It's not hoarding if you have good stuff...
What do you collect?
Oh, come on, I used to say nothing too. And, for a minute, it was true. I used to tell people that I was perfect for this business because I was NOT a collector. But then life happens. And, I for one (to borrow a line from Hozier) “fall in love, just a little oh a little bit – with some THING rather than some ONE – new, every day”. And so, working in this business that I love, made me become a collector.
In a previous post, I told you about my parents’ employee with whom I did NOT get to go to NYC as a kid. Well, the silver lining of that story is that she brought me back the tiniest/silliest gift that I instantly adored. A one inch, plastic, bright yellow Statue of Liberty. And, somehow, I’ve had it since I was 11 or 12 years old.
Then one day in my early 20’s, I read an article about a man that collected little buildings. And it sparked something in me. At the time, this man had the country’s foremost collection of various sizes of assorted metal, collectible, iconic buildings. He’d paid anywhere from pennies to thousands for his and they were all of course, rare and pristine. His prized piece, the crown jewel of his collection so to speak, was a “Grassy Knoll”. You got it, someone commemorated the grassy knoll from which they believe Kennedy was killed, in bronze, and sold them as souvenirs. Dark? Yes. Classic Americana? You bet!
His obsession both peaked my interest and played on my passion for architecture and before I knew it, with my tiny yellow Statue of Liberty as a jumping-off point, I started my own little building collection. Mine has rules, however. 1. I would never pay more than $25-30 for a building. 2. I don’t seek them out (unless I’m playing tourist) on eBay. I let them find me. In fact, I’ve been collecting them for so long at this point that I get an “itch” when I’m going to find one. 3. And this one’s really a notion rather than a rule: my favorites are the ones I receive as gifts.
Some of them were originally intended to be functional: a pencil sharpener, a bell, salt & pepper shakers or coin banks. Some are made of a metal like bronze or copper, some are plastic or rubber, and some are glass or ceramic. They range in size from ¼ inch to about 12 inches. They are American, European, iconic and easily recognizable, and also completely unknown (to me) “landmarks”. Some stand alone and some, come with surrounding buildings. Some are old. Some are new. And, I love them all.
A second thing I collect are diner mugs.
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a diner fetish. I’m not sure how or when it started, perhaps in the 70’s touring around the southwest with my parents, either playing road trip games or fighting in the backseat, with my brother. Pre-MacDonald’s and Denny’s, like most red-blooded American families, we’d stop at roadside “greasy spoons” while on weekend trips summer vacations. We’d sit in a cozy vinyl booth and order comfort food like Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes and brown gravy served with a tiny bowl of iceburg lettuce slothered in Thousand Island or French dressing and a couple obligatory packages of saltine crackers. The waitress was usually crass and the ice in the water or tea was always crushed. If you ordered milk, it was so cold it had ice slivers floating in it. If you ordered coffee, it NEEDED cream and sugar in order to be palatable. Those were the days…
Once again, something simple - those memories and the notion that comfort food and COFFEE are everything - sparked joy in me and a collection began.
I buy diner-style mugs at places that I love: diners, coffeehouses or even shops (FISHS EDDY, NYC) that are so in sync with me and my aesthetic and my ideals that they invested in a classic American symbol with their logo on it. That’s a wordy explanation, I know, but it’s how I see it.
Whether it’s charms or love letters, music or comic books, art or hats or 18th Century poetry, unless we’re living off the grid or total minimalists, we all collect something don’t we? A certain style of clothes, a genre of books, matchbooks, coins, stamps, or perhaps a closet-full of expensive shoes or a pantry-full of exotic spices? Or, for many of us, precious heirlooms that belonged to our beloved family members. Those things that we just can’t part with and feel so very honored to have.
So, what do you collect? And, more importantly, what does it mean to you?