Some people collect baseball cards.
August 28, 2002 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Some people collect baseball cards. Lots of people collect comics. Others collect stuffed animals, salt and pepper shakers, commemorative plates, ventriloquist figures, bottlecaps, hubcaps, antique radios, farm implements, even chainsaws. Some wealthy folks even collect yachts. What makes a thing collectible? Are the best collectibles sold as "collectibles", or is "collectibility" a cynical marketing gimmick? Of course, Elvis collectibles are a whole sub-culture all by themselves.
posted by mrmanley (52 comments total)
I was afraid I misspelled "collectible", but it turns out I'm right (although "collectable" is allowed too).
posted by mrmanley at 1:08 PM on August 28, 2002

Anything sold AS a collectible (especially something that's new), to me, is definitely NOT collectable. That crap they sell on TV late at night on the those shopping channels makes me want to vomit. You can collect ANYthing you have an affinity for.
posted by Witty at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2002

Ummm, what about the velvet Elvis hanging in my cube? I like to think it's a little bit of Americana...
posted by greengrl at 1:17 PM on August 28, 2002

The products are different, but didn't we just do this?
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2002


Gah. Shoulda searched harder. Not exactly the same topic, but close enough to be embarassing.

I hang my head in shame.
posted by mrmanley at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2002

I collect lint between my toes....
posted by dangerman at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2002

Chin up, mrmanley. Blake was just first to the patent office.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:22 PM on August 28, 2002

I like collecting things that remind me of my youth, particularly technology using tubes. It's funny though, they were considered old-fashioned then, compared to transistors. Somehow, they appeal to me. And when all the old tube devices are bought up by collectors, will old transistor radios and such become popular?
posted by tommasz at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2002


They already are.
posted by mrmanley at 1:31 PM on August 28, 2002

Wulfgar!: didn't we just do this?

That's what I was thinking too, but when I looked at that post it was really more about hobbies in general, and collecting stuff as an example. mrmanley's post really asks more about the objects of people's obsessions.
posted by Songdog at 1:34 PM on August 28, 2002

Some collect these, and others think that's asinine.
posted by HTuttle at 1:38 PM on August 28, 2002

Oops, fix that asinine link
posted by HTuttle at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2002

heh, well, we can always use a few more things to collect!
posted by Blake at 1:42 PM on August 28, 2002

I didn't realize that phone pole insulators were collectible until I found this site. There's a lot of photos to look at, not to mention the story of a great find.
posted by hyperizer at 1:48 PM on August 28, 2002

I collect thimbles and movie ticket stubs. What makes a good collectible for me is something that's tiny, cheap and personal.
posted by lynda at 1:49 PM on August 28, 2002

Odd, was just reading this article about a guy who collected porn.

Not that it's surprising someone collects it just for the 'historical' purpose.
posted by jmackin at 1:52 PM on August 28, 2002

These guys collect U.S. counties. All 3,142 of them.b
posted by PrinceValium at 1:57 PM on August 28, 2002

i recently thought of starting up a game and watch collection, as i managed to buy a donkey kong for $2 from a homeless guy on market street. sadly, it's far from mint, as the battery cover is missing (apparently quite common) and it smells, quite strongly, of pee (probably not as common).

after this incident, i wanted to see if i scored on my transaction, and managed to find a quite bustling market for game and watches on Ebay -- where very nice condition game and watches are offered at rather reasonable prices (about $40 per, seems like).

game and watches are, perhaps, one of the most nostalgic items from my childhood. I received one around the second or third grade (mario's cement factory -- my sister got manhole) and absolutely loved it, and always, always, wanted another. it seemed like they were quite hard to find -- some of my earliest memories of san francisco were going into some of the electronics stores for tourists around market st, and seeing a couple displayed under the glass -- alas, all out of my 3-grade price range. i've actually had *dreams* where i found a cache of game and watches, just lying around. (i woke up a disappointed boy). i remember field trips where there were always one or two other kids in the car who'd have a game and watch, and we'd play the hell out of it (even tag-teaming a very loved multiscreen mario bros. ). of course, then the flood of rather poorly designed Tiger Electronics portable games came out and that utterly destroyed the market. Big plastic cases with terrible art where Nintendo had good line, metal enclosures, and rubber buttons. Honestly, they were the Gobots to Nintendo's far superior Transformers.

now that i can buy as many as i want on ebay, whenever i want, well... the magic's a bit gone, but i'm planning on breaking out the credit cards soon (and picking up some of those bad-ass double screeners or maybe even a tabletop).

ps. here's another interesting looking handheld site.

i've also recently been on the lookout for the second generation atari 2600 (the one that was black, and sleek) and a copy of Kangeroo Punch Out (i've got about 50 games I could trade out, I guess -- which i came with an console -- that didn't work -- and five joysticks, four paddles; all for $30. but that's another thrift store love story.)
posted by fishfucker at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2002

I collect deleted MeFi threads. I'm going to make a fortune on e-bay one day.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2002

mrmanley's post really asks more about the objects of people's obsessions.

