The most recent episode of the Burton and Scrooge podcast has a lengthy segment about “collecting”. I must admit, it would never have crossed my mind to make this the main topic of a podcast conversation but it’s actually quite fascinating and relatable. At first, I couldn’t think of any true “collecting” that I’ve done in my lifetime. I’ve never earnestly put any effort into stamps or coins. But the longer the discussion went on, the more I realized that I AM quite the collector, after all!
Like the show hosts, my collecting started when I was quite young. We used to spend much of our summer months near a beach on a lake, so rocks and seashells were probably the first things that my siblings and I collected. Of course, specific types of toys could also be considered a “collection”. As a boy, I collected Star Wars and GI Joe action figures (the smaller ones, I never had the big one described in the podcast). Of course, Go-Bots and Transformers were also a staple in the 80’s, and I had several of these, as well. Many of these toys became the casualty of a pre-move garage sale we held when I was about thirteen years old. Trying to do my part to consolidate prior to the move, I priced most of the action figures at about 25 cents apiece. Of my Star Wars collection, only Chewbacca, Hammer Head and a gonk droid survive. I did have a Boba Fett with one hand missing but my oldest son traded him to a friend without asking me a few years back. It’s all good, really – toys are meant to be played with, which is why I handed them down in the first place.
As an adult, I still collect things – sometimes on purpose and sometimes not so deliberately. I’m a big fan of a certain NFL quarterback, and at one time it was my mission to own as many of his authentic NFL jerseys as possible. I probably have ten of these jerseys hanging in my closet. I’ll wear one occasionally, but they mainly just take up closet space. At another point in my adult life, I was buying autographed memorabilia from NFL players who had played for my university. For some reason, the passion for this collection has faded out, though it does make for an interesting wall display! One thing that I’ve been unintentionally collecting recently is MCU Blu-rays. I know most people nowadays are partial to streaming, but there are some movies that I just want to own and watch on my 60’’ HD screen whenever I feel like it. Plus, if I buy the physical media, it will sometimes come bundled with a DVD that the kids can watch in the car. As I sit here doing a mental count, it occurs to me that the only Blu-rays that I’m missing from the current MCU phases are The Incredible Hulk and two movies that have yet to be released in the US: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. It appears that I collect MCU movies like Agent Phil Coulson collects Captain America trading cards!
Something else that the show touched on was the propensity for collectors to expect some kind of return on their initial investment. This doesn’t bother me so much if the collection is for something like high-end sports memorabilia or something that an adult would be more likely to collect. It does bother me more when the item in question is a toy or something sought after by kids. When my oldest son was little, he loved trains. We thought it might be fun to take him to a model train “flea market” one weekend so that he could see all of the neat stuff that was available. As we progressed through the isles of merchandise, it struck me that each table was occupied by a man somewhere in the 55-75 age range. Not only that, but the prices on the train merch suggested that this was more of a collector’s fair than a flea market. One man even commented as he witnessed my son’s disappointed face: “it’s too bad, you almost have to be retired to be able to afford this hobby!” Most decently constructed model trains have been priced completely out of the market of their original intended segment, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, for the kids or for the hobby.
As the podcast episode went on, my mind started wondering how my collection “habit” affected the games I play, or how I play them. Although I’ve never considered myself much of a collector within games – achievements have never particularly interested me – there are certain things that I strive to accumulate. In LOTRO, I did collect mounts for a while, though my collection pales in comparison to the true fanatics. If wardrobe space was free, I could very easily have collected cosmetics, I think. But considering both wardrobe and storage space was fairly pricey, that type of collection became cost prohibitive.
In Marvel Heroes, I collect…well, heroes! The more I think about it, the more I realize that MH is all about collecting. I collect currencies to trade for heroes, gear, and pets. I collect gear to make heroes more powerful. I collect heroes to inject variety into the gameplay and to enhance replayability. I collect costumes to make my heroes look awesome. I collect team-ups (companions) to further inject variability into the content. I collect pets just for the heck of it. I don’t raid in MH, but if I did – it would be to collect the rarest and most sought-after items in the game! The entire game is one big collection! No wonder it’s hooked me, and so many others in!
I guess I’m a pretty big into accumulating things after all.
Hang on, I need to go collect my thoughts.
Collection of Buttons with Political Statements and Cultural Memories by Lynn Friedman on Flickr Creative Commons
Star Wars ‘Vintage Collection’ by Simon Q on Flickr Creative Commons