Tag Archives: collecting

The Psychology of Collecting

For years I’ve observed the link between collecting and mental illness. I’ve seen it in others and I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve also seen hoarding, excessive shopping, depression and bipolar disorder, though I’m glad to say that, apart from the hoarding, this has been from a distance.

I will confess now, that the house is full of junk and it is a case of hoarding rather than collecting. The old excuse – that it’s stock – no longer applies because I don’t have a shop. Even when I did have a shop I could never part with the rubbish. As a result, when I moved from the shop I moved carfuls of worthless junk that now just clutter the house. That’s how you know you’ve passed from “collecting” to “hoarding”, or from sanity to something that needs tackling.

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Brick from Watnall Pit Brickyard

Julia, having found out that there were a lot of local brickyards, including those run by the National Coal Board, has started a collection of bricks. So far this one is the entire collection. We have a photograph of another in a post on Rufford Abbey, which was where we discovered that there were such things. There is, inevitably, a website on the subject. This is a good example of what can actually be done by a collector with a passion for his subject.

One of the things I found when doing the research for this post, is that Freud considered that hoarding to be a result of our feeling of loss of control we experience when we flush the toilet. I’ve never felt the urge to retain anything I’ve put down the toilet. Fortunately I’ve never known anyone who has, and nobody has ever brought such a collection into the shop. Dr Gillian McKeith might have an archive collection, but that’s work, not a hobby, so is probably acceptable.

I was struggling for vocabulary for a moment, but after reading the Gillian McKeith article I can now use the word stool. Normally I only use it when referring to a small backless seat, but needs must. None of the other words I know are really suitable, though the word stool is not as clear as it could be.

If I refer to not being offered a stool collection during my days in the antiques trade I lack clarity as, for all you know, I might have been in the furniture trade. I suppose, with modern technology such as freeze drying and vacuum packing, it is only a matter of time before the first stool collection hits the market. Or the fan.

It seems that many people collect things. Up to 70% of children collect things, though by the time people are in their 20’s only 23% of people collect things, falling to 12-15% of people in their 60’s. These things don’t have to be valuable, they just need to be something that interests the collector.

This is part of my collection of Post Box photos. The box is a double aperture Type C with the post-1980 “Royal Mail” logo. Oh yes, collections can be dull and worthless…

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Post box at Bakewell

It’s clear from this that the people I would to as collectors are different from the people that psychologists would refer to as collectors. They see people who accumulate things as being collectors where I tend to think of collectors as people who collect to a plan. Even if that plan is to amass a pile of stuff as cheaply as possible.

As for hoarders, these are collectors who have let things get out of control. Between 2% and 5% of adults meet the criteria for being hoarders.

The lack of clarity in terminology is only one of the complications you run into. The mind of the collector is another cause of confusion.

There was a collector in Nottingham who used to enter all his purchases in a diary. This was so that he could prove to his wife that he was sticking to a strict budget. He did this by writing down a cost that was 10% of the true cost. Even at that level, his wife thought he was spending too much on his hobby.

It all went well until he died. His wife, armed with the book, then marched into the dealer where the husband had made most of his purchases. After lecturing him on the evils of him helping her husband waste his time and money she pointed to the book and demanding that he repaid her all the money her husband had wasted. She wanted the full purchase price back, she declared, and wouldn’t take a penny less.

So he paid her.

It’s a tricky moral point. He paid her what she wanted and she went away happy. If she’d merely asked how much he would give her he’d have paid more.

On another occasion a widow called me in to look at a collection. It didn’t go well and, after travelling fifty miles to do so, I fell off the badly made loft ladder leading up to the hobby room in the roof. It got worse after that, but I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just leave you with the comedic picture of me stuck halfway through a roof hatch as she struggled to shove the ladder back under my flailing feet.

 

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Notts and Derby sweetheart brooch

And, of course, no discussion of collecting would be complete without a picture of a sweetheart brooch. It appears to be as big as a Double Aperture Type C pillar box, but is actually quite a lot smaller.

I have yet to master photography as a documentary medium.

Thoughts on Modern Coins

It wasn’t the most interesting of days.

Rain, repetitiveness and a limited supply of customers all conspired to make it a bland sort of day.

We have some new stock, but they are mainly modern coins, and I think you know my view on this sort of thing. I just had a look at the Royal Mint website, to post a link and this is what I found. A thousand years of minting history, which has brought us some of the most beautiful coins in the world (though this is, of course, a matter of taste) is now bringing us the Game of Thrones series.

If the decay of the modern world was on trial, and I was prosecuting, I would now rest my case.

I applaud the fact that people are now searching through their change looking for coins to collect, and it’s even better that they are coming into the shop to fill gaps in their collections. But look at what they are being offered.

There are other organisations that produce coins, and put marketing ahead of value and aesthetics, but they aren’t grinding a thousand years of history under the heel of commercialism. That, and the fear of legal action, means that I will just mention the Royal Mint.

I don’t even mind about the commercialism, it’s the poor standards of design and trivial nature of many of the subjects that really get to me. As a result, I can’t even get a decent picture to illustrate the post, so please accept my apologies for the poor quality photos.

Sifting Through History

It was an interesting day yesterday, starting with sorting out several boxes of Royal Mint proof sets. It moved on to refilling the decimal coin albums – the £2s, the £1s and the 50 pences. You can’t knock it, because it’s getting people involved in coin collecting and going through the change in their pockets. That’s how I started.

Collectable decimal coins – one of the mainstays of the shop. The 1807 is the two pound coin that supposedly has the rare variety. It doesn’t.

The first coins that ever interested me were farthings. We had a few at home in the early 1960s, just after they were discontinued. They were small neat coins, with a picture of a Wren on the back. A few years later my grandfather gave me one dated 1901. It had the veiled head of Queen Victoria on one side and, wonder of wonders, the figure of Britannia on the back. I was amazed.

I suppose in the days when we only had two black-and-white TV channels and no internet it was easier to be amazed.

There’s a little more to the farthing than the Wiki entry suggests, they actually date back to the days when silver pennies were cut into quarters (or fourthings) but it’s a good summary of the farthings I’m talking about.

By 1968 I had moved on and bought a book. That told me that it was still possible to get Churchill Crowns from the bank at face value (5 shillings, or 25 pence) and that they would be a good investement for the future. I asked my mother to get me four. Fifty years later they are worth their face value when we buy them in. You see them at all sorts of prices on ebay and antique centres, but that is just proof of either ignorance or greed.  A cupro-nickel crown from the 60s, 70s or 80s is not an expensive coin, and as I noted the other day, we just sorted a thousand for export. The fact that we were able to put together a thousand (and still have plenty left) may be a clue as to how well they sell, even though we are only looking for pennies of profit. It’s a rare week when we don’t buy twenty or thirty. And an even rarer week when we sell one to the public.

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Cupro-nickel crowns commemorating the silver wedding of the Queen and Prince Phillip

Although I didn’t continue with coins, I did continue collecting, which is a long, long story.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I was allowed to look through a couple of boxes of junk that we have bought from the estate of a deceased dealer. This is the sobering side of dealing in collectables, when you end up with the stuff of someone you’ve known for years.

Coronation medallet of William IV (1831) – an interesting piece of history from the junk box

Apart from being a practical demonstration of mortality it’s also a lesson that everyone, no matter how well organised they seem, has an accumulation of bits and pieces lurking around at the back of their life.

Peninsula War victories of the Duke of Wellington. It’s a bit worn, but so am I, and I’m a lot younger.