No, that's cool. I wasn't trying to be a jerk; I was just having a deja vu moment and wanted to know if I'd missed something big.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2002

oh oh oh, also i want some good old slot car action. preferably dukes of hazzard.

man. i should start a wishlist.
(a more academic look at dukes of hazzard. for you eggheads.)
posted by fishfucker at 2:04 PM on August 28, 2002

my slot car link broke.
posted by fishfucker at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2002

dammit. my slot car link, unbroken
posted by fishfucker at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2002

I'm collecting my thoughts.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2002

navel fluffs!!
posted by rightho at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2002

fishfucker, slot cars were cool. Setting up the tracks and customizing the cars was always more fun than any of the actual races, which tended to be short-lived crash-fests.
posted by HTuttle at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2002

Ufez! If you caught any deleted threads that I started, I might be interested in ..uhm, appraising your collection. Yeah, that's the ticket!
posted by ZachsMind at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2002

My father-in-law makes his living off people who collect stuff. Otherwise known as being an antique dealer. Seeing things that were purchased at a garage sale for next-to-nothing sell for substantial sums of money really makes me think I should look into a career change. (well, a career. I'm a perpetual student, which doesn't really qualify as a current career. Let's just say I collect college credit).
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:55 PM on August 28, 2002

I collect dust.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:11 PM on August 28, 2002

What makes a thing collectible?

You had to ask...

It's a joke but in a weird way it's true..whatever you get a charge out of hoarding..hey that's your collection.
posted by jonmc at 3:17 PM on August 28, 2002

You also forgot about people who collect air sickness bags, 8-track tapes, banana stickers, and moist towelettes.
posted by jonp72 at 3:22 PM on August 28, 2002

I'm curious about the underlying reasons for collecting.

Personally, I'm an anti-materialist. If I use it, fine, but otherwise I don't collect. I have in the past--I remember that hunger to have as much as I could get. Now I don't feel so good about that.

Is collecting unique to affluent nations, or does the nature of the collection change to suit the environment? Is it endemic to certain cultures or classes, or do all humans feel the need to hoard goodies?

I don't want to lay a guilt trip--live and let live. But I am wondering if anyone here has examined this urge to collect, and what they have discovered.
posted by frykitty at 4:56 PM on August 28, 2002

I collect theatrical memorabilia on a very limited scale (right now, one musical and one actor). Perhaps bizarrely, I don't consider myself a book collector, despite the ever-increasing quantity of books in the house (4,000 and counting--is that my floor creaking...?), since the books are almost entirely for scholarly purposes. "Collecting" is what I do for pleasure, as in collecting Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe novels in UK first editions. However, I won't be adding a copy of A Clubbable Woman (first novel in the series, for those who aren't aficionados) anytime soon, since it's currently going for (gulp) well over $1,000. I'm nuts, but not that nuts.

There are several books out there on the cultural phenomenon of collecting, including Susan Stewart's On Longing, Nicholas Basbanes' books about bibliophiles, John Bloom's A House of Cards (baseball cards), etc. And the whole field devoted to museum history has come up with lots of extremely interesting stuff.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2002

I'll take a claudian faux from Ostia

Personally, I'm an anti-materialist. If I use it, fine, but otherwise I don't collect. I have in the past--I remember that hunger to have as much as I could get. Now I don't feel so good about that
that pissed me off BUT. there is alot of validity to this...i love to collect stuff. I have stuff from wwII, native arrowheads, and i think, what right do i have to keep this blood trophy (i have a japanese paper peso from the Philippines and you can still see the blood stains) I don't want to sell it, but not sure to keep it. ( i guess if it where really bothering me i would rid myself of it) but what about a repository for these things. we hear stories of solders returning items taken from the dead to the families after a war, why not a place to return these items even if the owners family cannot be found. A solders trophy is his business (that was callow but...) but the ones handed down, can not there be a place for these items, a place where anyone can deposit some exchange and ceremony. does that seem hokey and contrived, like another ceremony so people can brood. I think it is possible if there is such a thing and anyone knows of it let me know.

though this is a MeTa topic. why not a mefi garage sale. really, why let e-bay get all the cash.

