Collecting vs. Accumulating


Collecting is a fun hobby that provides a variety of payoffs:

Memory Stimulation

Collecting items such as postcards from our travels brings back happy memories. Looking at these reminds us of a pleasant place, time, person or experience.

Investment Value

Many pieces (e.g. art, baseball cards, coins) have a numerical value in the marketplace. When we acquire pieces like these, we not only enjoy looking at them, but also build a collection that may pay financial rewards in the future.

Connection to the Past

Often we gather items (e.g. linens, dishes, vintage clothing/toys) simply because they maintain a connection to days gone by. 

Reminder of Individualism

Many people collect items that represent our specific interests, hobbies or preferences. A fisherman may keep duck decoys, or a woman may accumulate items that correspond to her nickname. Having these items makes us feel special and unique. 


Many people collect items in a series or group, finding pleasure in the process of assembling a “complete set.”


Regardless of why you collect, it is important to adhere to a few guidelines to keep your hobby from getting out of control.

1. Clearly define exactly what you are collecting.

Frequently our collections are too broad, and we end up collecting too much.  For example, rather than collecting “old toys,” consider collecting “vintage wooden toys from the first half of the 20th century.”

Similarly, limit the number of collections you have. Collectors benefit from focusing on collecting one or two types of objects rather than collecting a dozen. You may collect a variety of items during your lifetime as your interests evolve. If/when you start collecting something new, seriously consider letting go of the old objects.

2. Determine where the collection will “live.”

Just like any other object we own, our collection needs to have a home in our space.

If the collection is being held for investment purposes, make sure everything is being properly stored to protect the value (e.g. art away from direct sunlight, wine in a climate-controlled location, etc.) Need some help with properly caring for your pieces? Here is a book that comes with lots of great advice.

If the pieces are primarily for sentimental value, it is desirable to store them in a designated display space. Sentimental collections add little value to our lives if they are squirreled away in a difficult-to-access box. Instead, bring your collection out so you can enjoy it. Some items can be hung, some do well grouped on shelves, and others are best stored in albums or cases. Think creatively about how to enjoy what you’ve saved. For instance, a collection of stones can go outside in a rock garden, while shells can be displayed in a clear vase.

In some cases, there are storage cases made specifically to hold the pieces, such as a coin album or box lined with silversmith cloth.

3. Insure investment pieces.

If a collection has value, it should be insured separately from regular homeowner’s/renter’s insurance. Be sure to photograph the items periodically so there is an accurate record of the complete collection in case of damage or theft.

It is also wise to keep a list/inventory of everything in your collection. This can become part of the fun, because it enables the collector to look back and remember the provenance of each piece.

If the items you assemble come with authenticity paperwork, either secure this to the back of the piece or keep it in a separate, labeled location. Purchase receipts should also be kept for high-ticket pieces.

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Collecting can add joy and fun to life, but if it isn’t done wisely, it can lead to piles of clutter and a loss of value. Remember, not everything you own multiples of is a collection.

Are you a collector? Do you have any tips on how to make the most of this hobby?