I've been a collector of things for as long as I can remember.
As a kid, there were failed attempts at collecting stamps and coins. I started those collections because they were things my father understood. They had obvious value as currency and easily-imagined future value as investments. As aesthetic objects, though, I found them lacking. You've seen one Buffalo nickel, you've seen them all, as far as I was concerned. Half-hearted trips to the Hennepin County Library to check out books on philately failed to ignite the essential spark that a true collection requires.
My love of comic books, however, endured. The art. The cliffhanger endings. The characters that penetrated my pre-adolescent mind and touched my heart. Comic books owned me as much as I owned them. It was a requited love. If you've never taken a copy of X-Men #94 out of a mylar bag, gingerly, to look at the page where Thunderbird dies, or showed an awestruck fellow fan the final panel of Hulk #180, which introduced Wolverine, well, I pity you, bub. There is a certain wonder and respect you have for a collection that you truly cherish.
As an adult, my collecting has evolved. I started out assembling a meager collection of Chase chrome. I still love those designs, but that passion quickly gave way to a double-decade dive into dinnerware. Amassing more mid-century dishes than I could ever hope to use -- even in the retro-themed bed-and-breakfast I fantasize about running in retirement -- I eventually reached saturation. The only pieces I still crave are well beyond my budget. I'm holding out for a lucky thrift store find or a lottery win.
My latest collection, addressed last year on this blog, is Blenko Glass. Thinking about how this collection got started made me consider the life cycle of any collection. I thought I'd try and capture it here and see if it makes sense to anyone besides myself. Like that Greek naif who flew too close to the sun, I call the pattern ICARUS.
I - Interest. The first phase occurs when you are out looking for something else. An object catches your eye. "What is that?" you wonder. You make a mental note. Perhaps you even go and check out the price tag. "$75? I'm not paying $75 for that!" You walk away, but you can't stop thinking about it.
C - Curiosity. The lingering wonderment gets the better of you. You begin to research the object. Who made it? When? Is it really worth $75? Can I get it for less? Late night Googling gives way to perusing books on the subject and finding obsessed collector groups on social media. There are others like you. They all have an example of that beautiful object you left behind, at the bargain price of $75. Will it still be there if you go back?
A - Acquisition. Once the collectible has, like a weevil, bored its way into your soul, you inevitably acquiesce and buy your first object. It might be that first one which caught your fancy, but it could be a matter of opportunity. There it is, the thing you want, at a thrift store, or an estate sale. "One example won't hurt anything," you tell yourself. Once you break the seal, however, the floodgates open. A wave of purchases follows. You try to be reasonable. You try to stay "on budget." You fail. Suddenly, there's a room in your house dedicated to the collectible, and you're saying things to your partner like, "It could be worse. I could be addicted to cocaine."
R - Refinement. After the initial burst of amassing the collectible, you begin to realize that you have been indiscriminate. You've picked up items that are not top quality. You realize you prefer certain colors over others. Some styles really aren't YOUR style. You start to set parameters to guide future acquisitions. You might voice these aloud to fellow collectors to see how they react, or to your partner, to give him hope of getting the den back.
U - Unloading. Part of the refinement process is rectifying your early mistakes. You start to get rid of the "bad" to make room for the "good." You have a garage sale. You open an Etsy shop. You make trips to Goodwill. Getting rid of the dreck allows you to highlight the gems of your collection. You might even accept your partner's rule: "One in, one out." Sophie had it easy.
S - Slowing. Eventually, the raging fire of your new collection dwindles to a warm glow. At least I think it does. This Blenko passion is crazy hot right now. And if I'm honest, I still find myself looking at graphic novels in Barnes & Noble, or feeling intensely curious about the female Thor comic on my coworker's desk. Those calls are muffled, though; the tugs on my heart less urgent. I can resist them. For now. Right?
Does this sound at all familiar to you? Or am I alone in my collecting psychosis?