Collectors do it for fun

Collectors come in all sizes, shapes and ages, range from the wealthiest to the most humble, the obsessive to the most casual, and gather anything from the obvious to the odd. In short, if it exists, someone will collect it.

I’ve been a collector all my life. I think it began with stamps, next Glenn Miller 78rpm records, broadened into coins, Canadiana, maple leaf glass, beaver jars, military insignia, l/72nd scale model aircraft, books about the Second World War Spitfire, the recordings of the Four Freshman, the HiLo’s, the Singers Unlimited, plus Frank Sinatra and numerous other odds and ends that — believe it or not — have some sort of pattern.

I also tend to keep nearly everything that comes my way, the theory being that some day it will be useful — no wonder my wife calls me a pack rat.

Define your limits
To be sure, collecting can be expensive, but only if you allow it to be. The secret is to draw a line and not cross it, and one of the best ways to keep control of the cost is to define the limitations of your collection.

Take stamps, for instance. Most stamp collectors have only a certain type of stamp they collect &#211 a particular country or stamps depicting butterflies. Why not, then, limit the scope of the collection by seeking only Canadian stamps during the reign of Elizabeth II, or some other attainable grouping?

I knew a lady who had a marvellous collection of salt and pepper shakers. The beauty of this collection was that it consisted of only what she liked and could afford. There was no desire to complete anything, so it was always ongoing and totally casual. She knew the real secret about collecting — that it was only for the fun and interest it afforded her.

For me, the thrill is always in the hunt. Garage sales, flea markets, curio and antique shops, used record stores, following leads to almost anywhere. In fact, the acquisition is sometimes a letdown, for then the hunt is over. Not for long, fortunately, for there’s always something else to find.

How to begin
Starting a collection is easy — you pick something and start collecting it. Before long, though, you may want to know what’s available in your particular area, and then you can find magazines and periodicals which cover almost everything under the sun.

In this modern age, however, there’s a wonderful tool that can enhance your hobby — the Internet. If you go online, you can not only find information about your collectibles, but where to find them and, most important, you can talk to people by e-mail who have similar interests.

As your collection grows, you should find a way to display your work. What’s the point of having something if you can’t show it off? There are lots of ways to do this, depending on the type of collection; from simple shelves to display cases, glass-topped display tables, specially designed albums for certain things, even an entire room dedicated to your hobby. The point is — don’t hide what you do and take pride that there’s a focus to your interests.

Remember, however, that your family may not share either your interest in your hobby or see any worth in what you’ve accumulated. For this reason, it may be worthwhile to see that your collection will go to someone who values it after you’ve gone. This may involve a person who shares your passion or, perhaps, a library or museum.

There again, you can use the Internet to offer your collection for sale. Advertise in one of the collecting magazines and, perhaps, if what you have is of value, bequeath it to a university or museum that will issue a tax receipt you can use as a deduction on the understanding that the collection goes to the institution when you depart this mortal coil.

Frank and me
My own collection of Frank Sinatra recordings began only because I liked his interpretation of classic songs, together with the backing arrangements of Nelson Riddle, Billy May and others. In fact, I didn’t consider it a collection as such for years — it was just listened to and enjoyed. Then I came across a book that included a listing of every recording Sinatra had made to that date, and as I compared this to what I already had, I realized I was well on the way to a complete collection. That was all I needed to light my fire and I set out to get every recording by The Chairman.

I started this in earnest about 1970 and I’m still working at it. What fun I’ve had in searching for this material, and the 29-year quest has had unexpected benefits.

Perks of a hobby
You become something of an authority as you collect, and for me, this led to being asked to appear on that old TV quiz show The $128,000 Question, hosted by Alex Trebeck. My topic, of course, was Frank Sinatra, and I lasted six shows, coming away with some $22,000 in cash and prizes. Not bad for a hobby!

One other wonderful perk was being invited to Frank’s The Main Event performance at Madison Square Garden in New York, a star-studded occasion my wife and I will never forget.

You never know where collecting will lead you, but you can be assured of hours, weeks, even years of enjoyment, and you’ll never have a hobby that will bring you more satisfaction.