Friday, October 26, 2007

Confessions of a Closeted Collector

Some call it “nesting.” Others call it an “obsession.” Still others consider it a mental disorder and give you the number of a nearby psychiatrist. Whatever it is, the process of “collecting” has always been a part of my life. Even before I was consiously aware of doing it.

As far back as I can remember, I have been assembling items in groups. Comic books, movies, Disney memorabilia. Growing up, my room was filled with a mélange of items culled from various branches of my collection. Whatever I couldn’t put out on display was carefully packaged up in boxes and hidden away in the back of my closet, never to be seen from again until my mother forced me to clean it out.

You see, my mother had a philosophy that if you put something in a drawer or a closet, and you didn’t use it for more than a year, than you no longer needed it. Personally I never subscribed to that philosophy. I liked collecting things, so I would certainly never consider throwing anything away. Everything I bought, everything I owned, everything I was ever given, all became part of my massive “collection.”

The first thing I collected was Hot Wheels. They were my first true passion. I liked the pretty colors and the interesting designs on the cars. Lightning. Fire. Sparkles. The cars themselves were secondary. It was the paint job that took my fancy.

Then came the baseball card stage. Only I didn’t really collect traditional baseball cards, but rather the baseball card spin-offs. Things like Wacky Packages and Superhero cards. Or cards from popular movies and television shows.

I was manic about collecting them too, and sometimes couldn’t sleep until I’d successfully completed the latest series. But once the sets were complete, I usually put them neatly in a box and rarely looked at them again. I never ate the gum, either. It tasted like crispy chalk.

After the baseball card derivatives, I moved up to Scholastic books. Mostly because I really liked the process of ordering and receiving the books. I sort of lost interest when it actually came to reading them.

The process worked as follows: every two months or so you’d get a little flyer at school along with your Weekly Reader. The flyer would be filled with all the new books that Scholastic had for sale. You checked off the ones you wanted, handed the form back into your teacher, and four to six weeks later a big brown box arrived in your classroom filled with the books. Sometimes I didn’t even read them; I just added them to my “collection.”

After scholastic, I had an uncomfortable run-in with the Franklin Mint, which permanently stopped me from filling out order forms. Especially for things I couldn’t afford. Those “easy monthly payments” aren’t so easy when you only have a paper route for income.

So to avoid becoming financially bankrupt at the tender age of twelve, I finally settled on collecting simple things. Inexpensive things. Like comic books and plastic toys. Posters. Records. Tapes. Magazines.

When I first started making money as a graphic designer, I splurged on a number of Disney high-end porcelain figurines. They were so colorful and life-like that I just had to have one. Then one led to two. Two led to nine, and then seventeen, and then a hundred and forty, and that’s when I finally needed a storage locker. As well as someone to consolidate my credit card debt, because all those statues had apparently maxed my collection of VISAs to their limits.

On top of that, I had no room in my apartment to display any of these magnificent pieces of art, so most of them ended up in the storage locker. Their boxes collecting dust, their beauty hidden in the dark. My mother would have had a field day in that storage unit, tossing everything that didn’t move. Including me, no doubt, if I happened to get in her way.

But now I’ve moved into a new phase of my collecting. The selling process. I’ve finally managed to weed through some of the older branches of my collections to find things I can actually part with. And you know what? It’s quite lucrative. Some of my collections from childhood are reaping big rewards. Which means I’ve finally become something I never aspired to be—a smart businessman.

But that’s just me. What about you? What do you collect?


Speedcat Hollydale said...

Yes, as a kid the "Hot Wheel" collection was as important as the beer can collection.
We were just like used car salesman, and traded daily. Often we would come up with cleaver scemes to attempt gaining ownership of the "Hot Car" in our little community. I've even posted about it at my site.
Now I am a cigar collector. I love to read about them and smoke one now and again. For some reason though, HAVING a great selection of premiums and Cubans in my humidors is what I really enjoy.

Henson Ray said...

Everybody has their thing. But doesn't it bother you whenever you smoke one of your "collectibles"?