Collectors Are A Strange Breed
By Lois Hoffman
There is not one thing out there that someone somewhere doesn’t collect. Anything from the norm of sports memorabilia, toys, dishes, etc. to the not-so-norm of barbed-wire fence and various kinds of knots.
People scour yard sales and auctions and spend days sometimes traveling to various shows to add a certain item to their collections. This I totally do not understand even though I have been married to a collector for 27 years.
It all started when our son, like most boys 12 years old, wanted to collect baseball cards. A couple years later he decided he liked girls better than cards so Jim took over the collection until he wanted it back. Ha! Since then he has filled the basement and two rooms upstairs with sports memorabilia. Then, digging through some of his mother’s boxes, he found a jar of marbles that she had kept. That opened up a whole other box of worms. We now have jars and jars – and jars and jars – of marbles on our front porch.
Obviously, I am not part of the norm not being a collector. After all, where would Ebay and Craig’s List be without collectors. Trading items over and over is what fuels these markets. Perhaps the strangest part is that many of these items are worth way more if they are in the original packaging and have never been opened. What fun is that! I am not alone on this one, our two grandsons will never understand what fun it is to merely look at a new sports figure or toy and not be able to touch and play.
On that note, we have all these items that are either framed and hung on the wall or displayed on shelves for the sheer joy of looking at them. They continually need dusted – or not. They need to be protected from sunlight (fading) and they cannot be too hot, too cold, too damp or too dry. We run a de-humidifier in the basement and a humidifier upstairs.
Many times I tag along when Jim goes in search of an item. We like doing things together but I do believe there is an alternative motive. He needs someone to help carry stuff and to make sure that corners of boxes and packaging do not get bent. Sometimes we will dig through every item on a shelf to make sure the box is in prime condition. It is worth more that way.
A few years ago Jim dug through boxes and boxes of old LIFE magazines trying to find any that had featured athletes on the front. He didn’t find a one but ended up with an eye infection from the dust accumulated on the magazines. That is truly dedication.
Now, any item that is autographed is a whole other ballgame – pardon the pun. I do have to admit, though, that we have met some pretty interesting people like baseball players Tommy Brookens (Jim has actually sat in his living room and talked with him), Derek Jeter, Stan Musial and Ted Williams, to name a few. We have met the former NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett several times, standing in line seven hours once to get his autograph. Arnold Palmer hails from the same neck of the woods as Jim so, after some persistence, we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with him.
To be fair, I have to admit that I like the snowmen scattered through our house this time of year. At last count there were around 100, but I don’t collect them. They are classified more as décor, right?
Still, serious collecting seems like a lot of trouble to me for something that just sets on a shelf. I don’t have the patience – kudos to those who do. What is all this worth? That is the stickler, it is only worth what someone else is willing to pay. But then I see what joy Jim gets as he shows his collection to someone and I know what the real worth of it is. It is priceless.
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