(4000 books, i'm jealous, i thought 1100 was alot)

jinkys post MM.
posted by clavdivs at 5:41 PM on August 28, 2002

though this is a MeTa topic. why not a mefi garage sale.

Clav, that is an incredible idea. You're starting a meta thread, right?
posted by frykitty at 5:44 PM on August 28, 2002

I'm collecting my thoughts. - bwah! very funny :-D

What makes a thing collectible? - i suppose the item must evoke good memories, or be something you felt part of, or wish you'd been part of. something that touches you. kitschy and useful works for me, as does something artful.

Are the best collectibles sold as "collectibles", or is "collectibility" a cynical marketing gimmick? - it's become a huge marketing gimmick to be sure. the best collectibles are not necessarily sold as such, they're items that hold some meaning to you personally. they can be completely worthless to the market and to anyone else.

lord, i collect a lot of things... old movie posters circa 1928-1948, betty boop items circa 1930-50, hello kitty stationery, x-men comics (i've got at least one of each from issue #1) , star wars action figures - and i guess i collect sw ticket stubs since i've kept each one since '77 - xena action figures, old sterling silver and enamel fountain pens... and i suppose books are a collectible, since i have a huge personal library (the reason why friends refuse to help me move), mostly can-lit and brit-lit. i've got a first edition complete set of dickens' novels, which is fairly worthless monetarily since most people over the years have kept their dickens and he's never been out of print. but it's a fabulous set to own because of the original illustrations.

my prized collectible tho' is the first edition 3 volume complete letters of vincent van gogh to his brother theo and others. you can read and or download them online but owning the volumes is something else altogether. they're large black books each with 1/3 of his wheat field with cypresses on the binding etched in gold - so on the shelf the side by side volumes create the entire vista - plus reproductions of all the drawings he included in his correspondence. oh my, i love those books.

do all humans feel the need to hoard goodies? I don't want to lay a guilt trip--live and let live.

nice choice of words 8-) as tho' everyone who collects does so to the detriment of other people's well being. yikes. i periodically give away a lot of my collectibles (plus old puter equipment and other household items) to 2 diff charitable groups (which i also do volunteer work for), for the flea markets they hold to raise funds. my goodies bring in a lot of cash, which i could be stuffing in my own pockets, for other's needs.

after a while i feel weighted down by how many things i have and i also like to help out, so doing that kills 2 birds with one stone, as it were. some things i'll never give away tho', such as my fave books. i'll part with those when i croak.
posted by t r a c y at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2002

as tho' everyone who collects does so to the detriment of other people's well being.

I didn't, and really don't, want to go there--but on a global scale, isn't this something to consider?

On an individual level, it obviously depends upon what you collect. If you're determined to collect every type of Nike shoes (are they still doing the sweatshop thing? I can't keep up.), whether or not you will ever wear them, then I think a case can be made for harm. Collecting books? Nah--obviously books are meant to be used, read and learned from. To me, that's an entirely different matter.

But really, I'm more interested in it on a cultural level. Collecting is considered to be something fun and casual--lots of folks do it and it makes them happier (IMO, happier is better) people. Most collectors I know (including myself in my 20s) never give it a second thought. It's fun, it's done. Do we ever look more deeply?

PS: anyone who knows me knows I'm not here to start a shouting match--I'm very interested in forthright discussion on the matter, and am tiptoeing like mad to avoid pissing anyone off.
posted by frykitty at 6:26 PM on August 28, 2002

I got pulled over yesterday and the cop told me that he has seen people collect stamps, coins but never DMV points like I do. I thought it was funny.
posted by sahrens428 at 6:44 PM on August 28, 2002

Many (though clearly not all) collectors collect things that have already been used, and it's difficult in many of those cases to show a link between the collection and additional consumption.

For example, I collect old kitchen equipment, and most of the stuff that I have sitting around in boxes or on the wall is from a second-hand store or a yard sale, and if I hadn't gotten it, it very well might have ended up in the landfill. Also, I could make a case that by getting it used, I'm avoiding buying it new, so that I'm saving something from being manufactured. I don't think that would be a convincing argument in my particular case, but there are some old items (salmon molds, nut grinders) that I would have bought new if I hadn't found used.

On the other hand, because I have this collection, there are a few people who've given me gifts of new items, and that probably did require new manufacturing and consumption, and mainly for stuff that I didn't want. I really enjoy it much more if I know I'm getting it second hand.
posted by anapestic at 7:20 PM on August 28, 2002

I would guess that collecting is an essentially human impulse, regardless of culture or relative wealth. Perhaps collectors find a sense of home in their collections. Perhaps it has something to do with control: to own a lot (or everything) of anything is oddly reassuring, even if it's something completely inconsequential. Through its obsessive attention to detail and the ways in which items reflect on each other, collecting also serves as a constant reminder of the endless variety and richness of the world.

