Do you collect stuff, such as coins, comic books or even cars?

When I was a youngster, I collected marbles and baseball cards. Admittedly the cards were for the bubble gum that came packaged with each Major League player’s picture and stats. I eventually sold them to help pay for a child’s college tuition.

Our three boys collected beer cans mainly because we moved into a home where the previous owner left a sizeable collection behind. It took a while but we finally got used to seeing the boy’s butts protruding out of trash bins as they “dumpster dived” for rare cans to add to the collection. Ultimately, they all went out with the recyclables. Not the boys, the beer cans!

According to the editorial staff, the top ten coolest things to collect are: hand-crafted music boxes, cool chess sets, Christmas ornaments, masks (not the medical kind), tea cups, comic books, family pictures, hats, sunglasses and vintage cars.

Every generation has something they grew up experiencing. A collectible can bring back fond memories of these times. This sort of factor, however, mainly applies to the generation in question, losing its appeal with other generations. As each generation grows older and begins to down size, the desire for the collectibles they were interested in can drop off. This can result in these collectibles beginning to lose value as more start to flood the market and less people are interested in this sort of collectible.

I’ve started a few collections over the years, such as music albums, cassettes and CDs. Some collectibles were short lived and others are few in number. They consisted of coins, angel figurines, wooden ducks and several small Santa statues. I also collected glass penguins but I’ve been giving them to a granddaughter every Christmas.

Since childhood I’ve had a “collection” of one of the seven dwarfs – Sneezy! I’ve hung onto it because I had hay fever for many years and I identified with the sniffling statuette. Recently I came across two of his buddies, Happy and Sleepy, that match! That’s perked my interest in locating the rest of the gang.

Personally, however, I’ve never gotten too serious about collecting anything, except Notre Dame paraphernalia, after an embarrassing incident that happened to me when I was cherishing a collection of nutcrackers. I had amassed a shelf full of colorful characters consisting of soldiers, drummers, hunters, buglers and other oddballs. I remember we were invited to a gathering of some kind through a friend to a nice home owned by someone we had never met. My friend tried to break the ice by introducing me to the owner and saying, “You two have something in common. You both collect nutcrackers.”

The hostess then asked, “Where do you find your collectibles?” I proudly said, “Oh, I find them at K-Mart, Target, Value City, garage sales, flea markets and antique shops.” Pointing to a decorative mantle above the fireplace, she replied, “Mine come from Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy and several other countries around the world!” I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl into the fireplace despite there being a fire in it. After that episode, my nutcrackers weren’t something I showed off to visitors to our home. I do, however, have one nutcracker left. It’s a leprechaun, of course, that came from a store in Colorado bought on the day our oldest son, Mike, got married in the “Centennial State.”

Collections take up space and you have to dust them. Records, CDs and books require shelves or closets. Collections quickly can lead to clutter which can lead to hoarding. We’ve never crossed that line, but we know of people who have, setting aside several rooms to store a collection enclosed in lighted glass storage cabinets.

We have to relate a humorous incident that occurred when we visited our son, Greg, in Vancouver, WA. We had not been to his home previously and as he drove us from the airport to his housing addition, he said many of his neighbors didn’t like him because of all the things he’d collected which were setting in his yard. As we approached the house, we saw there was so much stuff that the yard had become storage space. It looked like a junkyard completely surrounding the house. The neighbors and the city had asked that it be cleaned up, he related, because it had crossed the line from collecting to hoarding.

In complete shock, we exclaimed, “What’s wrong with you!” Fortunately, the house was not his. He was joking and caught us completely by surprise.

Why do people collect stuff? Some people, I think, collect things to create a bank of good memories they can get back to whenever life events go wrong. Supposedly, they can get instant mood boosts by going back to their collections and recalling good memories. But such collections do keep us attached. If we collect something, we have a psychological attachment to it. Is that healthy? Maybe not. Collections are material things. People and memories outweigh stuff. When we let go of unneeded or unused collections we free ourselves to become more present for family and friends.

Wanna buy a nutcracker? Go on line. Mine’s not for sale!

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer