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Why We Collect

Odds are, you’re here because you love to collect.

Don’t worry: you’re amongst good company. It is well known that as collectors, we affix an emotional value to the items we amass--and that almost always exceeds the market value of the items. We put our time, money, and hearts into gathering the things we love. But if collecting demands so many of our most precious resources, why do we do it? Below, I’ve provided a handful of the most significant reasons we collect. Maybe this list helps you become more aware of the motivations behind your actions. Maybe you’ll forward it to a loved one who doesn’t understand what makes you tick. Or maybe this list is just affirmation of what you’ve already known for so long.

Whatever you do with these reasons, take them and use them to build community.

Speaking of which:

1) Community

The ominous “private collector” archetype is plastered throughout mainstream media, but it is hardly characteristic of the collecting world as a whole. In fact, most people prefer to engage the social climate that forms around any collectable hobby. When we collect with others, we lay a foundation upon which we can build meaningful relationships. There is an immediate bond that exists between collectors, particularly within the same hobbies, due to the shared experience of collecting itself. Leveraging this common ground usually leads to deeper, more meaningful interactions between collectors. In Pokemon, this is particularly true--we have the values within the Pokemon world constantly reinforcing the positive interactions and encouraging social receptivity. Ash was accepted everywhere he went, and most collectors enjoy a similar freedom within the hobby.

2) Making the past the present.

Some people call it “reliving your childhood,” some “nostalgia,” and still others “being childish.” Call it what you have to, but it’s really a connection of the past to the present. This can be in one of two ways. You might be taking the positive experiences you’ve had in the past and enjoying a core element of them at this new place and time. Alternatively, you may have had a poor experience in the past or currently harbor insecurity, anxiety, or other negative impressions regarding the time in your life in which collecting made its first impact. If the second case is true, bringing the good out into a better time can redeem those moments and bring the sense of peace and security that was lacking in the past. Ultimately, humans are autonomous meaning-makers. The collective value we ascribe to history can be enjoyed in the present by connecting the dots of time, forming a new experience that’s also imbued with the old--something that could not possibly belong to anyone else in the same way.

3) The thrill

While it is not yet clear if collecting is driven by born traits or developed habits, all collectors can agree that there is a unique thrill to the chase. Hunting down each card to be added to our collections is a phenomenal experience. Thrilling pursuits, finds, and checks on our lists are perhaps more drug-like than any other aspect of the hobby. When channeled into productive, healthy collecting habits, the thrill can be a sustaining force that carries us from goal to goal and gives us empathy to encourage others in their own pursuits.

4) Preservation

The final element in why we collect, and my personal favorite, is an interest in preserving tangible, fragile items for the enjoyment of future generations. We all collect cards, but we should also all be seeking to collect knowledge. Both cards and knowledge can be exchanged, amassed, and shared with others. When we document cards, we make possible more meaningful engagements with the hobby for future generations. This is the primary motivating factor behind the articles that I write here at Ludkins Collectables. The act of preserving cards and knowledge can at times be costly and sacrificial, but it is part of giving back to the broader community that transcends time and place to bring together the greater collecting world.

Ultimately, we are all motivated by each of these reasons in one way or another. Being a collector is a complicated part of our personal identity. While we might not always be diehard card collectors (unfathomable, I know), collecting will never completely fade from our way of interacting with life. However, we all choose whether we are going to be collectors for our personal gain or collectors for our community. We all choose if we are going to be collectors who share what we have and know with those around us or collectors who seek only to boost our own egos. Being a collector is not inherently good or bad, but part of being a collector is deciding what type of person we want to be within the hobby. Collecting isn’t a free pass for greed, envy, gossip, or lies. And collecting doesn’t automatically include charitability, kindness, or love. But the beauty of collecting is that whatever path you choose, the hobby will build you into a stronger version of that type.

You know what you collect, but what type of collector will you choose to be?

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker