The Virtues of Collecting

A few of my favorite things

Great collectors have always been famous throughout history. In fact, both John Lennon and Freddie Mercury collected stamps as kids, and stamps helped Amelia Earhart finance her transatlantic flights. (See Lennon’s childhood stamp album at the National Postal Museum). In 1877, Thomas Edison made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. You can still hear the strains of the music and melodies he collected in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Even the eccentric tycoon J. Paul Getty could not resist the allure of collecting. In 1965, he wrote of  “the romance and zest—the excitement, suspense, thrills, and triumphs—that make art collecting one of the most exhilarating and satisfying of all human endeavors.”

As an adult who has sat in rooms with enough Webkinz and stuffed animals to populate an ark , and miles of miniature trains and tracks, I have been astonished by how breathtaking and personally revealing individual collections can be. From pressed pennies to snow globes and comic books and eerily life-like dolls, no collection is too humble to start or continue.

Collecting brings out the proud hunter-gatherers in all of us. It is a primitive urge to collect objects that please us, although not every collection belongs in a museum. The Smithsonian has a helpful web site for kids with tips on how to start collecting, and details on many of the museum’s treasures.

When you collect, your mind has singled out a particular object above all others and declared it to be of special value, without compare, most rare and excellent. Collecting and trading encourage children to accumulate and amass—but also to appraise, organize, discover, and recover. Kids spend hours counting, sorting, and categorizing, all the while boosting their math and reading skills. Whether the items are virtual or not, they imbue the owner with a certain responsibility.

Anyone can start a collection, with a carefully chosen pebble or Pretty Peacock. The possibilities are as endless and as individual as the unique sensibility of the collectors themselves. One friend collects tiny mirrors, while another gathers vintage fabrics and homemade wooden picture frames, because, quite frankly, sometimes it’s more fun to collect the frames than the pictures. The blank squares and rectangles beckon to us, full of possibilities.

I am no stranger to collecting. Open my closet and you will find it bursting with blooms. There are dozens of flowery dresses in riotous patterns and hues. My nightstands and bookshelves attest that I am a bibliophile, or lover of books. You know, the kind you pull off the shelf with your hands and open and leaf through the pages to read. I have been collecting fairytales since I was a child and I count their tattered spines among my most prized possessions.

“If you get a Kindle or Nook or …” my friend starts to tell me, before noticing my death stare. “Er, you can collect even more books and carry them all with you!” she finishes in a barely audible whisper.

“They don’t call it a Nookshelf!” I hiss back.

We collect beauty, we collect joy, because of the delight we feel when we open the book, click on the screen, or artfully arrange our masterpieces. Consider your own collections. Are they for private or public viewing? Do you share your treasures or enjoy them alone? How do you display them—in binders with clear sleeves for viewing, huge plastic bins, or custom-built cabinets, shelving, and display cases?

Or do you just love to look and stare?

About The Author

Suelain Moy
Suelain Moy has devoted many consonants and vowels to the study of babies, toddlers, pregnant mamas, teenagers, celebrities, and other wild things. A published author and writer, she has contributed articles and reviews to many national magazines and parenting web sites, including Parenting, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Parents.com, Kaboose.com, and BabyZone.com. She is the author of Names to Grow On: Choosing A Name Your Baby Will Love. When she is not writing, she can be found directing lost tourists wandering the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

12 Responses to The Virtues of Collecting

  1. skywolfdemon says:

    she is right . Kids love to gather things and collecting them .I , My self have collected stuffed critterds and books since i was 10. i don’t think the things we collect are junk or useless .

    • Colleen says:

      Collecting is wonderful but if you live within a family that does not share your interests it is hard. Good luck and keep collecting.

  2. twilightstar2913 says:

    I love this article. I myself collect a lot of things. My 2 biggest and favorite collections are books and webkinz. I have over 200 books and about 70 webkinz. I started collecting the books when I was a kid and still have most of them. I give my friends that same look you mentioned when they try to tell me about nooks and kindles. It’s just not the same as holding the book in your hands and flipping through the pages. :)

  3. carnelian78 says:

    I agree totally. I like to collect things I can hold in my hand, like gem stones. Wow, 70 Webkinz! Sooo cool. Which ones are your favorites?

  4. Theodore1260 says:

    I have been collecting since childhood and I love what I have amassed during my life time. Books and fountain pens are my joy!

  5. Sea Jay says:

    Nook Shelf! Love it! But one advantage of having an ereader is being able to carry your entire library with you at all times…
    ]

  6. Sav says:

    Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE collecting. It’s creative. It’s fun. And it can be the start of a lifetime of sharing with your children & then grandchildren. Collections are a great way to start a legacy of good memories. We started in my family collecting pens and magnets. Every place anyone goes they know to get a pen & magnet & now when we get together we share stories & memories about where we got that pen or that magnet. Ah it’s a good thing!

  7. ReadingMom says:

    How interesting about Amelia Earhart! Does anyone know why so many people collect as kids and then stop as adults?

  8. MOM AND KIDS says:

    I LOVE COLLECTING THINGS FOR MY DAUGHTER SHE HAS OVER 35 WEBKINZ AND 500 BOOKS I LOVE MY DAUGHTER

  9. Collector! says:

    I love collecting with my family. I am on a wonderful site called WebkinzStreet. It’s the second most active Webkinz forum and the trading is #1. I’ve managed to get a lot of dream items there – My daughter was so thrilled to get the 2005 Nutcracker, especially. (I hope it’s okay to mention an outside site – I didn’t see anything against it in the site rules, hopefully I just didn’t miss it.)

  10. YarnMom says:

    I am an avid collector of natural fibre yarns. I have hundreds and hundreds of skeins of the stuff… it fills an entire room! I do knit up some of it, but most of it is for looking at and petting and admiring and dreaming :)