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Collecting vs. Hoarding

HistoryGeekStamp1As my regular followers are aware, I’m a collector of ephemera, postcards, photographs and all sorts of historical memorabilia. The collecting isn’t completely unrestrained though.  In an effort to avoid becoming one of those hoarders that feature on reality T.V. shows I have three key rules in place to keep my collecting addiction in check.

1:  Paper items only.  This rule has done more than any other to keep me away from hoarder territory.  It wasn’t always this way.  In my youth my collection extended to include fossils, bayonets, first world war military stretchers, antique helmets and other headgear, wireless radio sets, opera glasses and all sorts of oddities.  They now sit in a storage unit in Christchurch (yeah I know, safe place for an antique collection right?).  Paper items are much more manageable.  They are easy to store, look nice in albums and are fun to share both online and in person.

2:  Go easy on the books.  I had to add this rule as the “Paper items only” needed a qualifier.  Yes books are mostly paper, but with the assistance of second-hand book shops and the annual Regent Theatre book sale my living space would quickly turn into a library to rival that of Alexandria.  I maintain a small but healthy bookshelf, mostly of historical fiction and non-fiction and while I do regularly frequent book sales I’ve become much more selective about any additions I make.  That complete set of 1830’s volumes on ‘English Personalities’ seemed useful at the time of purchase but now they are stacked on top of my New Zealand Wars carbine box in a lonely storage unit.

3:  Nothing more recent than 1950.  There has to be a cut off point somewhere and while the exact year is arbitrary and varies from collection to collection the rough date is usually somewhere between 1945 (when the war ended) and 1953 (when the Queen visited New Zealand).  This also gives my collection a focus and sets a relatively challenging benchmark.

So those are the three collecting rules that have helped me keep my collection reined in to a manageable size.  That said, I do always reserve the right to bend the rules when I see fit, after-all as the good Captain Barbossa would say, “they are more guidelines than actual rules!”.  Arrrrrrrrr.

© Lemuel Lyes

Categories: Uncategorized

6 replies »

  1. I too try to stick to paper and digital. Storage is an issue and even the odd cookbook, box or tin quickly piles up and starts eating the space. Gone are they days that I used to have a massive physical collection that always needed dusting.

  2. Well, I like this. I think that many so called collectors are just hoarders. Don’t get me wrong, hoarding has as much validity to the hoarder as does a well refined collection have to the collector. Collecting is a passion and In my case as you know I might go over board or ‘over hoard’ in relation to a small island in the Marlborough Sounds. Having one room to store your objects is good, and it is even better it you have a set number of containers to store them in. The problem comes when you manage to find something that relates to your collecting area but is either too large like a life ring from the Scow ‘Vesper” or in your case a NZ War Carbine box. Rules are always made to be broken and as a collector you should always have a list of these rules like you have created, and then like it or not the concept of ‘culling’ comes into play. Culling is a word dreaded by hoarders and collectors alike. Unless motivated my monetary gain most passionate collectors avoid this concept. To me it has been so useful because it allows you to keep what you like weighed up against a set of collecting guidelines that I ( the collector) have created to enjoy what I have and not to accumulate more than I need (like those 100 gunflints from the 1805 Wreck of the Earl of Abergavenny that I don’t still have sitting in a box gathering dust) Honest….. 😉

    • It is a fine line between collecting and hoarding – and you are right, the two share many similar characteristics.

      One potential way to define the difference might be perhaps that a collector is more likely to do something with their collection, as in they organise it, put it on show etc and a hoarder is more likely to just, well hoard.

      Ultimately though, whenever I’ve worried about being a hoarder I always say to myself, “at least I’m not as bad as Logan” 😉

  3. It is impossible to have too many books! No such thing as ‘hoarding’ when it comes to personal library…:this is a weakness my entire family share. -)

    One person’s ‘hoarding’ can also be another’s museum – this is how many small museums began, and it’s amazing what turns up from time to time. A while back, for instance, a trunk of Sir Donald McLean’s property, including some clothes, was found in a box in a domestic garage in Hawke’s Bay. It ended up in the museum… Once thrown out, these things are lost forever. It’s all good.

    • I’d like to agree with your point about books but unfortunately I’ve well and truly exceeded the amount of books I have room for 😦

      Most of them now sit unread in boxes in a storage unit and while I do still make additions to my library I do so at a slower rate than I used to.

      I agree about museums though! It is incredible how many specialised museums can be found in the most obscure of small towns and I suspect many of them are cases of “semi-organised” hoarding.

      I’m hopeful that one day my collection of historical photographs, postcards and ephemera might be considered an online museum of sorts.

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