I don't see why collecting should be a detriment to other people's well being. You could make the opposite argument: collecting might be more sustainable than endless consumption of disposables, since the whole point is to keep things and get constantly renewed pleasure out of them. I certainly don't feel like my 500+ Phish CDs take away anything from anybody, and they provide me with a hell of a lot of pleasure--which I like to share with the people I trade with or make free copies for.
posted by muckster at 8:33 PM on August 28, 2002

Me: Glass juicers, books, food art (especially miniatures painted on metal), books, old fountain pens, books, old bottles.

My sister has a real obsession for pre-Revolutionary War porcelain fragments.

Oh, and did I mention books?
posted by ebarker at 8:44 PM on August 28, 2002

I'm not a collector, but Muckster's observation that "perhaps collectors find a sense of home in their collections", strikes me as poetically profound. That "sense of home" is a somewhat fragile thing; even if one stays put, the people and landmarks around him don't, necessarily. I've moved so much, and over such distances in my life that I've had a bit of "phantom limb syndrome" in the sense of a nostalgic ache for the home I never actually had. So, yes, I can definitely appreciate how collecting can be a personal "home place" of memory and experience, among other things.
posted by taz at 1:37 AM on August 29, 2002

I collect Domo-kun merchandise, mostly because I think it's cute... but since it's mostly a single-source affair, I'm not even sure that would qualify as a real collection.

I'm always on the lookout for cels from the original Dragonball anime series, which fits more the purist definition of collection.
posted by clevershark at 5:09 AM on August 29, 2002

I halted most of my collecting after I started buying and selling on Ebay. Seeing the huge range of crap that people hoard away, kind of disgusted me. I now try to acquire only things I will actually use or appreciate. Things that get packed away, or things that require maintenence are verboten (sorta).

I also have better taste than I used to.

The things I sold on Ebay were usually branded with a name people will recognize. Consumer goods. The things I'm collecting now usually aren't (they're handcrafted, made by nature, or unique)

I also heard that people collect because they're lonely. That hit a little too close to home, I'm getting out more now.
posted by pekar wood at 6:36 AM on August 29, 2002

this is my kinda crowd. Frykitty. go for it, set up a meta thread. i wanna save my yearly post for halloween.
posted by clavdivs at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2002

posted by frykitty at 8:54 AM on August 29, 2002

I have been collecting as long as I can remember. The first thing I remember really collecting is Star Wars figures (the vintage ones). Then I grew into comic books, Transformers and Shogun Warriors.

Now my main vice is Japanese Robot Toys.

I am a packrat, most definately.
posted by quibx at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2002

Any collectors have that dream where you stumble upon an unknown stash of your favorite collectable?

I always dream that I come across a toy store that still has vintage Godaikins and Shogun Warriors on the shelves, as well as toys that never really existed.

A lot of collectors I know have had this dream. Have you?
posted by quibx at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2002

I've said that I collect collections since I was a kid. Truth is, as the Doctor said, "I dabble a bit." But oh, do I know the urge. Of late, however, I've had a new, competing urge, to free myself of everything (except the books, with which I will never part willingly) and travel as lightly as I can manage. Which will win? Stay tuned.
posted by rushmc at 10:52 AM on August 29, 2002

I'm with lynda -- my collections tend to be of the small, cheap & personal variety. Other than hockey pucks, floaty pens and postcards, I don't really collect anything, and my collections of those things tend to be from places I've been or that my friends have been. Either way, each item has a little story that goes along with it. I'm very big on associating anecdotes with items.
posted by aine42 at 11:09 AM on August 29, 2002

Easy things to collect:
posted by rightho at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2002

In a completely unscientific study, I went out to lunch today with some friends, and the study revealed collections of:

Bubble gum comics.
Recalled consumer products.
Parking tickets.
Tech conference stuff (Frisbees, key chains w/logos, etc)
Books (a very popular item).
Ticket stubs (ditto).
Coca-Cola art.
National Geographics.
Ex-wives (you had to be there).

I find collecting to be sort of soothing, in a Zen-y fashion. And oddly enough, driving back from lunch, I remembered an old Thoreau volume I keep in my trunk all the time. It's my "car book," that I read when I have a few minutes to kill before an appointment (can't stand being late), and I recall making a point of taking it with me to other cities as sort of a security blanket.
posted by ebarker at 1:57 PM on August 29, 2002

« Older Another threat to the separation of church and...   |   Palestinian comic booted from Jackie Mason's... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments