Saturday 27 August 2011

Confessions of a Collector Part 1

I have just finished reading this book by a pretty well known newspaper columnist in the UK, Hunter Davies. Not a hack rag tabloid phone hacker either, he is a proper journalist. If you're a Beatles fan you may recognise Hunter as the only person to write an authorised biography of the Beatles. He describes himself as a compulsive collector and goes into great details about his numerous collections. He also talks about why he chose particular areas of collecting.
Hunter started with stamps. I am sure there are many of us, of a certain age, who collected stamps. Unfortunately the glory days of stamps and stamp collecting are behind them. I still carefully remove stamps from envelopes and packages, mainly because it is so unusual to have stamps now. It is all pre-printed and computer generated labels, which is disappointing because stamps can be very interesting. 
Whenever we receive a parcel or letter from my parents in Australia, it always has stamps. I not sure if the Australian postal system doesn't have printed labels or whether my parents, being 80plus, use stamps out of habit.  They are a minority. Recently the Royal Mail issued Thunderbirds stamps and this bought the stamp collector within me back again.
Hunter talks about swapping stamps, laying awake scrutinising his stamps and learning a great deal about other countries from stamps like: kings and queens, plants and animals, holiday celebrations, science and space, that sort of educational stuff. But he also talks about them being therapeutic. He was ill with asthma in his childhood and all the allergy testing and prescribed medicines didn't work. However he found that the distraction of immersing himself in his collection would offer relief. He also collected cuttings from newspaper about his favourite football team, postcards from interesting places, marbles and comics. Then he went off the university and forgot about his various collections. This all sounds very familiar.
In my pre-secondary school childhood I collected football cards (I even kept the wrappers), football programmes and a weekly magazine called Big League. For a short time I collected milk bottle tops, the aluminium foil type that came in many different colours.To this day I'm not sure why. Maybe I was just attracted to shiny things. Then other interests took over: playing sports, school work and I became interested in statistics and gathered information from the newsapaper about cricket and football, keeping my own league tables, man of the match awards and other useless pieces of information.
Hunter then goes onto describing becoming a 'born again' collector. It all came flooding back to him- the joys and delights of collecting. It was a gradual thing, over many years, he just took a  while to realize it.
I know exactly when I became a collector again and it wasn't over many years. It was in October 1980- a warm spring evening. No not really. I don't remember in that much detail. But it was October 1980 when I was given a stack of 1980 Topps baseball cards, 84 to be exact. The rest, I had to wait a little longer to collect.