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The curse of the collector

October 26th, 2008 · 1 Comment

I am an enthusiastic (obsessed) collector of anything from my childhood. In addition to this I am passionate about books, preferably first edition consisting again of anything from my childhood, along with a more eclectic grown up range of genres and authors.  I am a ‘spirited’ collector – as hunting stalking and scoring the kill no matter what (although violence is my last resort – normally).

Yesterday, a 5 year search ended.  The laborious hunt involved three elusive childhood books, sketchy details of each plot had lurked in the back of my mind but recalling titles  had proved impossible.  Further adding to my frustration was the failure of the usually reliable Google – seemingly I had run out of options.

During my hunt, I had stumbled across a website called Loganberry books that offered a service by the name of ‘stump the bookseller’ whereby you could submit a sketchy outline of the plot of your forgotten treasure in the hope that the internet audience would know the title of your book.   Could this be the answer to solving my mystery?  I was desperate so I gave it a shot.  A week later much to my amazement all three of my stumpers were solved.  It was the equivalent to winning first division in tattslotto -well almost.

This momentous occasion started me thinking about the reasons why people collect things and I came to the conclusion that there are basically three types of collectors:

1.    Serial Killers (Trophy collectors),
2.    Nostalgic’s, and
3.    Acquirers

The Serial Killer Type

Fans of the show Dexter would know that pulp fiction serial killers have a compulsion to collect trophies from their victims.  In Dexter’s case he likes to collect small blood samples from each of his victims and stores these samples in a little purpose built wooden box, which he hides in the air-conditioning unit of his apartment (Personally I think this is a stupid hiding spot).  Ultimately what use is Dexter’s collection?  I mean, can you imagine Dexter displaying his victim’s blood samples in a mahogany display cabinet and using this as a conversation starter?  Well this might be the case if he was discussing his collection with his peers and exchanging tips on how best to preserve body parts.

We know that many serial killers collect souvenirs from their victims as “trophies,” some experts will argue that the killer is trying to capture the moment so they can remember the kill later through the souvenir. It’s also about possession, order and control.  A blood sample is simple, doesn’t talk back and can be ordered and controlled unlike the real world.   Here’s a thought -maybe we should rehabilitate serial killers by teaching them to replace their murderous collecting habits with more positive ones.  For example Royal Doulton china or porcelain animal figurines…..hmmm Dexter would need to consider moving his animal figurines from his air-conditioning unit to a larger storage space!

The Nostalgic’s

We nostalgic’s are a funny breed.  We hunt down artefacts from our childhood, which is quite ironic because I remember wanting to throw all my childhood nick nacks and toys  away when I hit 13.  I cleaned out my room and removed the last toy from my toy basket and without a last thought I threw away my toy basket and it was done – I was now a proud grown up.

As we get older, something changes, it usually starts with casual conversation.

“Oh, remember how good it was when we were growing up?” we say to our friends.

“Yes, we had all these great toys and games, its just so different now, kids just sit in front of the T.V and computer…tsk tsk tsk.”

The nostalgic yearns for an era gone by as we reminisce about childhood days.  Is it because we feel that things were better when we were children, simpler, more joyful perhaps?  Are we trying to relive a fraction of those moments or escape to a better world because adult life is just too difficult or somehow lacking the simple pleasure of childhood? When I look at my strawberry shortcake collection I remember how good Apple Dumpling smelt when I took her fresh out of the box as a child. When I read ‘Where the Wild things are’ I remember how wide-eyed and excited I felt listening about Max and his adventures with the mythical monsters.

How much do we have to collect before we Noslagic’s are satisfied?  Does it all depend on how much room you have in your house……..or air-conditioning unit.

Is satisfaction even possible? I often wonder though if we yearn for a sensation that we only think we felt in the past, one that never really existed. That if we really were transported back somehow to that moment, the moment would be wrong, off, like flat coca cola or a day old doughnut.

The Acquirers

I like to think of the Acquirer as the ‘maybe serial killer’ or the ‘serial killer without the killing bit’.  Surely we all know an Acquirer-  someone who likes to collect something as a hobby- books, stamps, coins, miniature cars, antiques, of in the case of Dexter, the reformed serial killer – porcelain animal figurines and Royal Doulton china.

Let’s try to get into the head of ‘The Aquirer’.   The first thing that comes to mind is order.  Generally, most stamp or coin collectors are very fastidious about their collections – dust free in hermetically sealed chambers, everything is labelled and strategically placed in an album or coin slots. One stamp or coin in the set going astray could cause a disproportionate reaction. Have you seen how much collectors pay for the objects of their desire on e-bay?  Is this how some people create order and maintain an illusion of control in an increasingly chaotic world?

So there you have it, a complete, through and accurate breakdown of the three types of collectors.

In summary all three categories collect for a variety of reasons:

  • the serial killer: control, order, happy reminiscences, what better way to remember a kill by sleeping with the rotting head for a month;
  • the nostalgic: for sentimentality i.e. remembering the smell of plastic infused apple blossom; and the longing for a real or imagined better time long past; and
  • the acquirer: for maintaining a sense of order providing nothing in the collection goes missing.

Are we all really that dissimilar, perhaps we are all chasing the same elusive thing, each of us going about it a different way, never quite satisfied, always chasing the next book, toy, stamp or person to kill. What are we really looking for?

Tags: musings

1 response so far ↓

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