Collecting, What Does It Really Mean?

Back to Archives

The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.

Collecting is a practice with a very old cultural history. As far back as the Egyptians, books were collected from all over the known world. The Medici family, in Renaissance Florence, made the first attempt to collect art by private patronage.

If you’ve ever heard the term “takes one to know one” then you have the perfect description of a true collector.

Collectors have a code that’s easily identifiable just simply by the reaction of someone who’s listening to what it is, that you collect. People will either politely nod and move on or if they “get it,” will immediately engage the collector.

Over the years I’ve met hundreds of non-sports collectors; we all have one thing in common that immediately stands out. It’s passion. How can you do anything in this world without passion?

I watched a program one night about a chap who collected “yoyo’s.” This gentleman had over 15,000 yoyo’s all displayed in a beautifully designed round room, with mahogany and glass cabinetry overlooking the main entrance of his multi-million dollar mansion. The collection had an appraised value of $75,000. The reporter doing the interview pointed out a large vase that was in the room. The collector said his wife had given it to him as a decoration piece while pointing out a couple of other vases throughout the room. When informed that the one vase alone was worth more than the entire collection, the collector just shrugged his shoulders and carried on talking about the few yoyos’ he still needed to complete his collection. Some people may say “nut-bar,” I say, “That’s a real collector.”

It’s a great feeling to find a rare item as a collector. What makes the item special, is researching the story of the piece. It has to start with the seller. If a seller can’t speak to the item with any sense of knowledge, my advice would be, don’t buy it. Sharing information, along with preserving the history of the item and enlightening others is what true collectors love to do.

A very prominent Bay St. money manager collects Tim Horton coffee cups.

I get it!

His theory for collecting the cups is that the design changes frequently and people just toss them away and one day they will become a collectable. I did point out that original Tim Horton employee paper hats and uniforms can sell for hundreds of dollars. Also, Tim Horton hamburger employee clothing, menus, hats, wrappers, can command premium prices. He didn’t know that and was smiling the whole time I shared that information. I now make a point of watching for the new cup designs not only seasonally but for promotions as well. The design on the cup changes a lot more than I imagined I’m finding out.

I’ve engaged in lively conversations about collecting items like guitar picks, press passes, radios, sewing machines, lamps, match boxes, lighters and many more.

I sat beside a well-dressed businessman on flight to San Antonio years ago on my way to the final four. Sports came up of course and after explaining he wasn’t much of a basketball fan but rather preferred baseball he went on to explain he had amassed an impressive run of World Series press pins right back to 1925. After speaking about my collection briefly, he then went on to explain that the pins were nice but his true love was collecting Corp toy trucks. This was a new one for me but I was immediately hooked to hear more.

He was a salesman and travelled across the States; years ago he received a truck as a gift from a client. After acquiring a few, he fell in love with these trucks. They are the size of a kid’s toy “dinky” truck but exact replicas of the Corporations truck and logo. He showed me pictures of his recreation room specifically designed to hold the 2,500 he had accumulated. It was very impressive. I grilled him with questions for the next hour to find out more about these trucks. Did he have traders; did he pay for some of them, are there other collectors in this field, questions like that. He then volunteered that he was starting to acquire Corp toy airplanes and at that point had around a 100.

We exchanged pleasantries at the gate and went our separate ways. We had nothing in common as far as what we collected, far from it. However the “code” came into play, as collectors we do not have to collect the same things to speak the same language. That’s why he opened up to me about his hobby. He knew I’d get it and not smile at the thought of a grown man collecting toy trucks.

Everyone has run across a collector at some point in his or her lives. Some while fascinated still just shrug their shoulders and say “not for me.”

The historical significance of a piece of memorabilia should never be lost on any of us. That moment in time could also conjure up images and events from that era.

I collect Notre Dame football and like to show people a program from the only game every cancelled in Notre Dame’s 125+ year history. It’s labeled, “the game never played,” Saturday November 23, 1963. Then I show the visitor an extremely rare program that would have been sold that day and a pair of unused tickets. The question that will usually follow, “Why was the game not played?”

The game wasn’t played, because the day before, Friday November 22, 1963 was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.