I've had my collector moments. Around age 25, I indulged in a raccoon fetish, and received many items emblazoned with the little bandits, from silver stickpin to tote bag. In my 30s, I began to acquire Clarice Cliff ceramics. One night a raucous party decimated my collection and I could never afford to restore it.
Now, I wonder about the purpose of amassing a collection. (A collection differs from just a whole lot of it by nature of unified theme, period, material or maker.)
There is the completist's challenge, a stereotypically male preoccupation, though I know a woman who hunts objects from The Sands, a defunct Las Vegas casino.
There's also the pleasure of abundance: a different vintage hankie for every day, a banquet's bounty of place settings assembled from '20s plates.
A second reason is the building of value. A friend of my parents' funded his retirement via his rare book collection. If you are an astute collector of stamps, coins, fine pens, art or other objets, you can make money, though some collectors become welded to their prize, and what was begun as an investment becomes part of an identity.
For those with less lofty ambition, collecting becomes an excuse for consuming. Many women in their fifties and above suddenly look at their three dozen Krazy Kat clocks or a sagging cupboard stuffed with majolica and think, This was fun, but no longer.
When you're in the collectionneuse mindset, you must have every shape of cookie cutter made (that's one of mine; I just remembered); therefore, any purchase is automatically valid. Just look on eBay and see how often something is touted using the words "rare" or "collectible".
Cookie cutters don't break the bank, but my friend Lois collected costume jewelery that typically cost $400-$1200 per item. One day she realized she had $25,000 worth of heavy pieces she never wore. Lois sold nearly everything to a dealer. Content with the proceeds, she says she's even happier to have four free dresser drawers.
|Haydée Politoff in "La collectionneuse"|
The fourth film in Rohmer's series of "Six Moral Tales", it profiles the amoral collector and her prey, as she pursues her full set in the Riviera sunshine.
Another terrific film, Utz (1992), adapted from a Bruce Chatwin story, has been called "the greatest film about collecting ever made". If you haven't seen it, you must... and I will only say that the film illustrates how, when serious collecting tips into obsession, it engenders greed, deception and blindness to any other pursuit.
Do you collect anything? What does your collection do for you?
Have you stopped collecting something?