Why Do We Collect?

Why Do We Collect?

In the beginning, collecting was a matter of survival. Food. Clothing. Shelter components...Mates. Back then, it was hard for such simple human creatures to imagine abundancy. This is no longer so. While there are too many individuals in the world with nothing at all, the rest have either too much or strive to attain more. 

For one reason or another, we all collect. From the rich to the poor, from the over encumbered to the minimalists; there is something out there for everybody, and one can be absolutely certain that there is a merchant ready to accommodate. 

Psychoanalysts are forever intrigued by the behavior and have narrowed the most common drives to collect:

-Financial Gain (accumulated value)
-Psychosis (hoarders)
-Self Reward

For the rest of us pondering why we have 150 empty oil cans from the 1800's sitting in the garage, there is perhaps a simpler tune to agree on. In an essay based on collection behavior, Andrew Dillon of the University of Texas narrowed used an intriguing word to sum up those drives: 'Compensation'. For most of us, this may very well be the core of our desire to not just obtain, but to match future items with ones we already have in an attempt to reward ourselves or fill that proverbial 'hole'. This may be obvious for some, but it does help to ask ourselves 'why' whenever we spot that one thing that we absolutely MUST have. 

Aside from the intrepid Magpie that may be attracted to shiny objects, we may very well be the only species on earth that collects items, and not need them. 

Well, there is this guy:

The concept is introduced to us during childhood, and some may see it happening at home. A mother may want to collect the remnants of precious baubles such as hand prints, old school projects, hair and even teeth--not as weird in some cultures where children's teeth are worn to ward off evil...please don't wear your kid's teeth, I beg you!

Commercially, children are marketed by companies peddling items like toys and trading cards. Take Pokémon, for example. In Japan, Pokémon debuted in 1996 as a game, then trading cards were released followed by an animated show. The point of Pokémon is to collect fantastical creatures, and the marketing of that aspect was compounded over time. Fast forward 20 years and the Pokémon: GO' mobile game is introduced in 2016. Countless millions now traverse the real world in search of digital aspects. 

Four to five years later, the animated series introduces the character 'Goh', a deuteragonist who's narrative goal is to 'catch one of every single Pokémon'. One can see the parallels along with that slight breaking of the fourth wall. The series now has a character directly representing the countless million Pokémon collectors all over the world. Theoretical exploitation of young minds notwithstanding; we see how naturally the act of collecting begins to emerge in our youngest selves. 

As to whether shame should be attributed to collecting, it is entirely dependent on what harm it poses (the show 'Hoarders' is a guilty pleasure). Since this is a form of adaptive behavior developed over thousands of years, we may as well embrace it. We cannot even begin to guess how many unique items have been produced by our species and there is no shortage in sight. It all has to go somewhere; better in our pockets than in the landfills, no?

For the most part, it seems collecting is harmless second-nature. Mentioned before, there is a merchant for every niche' venture. A sea of sellers and micro entrepreneurs who's number one goal is to possess what you must add. Commerce is an entirely different topic, but its important to seek these people out whenever possible--either for yourself, or a loved one. Its often more charming and thoughtful to keep in mind what a loved one is collecting and help them to achieve their goal or quota, rather than present them with something new. This does keep items from the landfill--at least for a time, in what the Ferengi of Star Trek have dubbed, 'The Great Material Continuum' i.e, the cycle of life for every single bauble. 

CurioStar hopes we can find, restore, and offer something of value to the seeker of collectible things. And if you are in any way concerned about how much you've collected so far or how much you have spent on those precious things, here are some heavy hitters:

The Sultan of Brunei privately owns approximately 7,000 Motor Vehicles worth nearly $6 Billion

The Danish Bothers, Jens Ishøy Prehn and Per Ishøy Nielsen have accumulated over 32,000 Pokémon Cards

Michael Barber has collected over 3,000 units of Pyrex

And for my Stimulus and Stickermule fanatics; Nidhi Bansal of  Bassi Pathana holds a Guinness Record at 102,000 + Stickers!


Dillon, A. (2019). Collecting as routine human behavior: motivations for identity and control in the material and digital world. [Essay] p.264. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336587786_Collecting_as_routine_human_behavior_motivations_for_identity_and_control_in_the_material_and_digital_world [Accessed 22 Jan. 2023]. ...collecting as a form of compensation is remarkably widespread and seems to have persisted throughout the popular and academic literature on collectors, even while scholars have been critical of it.

Guinness Book of World Records

PokemonWiki.com / 
Pikachu Project Archives
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What Selling Vintage Is All About-A CurioStar Insight

Reselling is...a risky business. It requires both knowledge and skill just like any other trade if to be done well. There are over 2 trillion tons of products produced each year. When it comes to home goods, 67.5% those products typically find their way in the garbage 6-10 years after purchase, according to the EPA. That's what we as humans do--toss away the old to make way for the new. 

Quality is a major factor. Ever shop at a dollar store? Many of those goods are mass produced in either Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, and sometimes here in the U.S. Safe to say, those items won't last very long. Vintage is considered 20+ years old and an antique, 80-120 years old depending on the material or object. So as you can imagine, there are a lot of quality products out there just looking for a good home. 

At CurioStar, we attempt to uncover not just valuable items from history, but unique treasures and items that can be used. My workshop is stocked with everything needed to restore and repair old treasures so they may be worthy of a new home. Not many vintage shops offer this because it is costly and time-consuming. This is something we enjoy, and love to peel away the years on an item so that it can look as great as possible. 

Learning about an item is also time consuming. We recently accepted a lot of 52 vintage and antique cameras over for consignment, and learned about each and every single one. Because of our knowledge and restoration practices of that camera lot, every single customer walked away happy, and so was the consignor.


Our photography and video practices also get better over time. Most of the time we are able to photograph all (if any) irregularities and damage apart from one might expect to see in vintage and antique goods. This is an industry standard, and hope to set a new bar. Transparency is just as important in our line of work as it is to anyone selling brand new goods. 

All in all, if you're looking for something special for you or someone you love, buying vintage can be a far more rewarding experience. Look for those that promise clean goods or those with knowledge about the items they have available. We don't know everything, but a hint of history goes a long way when seeking gifts and home décor. 
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