hope that it will include You Smile – The Song Begins but finding it only includes the best sellers from the 1960s. That little disappointment will sweeten the triumph if I ever do find it.

Collecting comes with stories about collecting. Stories about estate sales you’ve seen, different homes you’ve visited and explored while looking, different things you’ve bought. Ask me about my Robert B. Parker collection, and I won’t tell you about the advanced reading copies, television scripts, and limited edition numbered copies I bought on eBay. I’ll tell you about the hour and a half I spent in the 18-and-older back room of a downtown Milwaukee bookstore scouring through shelves of men’s magazines (blushing the whole time, I’m sure) to find a copy of the Gallery magazine from May 1984 featuring Parker’s short story “The Surrogate”. Thankfully, I found one and included it among a stack of other lesser books picked up because I hoped, foolishly, to camouflage the men’s magazine amongst them. But the clerk knew what I was doing. Of course he would.

Finding that sort of thing on the Internet ain’t collecting. It’s buying.

Also, let’s be honest, you don’t find bargains on Internet auction sites. Most of the power sellers know the maximum price the market will bear, and many of the inexperienced sellers price their articles above what the market will bear. What I want, I want cheap. Generally.

Hey, don’t you work for a company that helps collectors more effectively leverage the Internet to add to their collections? Yeah, I know. But my preferred style is still in-person. And the service will let me hunt for other people, which can be almost as fun as hunting for myself.

P.S. I was going to ding Ms. K for adding to her collection by going to gun shows, quipping that gun shows or any other collectible shows are the low-tech equivalent of Internet marketplaces, but I can’t take a collectior-than-thou stance here given my affinity for book fairs. Besides, shows are opportunities for fellowship, and Internet marketplaces are not.

P.P.S. To further undercut my point, during my research for this post, I found a copy of Gallery from May 1984 listed on Amazon for ten bucks. So I bought it. BECAUSE I MUST OWN THEM ALL.

2 thoughts on “A Collector’s Mindset

  1. Also, in many cases, especially in collecting things from one’s youth, you get memories about collecting things that trigger memories.

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