It doesn’t really matter what you collect — the chance to talk about it and share it, is a chance to connect
With the warmer weather becoming more consistent and the longer summer days ahead, nothing beats having a barbecue with family and friends. It is also a great way to make new acquaintances. It was precisely during one such evening, and after a couple of beers, that the conversation progressed from one topic to another — rugby, work, fishing, hunting — until we finally hit the hot topic of ‘collecting’.
Collecting — the word has very expensive connotations, I have come to realize, and it’s not a term that many take lightly.
I’m sure that most of you will know a collector. Why do we collect? Why do we choose to collect what we collect? What are we trying to achieve? And, after we have collected what we collect, then what?
During one of my buying trips, I was shown a collection of number plates — not just New Zealand number plates but plates from around the world — hundreds of them, some hanging on the wall, some on stands in display cabinets, and others that are not so common neatly wrapped in bubble wrap and stacked away in drawers. What a dedication, what commitment — close to 60 years of a person’s life painstakingly spent collecting number plates, most bought and others gifted. And the most extraordinary observation: this man could tell me the origin of the majority of these number plates. He said that he occasionally suffers from memory loss but, I can confirm, certainly not when it comes to his number plates.
Why do it?
As I waited at the airport to board my flight back home from that trip, I could not help but drift back to the number-plate collection and ponder why we collect.
Primarily, collecting produces a feelgood moment; it is associated with positive emotions. There is happiness involved, even if it’s just momentary, all the way from the excitement of the hunt to adding a new find. And there is the joy of connecting with a historical period, or the prestige of owning rare and valuable items, and, ultimately, with some, the social camaraderie. Others may add that they are preserving history.
From collecting matchboxes, to stamps, watches, model cars, and classic cars, we are motivated to satisfy the need for more — more of what we love and enjoy. Collecting is a way of relaxing and a way of connecting with others. It reduces stress and improves mental health, because it requires time, dedication, and focus on studying the item and its history, value, and many other characteristics. Collecting creeps into and becomes part of your self-identity and a measure of how others identify with you. And, as I retreat in my thoughts, I too can put my hand up and confirm that I am a collector — but an amateur collector or a professional collector? And what’s the difference?
When one collects purely for the love of collecting, out of enjoyment, with little thought paid to financial return, then we refer to this person as an ‘amateur collector’. In contrast, when one collects solely for a fiscal return — is commerce motivated — and hunts for collectables only to turn around and sell them when the right price comes along, we are referring to a ‘professional collector’.
I can easily identify myself as somewhere in between these two categories — some cars in my collection have been bought because they link to my childhood, to memories. One such car that springs to mind is an Austin Princess. It ended up in my collection as my daughter refers to herself as ‘my princess’. So, when this car came along, she said, “Dad, we should keep this car as it is named after me!” She was barely five years old at the time, but, today, as a teenager, it is her pride and joy. Some may think that it’s a hideous-looking car, and when, on various occasions, I have been asked to sell it, her prompt answer is “it’s not about the money!”
And I think she makes a valid point — it is not about the money! Not everyone is a collector by nature, but everyone can enjoy the benefits of collecting treasured items. There is an element of relaxation from seeing one’s collection. I quite enjoy sharing my car collection with a few close friends — we get together over a beer or two and talk cars. Some of them are single elderly men, with no family of their own. They find that our gatherings reduce loneliness and isolation. And these gentlemen bring a wealth of knowledge with them.
Harmless fun, I must say, and, luckily, they all live within walking distance from me. But, for them, it means the world; it gives them something to look forward to — and why not? Sadly, in this age of high-tech, we have lost our sense of others — we are living in this self-centred, self-focused era, when it is all about me! As the wise saying goes, we ‘should fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots!’
Recently, there has been a lot of talk on social media and in newspapers, magazines, etc., about men opening up about their problems. A problem shared is a problem halved; it could be that, during one of these gatherings, a friend feels comfortable opening up about something that’s troubling them, or an underlying issue that they feel is beyond their management. As much as there are many organizations out there that are specialized and offer assistance in this arena, sometimes it only takes a friend to fragment the mountain into a molehill.
So, as we make our way through the festive season and the holidays we all look forward to, do not hesitate to reach out to your mates — your collection could be of use not solely to you but to others you connect with. And not to mention that other benefit of being a collector at this time of year: the fact that it facilitates gift purchasing for those around you.
Until next month, safe driving — and reach out to your mates!