So you’ve noticed your friends collecting things at swap meets and on-line sights and can’t quite fully grasp what the big deal is. Your thought is why would anyone want to collect the things that they do. Well it’s just like buying a pair of shoes…….if we all like the same taste, there wouldn’t be a need for so many styles. Everyone has their own taste. Some are comparable, hence the popularity of some items that are collected more than others. The price on those items will also be decided by their popularity and number of people searching for them.
Some people don’t fully grasp collecting at all. But at the absolute basis of every collection and every collector is…… “the treasure hunt”. Searching out and finding……. following leads…..detective work. That’s half the fun. If you look at it from that angle, the whole collecting scene will make a lot more sense.
An example……..Back in the early 70’s I started collecting American made cookie jars. I’d noticed a couple of them at a friends mothers house and thought they were colorful and whimsical. Back then they seldom were more than $5. or $10. a jar. That also made it something I could afford to collect. Because I had just gotten into buying and selling antique iron beds, while spending a semester helping a friend develop a ski chalet in Pennsylvania, I had access to “pickers” and dealers in the far reaches of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio that dealt in not only iron beds but everything from quilts and stained glass windows to cookie jars. Over the next ten years I would continue to add to my collection and started being more and more specific with the type of cookie jars I liked and collected. Soon my collection had grown to near 150 jars. As is the case with just about everything that was made in restricted numbers, cookie jar popularity started developing…..as did their prices. The beds I started in, became a life time profession and I now have one of , if not the largest collection in the country.
Then in 1988 Andy Warhol’s cookie jar collection, accumulated from flea markets and auction box lots, represented his fascination with objects of Pop(ular) culture, sold through the auction gallery of Sotheby’s to a businessman, Gedalio Grinberg who paid $198,605 for 136 of them, their elevated value the result of the Warhol mystique. At the time of his sudden death, following gall bladder surgery in 1987, Warhol left behind a 30-room townhouse on New York’s East 66th Street that was “stuffed to the rafters with things,” says exhibition curator and Warhol archivist John W. Smith. “He was living in two rooms — the collection had taken over everything else. After a while — especially near the end — he was feeling extremely overwhelmed by all the things he had.”
Warhol rarely entertained in his home, and the news of the Pop master’s staggering accumulation grabbed headlines. The auction at Sotheby’s in 1988 drew the committed and the curious to view and bid on more than 10,000 items varying from a Fred Flintstone watch to a Roy Lichtenstein painting. The sale took 10 days and earned practically $30 million.
So sometimes something like the Warhol collection will instantly draw attention to things that were never believed to have held much value. But the thing that also will lead to recognition and collectability are an items scarceness. The fewer items that were made and the more people search them out…………the law of “supply and demand”. I saw the bed supply dwindle lower and lower every year……and conversely the price of beds go up and up.
Lets get back to what you should collect………What do you find intriguing in life? What would you like to learn a lot more about? Do you have a job that entails something that has been around for a long time?
Here are two prime examples of collections that are vastly different but bring the same pleasure to their collectors.
I think we’ve all heard of David Copperfield, the magician. It’s quite apparent his life is centered around his field of magic. His Las Vegas show deals with not only great “slight of hand” tricks , but also incredible escapes from seemingly impossible situations….chains, locks, trunks etc. So it stands to reason this field is interesting to him. After his career started taking off and he became one of the most well-known magicians in the world, David started collecting items that once belonged to Harry Houdini……. the all time king of escapes and magic. His devotion eventually resulted in The International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, the worlds largest collection of the history of the art of magic, provides a safe, long lasting home for antiquarian books, illusions and ephemera on magic and the allied arts.
The Museum was based in 1991 after Copperfield bought, at auction, the Mulholland Library of the Conjuring and the Allied Arts. The collection contains some 80,000 pieces, together with 15,000 magic books, some of which date back to the 16th century. It also incorporates the first magic book ever to be revealed in the New World, Houdini memorabilia, and other priceless items.
So Cooperfields passion for his craft has led to one of the best “collections” in the world.
On the reverse end of the scale is a close friend of mine who happens to be an electrician. At the prodding of his wife one weekend to visit an old friend who’d moved to a rather remote town, off the beaten track, he decided to keep her company. While his wife was visiting with her friend she asked him if he’d mind finding lunch for them at a small deli not far from her friends home. Wanting to kill time, he observed a small yard sale/ swap meet in the parking lot of the deli. On one of the tables was a small collection of outdated glass insulators that early electric wires use to be strung around on the top of old electric poles. Being an electrician, they caught his eye. He purchased the small collection for $20. That would lead to a collection he now has that is well over 200 glass insulators. Also being an amateur carpenter, he’s built beautiful shelves in his home where his collection is prominently exhibited for all to see.
Fun…… That’s what collecting should be. Something that interests you and is fun.
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