I Collect You For Sentimental Reasons
September 14, 2010 | view archive
My neighbor just did a really nice thing for his wife. He bought her a brand new light up curio cabinet for her to display the collection of pressed aluminum serving pieces that she inherited from her grandmother. Considering that he bought said cabinet brand new off the showroom floor at a well-known furniture company, I am pretty sure that in the end, he actually spent more on the thing to show off his wife’s collection than the collection is probably worth. But, that doesn’t matter. This was Granny’s stuff we are talking about, and to my neighbor, this fact alone makes that aluminum more valuable than a pile of gold.
That’s the way it goes with collecting. There’s a thin line that divides those who collect for sentimental reasons apart from those who collect for other reasons. For some, it isn’t the price attached to an item that gives it value: it’s the objects history, and the personal memories attached to that object that give it value. I have a small Weller bunny planter in my china cabinet. It would probably sell for less than $20 at an antique show, but the fact that my dad gave it to my mother when they were newlyweds back in the 1950s makes it invaluable to me.
Stuff like that is often the most difficult to let go at auction, and can bring disappointment when the bidding doesn’t end where you think it should. That’s why it’s important to understand the nature of collecting. People choose to collect things for a variety of reasons. A very small margin of folks collect as investment, and stockpile items like its nonperishable food set aside for the apocalypse. But, for most, it’s more of a personal thing. People choose to collect the things they collect for the most personal reasons you can imagine: People collect the things they collect because they LIKE them.
Some folks are attracted to things because of their rarity. Others gather nostalgic items that remind them of childhood. Then, there are people who are fascinated by certain periods in history and choose to gather objects and memorabilia that bring them a few steps closer to the past. A large percentage of collectors gravitate toward objects for their rarity and craftsmanship.
One thing that rings true for devoted collectors across the board is that they are willing to spend the highest dollar within their budget to add the next adored object to their collections. The passion sometimes has no relevance to anyone but the collectors themselves. For some, it might be costume jewelry, for others Tiffany lamps. If I had my way, I would amass an impressive collection of vintage ukuleles. But, the reality is, for many collectors, especially those new to the experience, that budget often speaks louder than the desirability of an item.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn everything there is to know about what you want to collect. One mistake new collectors frequently make is that they are apt run out and buy anything and everything that has to do with their new passion. I made that mistake early on when I fell in love with the ukulele. I bid online for items not because they were good but because they were cheap, and I ended up with a couple of unplayable ukuleles.
Fortunately for me, I spent less than $100 on a few junky instruments before I realized that, if I saved my money, I could put it toward better quality instruments down the road. I did my homework, and I learned what to look for, and what I could afford. This means less frequent purchases, so that buyer’s high doesn’t come around as often as I’d like. But, the upside is, when I do successfully bid on a really great item, that high is more satisfying and longer lasting, because I end up with a quality item that I can actually enjoy.
Better items might cost more and be more difficult to find, but that shouldn’t stop you from collecting what you love. Dan Ripley advises, “Always buy the very best that you can afford.” That might mean holding out for the good stuff, instead of scattering your hard earned cash around on less-desirable objects. You could amass a large collection of middle of the road porcelain, or you could hold out for incredible pieces like the Limoges game plate sets that Antique Helper will offer at auction later this month.
And then there’s that whole thing about letting go. If you love it, keep it. If you’re just not feeling the romance, be willing to let something go. It will bring whatever the market demands, and you will find yourself with more space and cash to spend on the items that truly speak to you, even if only something just like your Granny’s aluminum serving tray.