Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Do you collect anything? How much money do you spend on it?

I've always collected books-- but that somehow doesn't seem like collecting, it just seems like having books to read and use for reference, even though within my library there are several series and authors that keep lists of and always look for in used bookstores. Same with music-- books and music are just things you might have lots of, but not necessarily a collection. A collection is more about STUFF.

My grandmother and her sister were the people I saw as collectors growing up. My grandmother collected bells, tea cups, a certain type of plate, small glass objects, and a lot of other knick-knacky things. My great-aunt had a lot of clocks, and her dining room was full of a collection of teapots which had belonged to my great-grandmother. (It turned out that my great-grandmother never intended to collect teapots, but once she had a few, people started giving her more and she could never get them to stop.)

But I have never had any particular desire to collect anything in particular. I have lots of weird little things that I've picked up here and there, but I never felt like there was much of a theme to my knickknacks-- until recently. I realized that what I always seem to be drawn to in junk shops is old product packaging-- cracker tins, spice tins, medicine jars, and old cigar and cigarette boxes. One of my aunts realized that I liked this stuff, and when she was in charge of clearing out my grandmother's house after she died, she saved a few things with me in mind. One of them was a neat little tobacco tin with a bunch of rusty screws in it, a relic from my grandfather's workbench. I put the tobacco tin on my mantel next to a glass tube of pills, a small brass pig and a doll's head, and didn't think much more about it.

But the other day, I got a package in the mail from a friend of mine, containing a card and a gift: another tobacco tin in the exact same shape but for a different brand. It's a great looking tin, and it had never occurred to me that that rectangular, rounded-corner shape was a standard package for tobacco. Suddenly, I found myself thinking it would look really neat to have a whole wall of these tins, and I was dying to get more. My friend had found the tin for $1 in a junk shop in Arizona, and had bought herself a similar one. Out of curiosity, she looked for similar tins online and found that they can be valued at $15-25 and up. "Take a look on eBay," she said.

To make a long story short, I immediately flagged about 10 tobacco tins on ebay, and I won a nice Prince Albert one for only a few dollars. Now if anyone asks me if I have Prince Albert in a can, I can say "Why, yes! And I'm not going to let him out, either!"
I didn't bid on a few tins that had gotten too expensive, and missed the end of the auctions on the rest, which is a shame as a few nice ones went for only $2 or $3 each. But given how many I found on that first try, I'm sure I'll have many more opportunities. I also just like the way they look-- I don't care how old or rare they are, so I'm happy to find ones that serious collectors wouldn't want.

I don't want to collect these so badly that I'll pay more than a couple dollars each. That is part of the fun of collecting something-- the challenge of the search, or the pleasant surprise of a random discovery, leading to the satisfaction of getting what you want cheaply, rather than paying through the nose to complete your collection quickly. At least that is how I feel about it, though some people would differ!


Contemplations of a Woman said...

I like to collect mugs, im a tea drinker so its always nice to remember my trip to Dominician Republic when I drink my tea

The Sarcasticynic said...

I've collected US coins since 1967. During the '80s, when Wall Street got into the action and coin prices went through the roof, I got caught up again and started investing in higher end coins. In the '90s, when the bottom fell out, there I sat with overpriced coins. I should have stuck with the "small change" that interested me as a kid.

Dawn said...

I have collected:
Comic books
Comic book art
Comic book figurines

Now I just collect silver coins and wheaties that I find in circulation, I bought a few on eBay, but it wasn't worth the overpricey-ness. I prefer to get things for face-value. I'm happier that way.

My roommate collects too many things, but I have helped her cut back by adding guilt to the mix, she doesn't buy as much now. hehe!