Collector, Not Hoarder

Americans are the number-one consumers in the world. For most of us that live relatively "normal" lives, our procurement and retention of goods would not be considered hoarding or collecting.  In the definitions of these words, there’s no mention of anything negative or even passionate about hoarding or collecting, respectively.

Even though we are big time consumers, do you know a collector? As the new generation of adults comes along, the interest in collecting seems to be weakening. I would hope, however, that being a collector would never be viewed as hoarding. And as we march into a new century, I hope the interest and the passion to collect strengthens.

I entered the antique business in the early 1990s, right before the Antique Roadshow aired on PBS. This was the era of collectors. People looked at their latest acquisition as adding value to their collection - a piece that rounded out a flat area in their holdings. Some collectors were learned and well-studied, while others were less reflective, adding new pieces based on shapes or colors that they did not have.

Collectors could have 50 or more pieces in their collection. Passion could take a collector to travel around the globe to procure a piece, scrimp and save to purchase the next acquisition, and study and research a specific period or area to gain detailed knowledge.

Life has given way to a new era, one where less is more. I would hate to think that this new era would view a collector of the past as a hoarder or collecting as the first step to becoming a hoarder. Both hoarders and collectors can be passionate about their stash of goodies, but for me there is a fine line.

Over the years, I’ve been in the homes of hoarders. Piles of random stuff stacked up with nothing organized. The hoarder is crippled - he cannot make the move to let go of things. Yes, I am sure that some hoarders believe they are collectors and their piles of stuff have value.

Let's turn to the potential of sensible collectors. Programs like Antique Roadshow and American Pickers have brought a new interest to old things. It has inspired some to hunt for bargains at storage unit sales. A unit buyer can sell off the mass of things he finds for a profit, while keeping any item or items he values for himself. This fuels a new generation of collectors. Some people are drawn to the stylish interiors shown in magazines and expensive stores. These collectors may be found picking through garage sales or flea markets to duplicate a look.

Thus, a new audience is brought to realize the value of older pieces. Helping a parent clear out their home - the vessel of family treasures - can invigorate interest in family castoffs such as childhood toys or vintage glassware from the 1950s. This may kick off the hunt to add to a set of glasses or find the manufacturer of a toy and learn what other toys were made at the time.

Be inspired. Find joy in searching for that special piece and sharing it with others. Learn from the past. See how the design world today has a direct connection to our past. If it is decorating your home with vintage finds or searching for like items to group together, you are becoming a collector. Collect with passion and responsibility. It is fun - and not hoarding.

Mitchell Sotka

Mitchell Sotka

The Eponymous Antique Shop Owner

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Volume 3, Issue 10, Posted 3:29 PM, 04.07.2016