Saturday, 20 October 2012

Confessions of a Collector Part 3

Wow I forgot that I had written a third part to this about a book by Hunter Davies.
To jog the memory Part 1, Part 2.
I have just completed a very interesting book about collecting by the journalist Hunter Davies. He writes with such as easy and friendly style that you are drawn in. A little hint of you wants to get on the phone and call to say -'Hey I collected that...'
In Confessions of a Collector, Hunter maps the course of his collecting obsessions. He refers to his collecting as 'obsessive' because that is what he becomes, absolutely obsessed, with collecting every possible item he can. He rarely refuses to an offer of items relating to his collections.
The Beatles are his longest and most expensive collecting obsession, but he doesn't draw the line there. His collections span subjects such as football, autographs, suffragettes, Penny Black stamps, Prime Ministers, Coronation mugs, magazines and other pieces of assorted ephemera like postcards, invoices and letters from the Victorian era. He never apologises for collecting, but it is obvious that he a little troubled by his need to keep matchboxes, napkins and coasters from places he visits.
There is an pause in the showcasing of his collections, a chapter called 'Joys and Pains of Collecting.' In this interlude he asks: 'Why do we collect?' and 'What is the joy in collecting?' Questions I have asked myself many times.
Why...oh why...?
Being a cleverer gent than myself, Hunter has determined that there are 9 reasons why people (although not exclusively, but mostly men) collect.
1. Hunter-Gathering.
Apparently going back to ancient roots. There is delight in going out foraging, looking for treasure, or even scraps that might just turn out to be interesting. It takes cunning, patience and knowledge to bag the 'Big One'- just like hunting. The more you collect , the less likely you will come home empty handed, without a kill.
2. Possessing.
Possession gives you a great feeling, knowing you own something. Spinning out the pleasure for several days in order to truly savour the latest find.
3. Completion.
It feels pretty good to complete sets, runs and rows of objects, hunting down and then finally bagging that missing item, till at long last you have filled all the gaps. Although collectors often create their own gaps, just as they create their own hunt in the first place. Set ourselves goals and just when we finally finish the task we set ourselves, we create another. In the process building something unique.
4. Knowledge.
How else would we know that-  'Rick Monday hit 3 homers in a game in 1972',  Robin Yount's older brother Larry, pitched for the Astros and that one day he would like to be a professional golfer or race motorcycles or 'Which team suffered the most shut-outs in one season?' Well we know this from the backs of baseball cards. Likewise knowing the history of a sport can be completely fascinating. I like to know the provenance of my cards and packs, it makes collecting them a little more interesting particularly here in the UK. How did unopened packs land on these shores? What is a 1939 Goudey card doing as a bookmark in a book shoved in the back of a charity shop? It would be interesting to know, perhaps even more interesting than knowing that no one has ever a home run out of the Yankees Stadium, although 1963 Mickey Mantle came awfully close. Knowledge is good, knowledge is power.
5. Escape.
A wonderful escape and distraction from the humdrum of a busy life. I started poking around looking for baseball card collectors in the UK in late 2007, as a distraction from a new, stressful job, that I was hating. Laying awake at night thinking about the solutions to problems that may develop the in next day or week. In the process I found Ben Henry, A Pack a Day and Thorzul. The therapy, the easing of my psychological problems, this means of escape was soothing my troubled soul and I had found people of a similar ilk. All I had to concern myself with now, was when a little yellow package would be slipping through my letterbox.
6. Investment.
My dad would say 'A Mug's Game.' Hunter suggests, 'Never collecting to make money - only acquire what interests you'. If this is your reason for collecting certain items in the hope that it will one day pay off your mortgage or university tuition for one of your children. Stop right now. Look at all those people who bought boxes of cards in the ninety's. I've often thought about buying a load of cards to 'cherry pick' the ones I want and sell the rest to invest in more cards but my wife, four children and so may other things like food snap me back to reality.
7. Perfect for Loners
Hunter points out that there are may hobbies people take up in which to interact with others, he lists sports mainly and hints that certain collectors can happily be in their own little worlds collecting in the privacy of their own house. I must disagree with this one entirely. For as long as I have been collecting baseball cards, I have searched for collectors with similar habits, to discuss, compare and 'swap'. I didn't really find many people of a similar persuasion until I started blogging. A whole massive world (literally) of relationships developed and new ones being created regularly. I feel the pursuit of baseball collecting has become far more enjoyable since I started trading/getting in contact with other collectors. I am no longer alone..sniff, sniff.
8. Identity
I collect, therefore I am. There is importance and self worth in being a knowledgeable collector. It is unfortunate that there are very rich collectors who can outbid, gobble up all the 1of 1's, super refractors and mega relics depriving the rest of us those unique pieces for our collection. Yet, in moderation, the feeling of many collectors that their hobby somehow sets them apart is no bad feeling. 'There is nothing wrong in self worth.'

I really enjoyed reading this book.

Confessions of a Collector: Or How to be a Part-Time Treasure Hunter
Hunter Davies
224 pages
15 Oct 2009 1847246044 978-1847246042

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