Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Thoughts On Becoming a Collector

Recently, another collector described growing up with an aversion to collecting. He had seen the rather compulsive attitudes of the adults around him and decided, at an early age, that he'd never go down that path. And then, of course, he grew up to collect robots.

Personally, I never had any such fears as a kid, but then again, I don't think I ever experienced that kind of hardcore collecting. My mom was a collector, definitely, but she wasn't too crazy about it so it never struck me as odd. We did have a lot of ceramic chickens and ducks in our house, but it felt more like a theme than anything else.

I was always a packrat, and I constantly accumulated piles of junk: toys, weird bits of metal that I'd pick up off the street, books, stones, foreign coins, and whatever my relatives might have brought back to me during their travels to exotic lands. (My grandparents were always globe hopping, and they'd often come back with some of the coolest souvenirs this 10 year old would ever see.) But I was never a collector. I lacked the discipline to really research a subject and figure out what existed and what I liked. I distinctly remember being younger and saying to myself, "I wish I could be a more motivated collector." For a long time, though, it just never clicked.

And then I discovered comic books in the fifth grade, and that changed everything. Comics are numbered, they're clearly documented, they have story lines that continue from book to book. With so many clearly outlined parameters, they're the perfect gateway into the world of formal collecting.

Interestingly enough, I didn't collect much else while collecting comics, and even after I stopped -- lack of room, lack of comics worth buying on a regular basis, many other reasons -- I took my time before finding something else to attract my attention. I eventually landed a real job with a real paycheck. Not long after, I discovered robots and ray guns. 

I think that, by this point, I was ready to collect. I had learned how to curate a collection. I developed an eye for what I liked, a knowledge of the subject, and the simple dedication to pursue the toys that were most important to me. I had help, of course, a whole roster of rogues and scallywags and other unrepentant toy nuts who happily indulged my endless questions. In the end, it all combined to allow me to become the collector I am today.

Coincidently, at just about the same time, I learned to live on a lot less money... Ah, the double-edged world of the toy collector!

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