Collecting stuff is a great hobby. Many collectors find their desire to have more of the same, insatiable. They scour flea markets, garage and yard sales, antique shops, and vendor booths in a wide variety of locations, for that one piece of something they just have to have! Before someone else gets it, and at a price they can brag about to everyone they know who knows anything about the kind of stuff they collect. And when they find it, and it is proudly displayed amongst the others of like kind, a new search begins. It’s phenomenal, really, how the propensity for collecting seems to be growing among older people and younger ones alike, although from my observations there seems to be quite a difference in the stuff each group finds collectible.
The reasons people find a particular object or brand interesting and wish to acquire more and more of it are as varied as there are things to collect, and the personalities who collect them. Nostalgia is the driving force behind older collectors, or so it seems to me. We and I say we, because I fall into that special group of folks living today born in the Forties during and following the War who experienced all that the Fifties and Sixties produced, and let me tell you, it was something! We want to hang on to as many of the magical childhood memories as we can, and the best way we find for doing that is by collecting and displaying stuff, which we hold most dear and precious to our hearts from that era, from our youth.
However, as I am writing this, it occurs to me that perhaps I was wrong in saying that nostalgia drives only the older collectors. It has dawned on me that I personally know some younger adults, children of the Seventies and Eighties, who cherish their own magical and unique moments in history as well, and desire to preserve those objects of affections for a variety of reasons. So, allow me to correct myself. MOST collecting can be attributed to nostalgia, to a desire to keep alive our own individual and unique experiences, no matter the decade or moment in time belonging to each of us.
Other collectors follow trends, whatever is up-to-the-minute hip and in vogue. The Fiesta dishware, John Deere, Coca Cola, etc. are collected by those I call pop-culture enthusiasts. Others collect what is most rare. More often than not, in my opinion, this kind of collector is motivated by the monetary value found in the piece. I suppose that sometimes the lines blur, and the all-the-rage item, as well as the rare piece of art, becomes so because of some aspect of its emotional appeal to a certain group. But the collector who collects trendy or rare items for investment is a different kind of collector, and not one I am going to expand upon in this article, not because they are not greatly respected or fascinatingly knowledgeable in history and business, but simply because I am most interested in the collector who follows her heart.
Just a few pieces may comprise a collection; it certainly does not have to be a large one to qualify. Some people are collectors who do not even know they are. I have a friend, one of my oldest friends, who insists she has never been attached to things, yet her home is filled with objects from her past, and from her husband’s. A family thing—her grandmother’s this, or her mother’s that. She recently recovered her grandparents’ old pie safe as she calls it, a hutch with glass doors. A true antique. She had it restored and today it stands solid and and well polished in her kitchen, a beautiful showcase for other pieces she cherishes. She treasures a handmade book of poems, old photographs, framed prints and other mementos, displaying them proudly. She is the kind of collector that interests me here.
My sister recently began collecting Fire King dish ware and bake ware from the Fifties, because she remembers the pieces Mother acquired from boxes of oatmeal when we were children. Those pieces have special meaning to her, and her own collection is growing, as she discovers the scope of items produced by the company. She not only displays them for visual appeal, she uses most of the pieces because I believe they bring back special memories of home, of times past when she helped Mother in the kitchen. She especially enjoys finding a piece that has been obviously well used. It speaks to her, she says.
I personally have a fondness for vintage dresser and table scarves. The crocheted ones catch my fancy. I find myself searching through antique stores for them, and my collection is growing. Each one of them has a place somewhere in my home. They add charm, and grace, and a touch of nostalgia to my decorating scheme, which my taste finds comfortable and mood setting. I also have a weakness for candles and votive holders, the more Victorian, the better. I always have my eye out for anything “hydrangea”, artwork of any kind or the actual dried flowers. I simply love hydrangeas. I enjoy drying my own from our bushes, and displaying them in baskets.
Speaking of baskets, I enjoy collecting them as well and the more unusual, the better.
I know someone who likes to collect photographs of long deserted, dilapidated farmhouses. She says they remind her of the womb long after its use has been depleted, its purpose long ago spent, its occupants long gone. These old houses, like the aged womb, were once bursting with life. “Oh, the stories they can tell, these old home places!” she says. You see them all over the countryside, although not as often as even a decade ago. Each one is someone’s birthplace, yet, there they sit, rotting and decaying, much like the shed skin of a snake, of no more use. These old houses photographed and framed before they are gone forever, are salvaged memorials proudly displayed on a wall, and each one with its own story.
I wonder what will become of these things we bring home with us. Are they destined for generational resale, from one stranger to another, moving from one collector to another, from one era in time to another? Who will personally cherish the old pie safe and all its contents the way my friend does? Will the Fire King remain with my niece or grandniece when my sister is gone, and for the same reason they were acquired in the first place? Will the framed photographs of abandoned birthplaces on that wall be displayed on another with the same reverence as now? Will any of my children care about my old crocheted scarves, or dried hydrangeas?
I hope so. I hope all these things which add depth and comfort and pride to our lives might someday fill the same purpose in the lives of our loved ones, if only as representative mementos of ourselves and our times. Not because the items are important, or considered important by us. Not because they have a history or represent a dying art form. Not even because they are rare, or beautiful. I hope the things I collect will appeal in different ways to others someday, the way they have for me. I especially hope future generations will cherish their personally nostalgic value.
My hope is that at least one of my children, or grandchildren, will find these collected things endearing, and worthy of display in some future home somewhere for no other reason than they speak to them of me.