Just How Crazy Are We? Accumulating, Decorating & Collecting, Part 16

Let’s tell the truth. We’re among friends. Collectors, as all know, are an odd bunch.

The habit is more than curious. By some standards, it is outrageous.

Collectors spend a lot of money, time, and psychic energy on their collections.

I’m reminded of my mother’s admonishment as I pushed the peas around the perimeter of my dinner plate with a fork: “There are children starving in Europe,” she’d say.

To which my snarky, 12-year-old’s response was: “Name three.” It was a winning strategy, to be sure. Among those usually prompting the Mother’s Curse: “I hope you have children. And want them to be just like you!”


While at last month’s Arts & Crafts Conference, I encountered a high-end collector, making a substantial purchase. One a little outside his collecting arena. The object’s cost was in the $10,000 neighborhood.

Later, while making polite conversation, I asked if he was going to the Grove Park Inn’s well-regarded spa.

“No,” he exclaimed and in a tone that was at once firm with astonishment at the question. And to further clarify, he said: “I’m not paying $90 for that!”

Let’s see. What’s being compared here: $10K versus 90 bucks. And which seems more out-of-the-ordinary? Hmm.

I’m no better. Take appliances, for instance. Though not an instance of collecting.

I had to replace my Toast-R-Oven. After more than 15 years of reliable service, the one I owned wasn’t working properly.

Oh, it still “made” toast. That part was just fine. But the “R-Oven” portion – used for such things as baking chicken or fish – not so good.

After 15 years of vigorous, uncomplaining, and perfectly good service, the $25 appliance needed replacement.

Now, you can call me and offer me a Grueby vase for $5,000 and I’ll commit to purchasing it from your description over the phone. Photos not required.

And I’ve mailed complete strangers checks for similar amounts for similar items. (But I won’t do it again, after this column is published!)

But, to replace the toaster, I have to conduct extensive, exhaustive scientific research. Previously, before the Great Enlightenment (this time meaning the Internet), research meant carefully reading Consumer Reports magazine coupled with excursions to several Big Box discount stores.

I don’t want to overpay by, say, $2 for the appliance, after all. $25 versus $27 – it adds up, you know.

A lot of searching. A lot of time. Considerable gas.

All for a $30 item that’s going to last 15 years. Or two bucks a year.

This isn’t something you do, is it?

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