If there’s one thing we know about toy collectors, it’s that they love their toys. It’s undeniable that toy collection, or any kind of collection, can be a challenging hobby. Others find it difficult to search for particular pieces of their collection. Some might find it frustrating to get the right deals. Many quit because it’s hard to sustain the right kind of finances. A lot of collectors persevere, though, and sometimes to the bewilderment of others. Here in our second toy collectors retrospective, we’ll ask: just what goes on in their heads?
Join our crew here at What’s A Geek! as we try to unveil the mystery behind toy collectors and how they approach their collection. This hopefully helps us gain more insight towards toy collecting as a hobby, and increase our appreciation as a whole.
Toy Collectors: Looking Back At Toy Collecting
I don’t consider myself a big toy collector – I’ve never even had the opportunity to collect anything worthy of a “collection.” Being panganay in the family, I always leaned towards delayed gratification. At the back of my head, there’s always something to worry about – finances on one hand, the future on the other, and saving the world as a side gig. I may have delayed too much, though. What I have been missed opportunities to collect.
A friend within the barkada introduced me to Magic: The Gathering, and I’ve invested a few thousand pesos on both a Blue-Green mill deck and an ordinary White-Green deck. I’ve never played competitively, nor did I even bring my cards anywhere. I never had the opportunity to buy card sleeves and, being the perfectionist that I am, refused to play the game until I had all my cards protected. Yes, I’ve never played until now – and some of my friends are already starting to quit the game.
Looking back, I might actually consider child me more of a collector than the “adult” that I am. At 6, I asked my parents to buy me a dollhouse (a blue one) so my Digimon miniatures had a “fortress.” I even bought a couple of Megaman Battle Network action figures – because boy did I love the posing potential. Not to mention, Protoman.EXE. Much of them were flooded though, courtesy of Ondoy – but they’re still at home.
Dice appears to be my newest “thing” though – and hopefully, this becomes a sustained thing.
Toy Collecting: There’s A Mindset
I’ve mentioned quitting a couple of times, but it’s in no way indicative that I want people to quit collecting. No, rather, it’s me acknowledging that quitting really is a part of the collecting process one way or another. People change interests and switch hobbies, some easier than others, and some much painful than the rest.
Some quit because of financial constraints, or because of a totally new hobby. Others quit because partners don’t like their collections (and apparently this is a thing?). Some even quit because they don’t “feel” the hobby anymore. One could compare this with a life phase, or be transitioning from one career to the next. And like these examples, “transitioning” away from the craft can be painful.
Likewise, “transitioning” into toy collecting can be one of the best feelings in the world. Many toy collectors may have found their passion the same way people find their “dream” careers. Others may have stumbled upon the hobby. Some may have been saving just to start collecting. Some may even continue the love they parents have for collecting.
Interestingly, humans appear to have been collecting things for centuries. According to a National Psychologist study, enthusiasts have been collecting books, works of art, zoological specimens, shells, and fossils even in the 1700s and 1800s. Mark McKinley, Ed.D., the author of the study, added that all sorts of people collect things – from “ordinary” people to the landed gentry and even aristocrats.
People collect all sorts of things to the point of being classified, too. Horologists collect clocks, vecturists collect subway tokens, numismatists collect coins, deltiologists collect postcards, and archtophilists collect teddy bears. Not sure what’s the formal term for toy collectors, though.
Point is – love it or hate it, collecting will be here to stay. But why, though?
The Science! Inside Collecting
People collect things for various reasons. Some of these reasons can be both external and internal in nature. However, most of them do involve assigning value to the objects we collect.
One psychoanalytical explanation for collecting would be the inherent comfort that can be found in possessing objects. Some collect for the thrill of it – because collecting can be fun.
Another alternative explanation speaks of an existential anxiety – as after all, toys live on even when owners die. Some rely on the pursuit of their collection as a way to find “meaning.” Push this further, and others may use collecting as a means to be “unique” from others.
Interestingly, modern explanations for collecting are also worth mentioning. For instance, evolutionary theorists suggest a collection can be one of many ways to attract potential mates. Collectors can project their ability to accumulate resources, which is an essential part of survival.
Others collect because it allows them to tinker with items. Some find it fun to experiment – such as classifying parts, removing parts, and rearranging parts. Some say this is a way to express control over their comfort zones.
There’s also something called an endowment, where the value of an object increases when we get to own them. Another phenomenon is contagion, where the value of an object is based on the people or concepts associated with them.
For instance, people can deem a celebrity item desirable because of the celebrity’s “essence” infused inside the item.
Collectors don’t have one single “motive,” however. Psychologists say a lot of collectors have multiple reasons for collecting – and surely all of them can justify one’s love for the hobby.
Collecting should be differentiated with its cousins “hoarding” and “clutter,” though. A lot of fights start in the community precisely because of this misunderstanding.
When Collecting Gets Bad
An interesting essay by Barry Yourgrau can help enlighten readers to the more… extreme sides of collecting. In his Psychology Today piece, he explained that while collectors, clutterers, and hoarders have a mutual fascination for objects, their natures are different. While clutterbugs can be persuaded to “let go” of items, hoarders can find it difficult to the point of needing psychological insight.
Those familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) may have found a definition of hoarding tucked inside its contents. According to the DSM-5, those with hoarding disorder experience “persistent difficulty” when it comes to parting or discarding possessions “regardless” of their value. Those with the disorder often insist that they need to “save the items” and may even be distressed with the idea of discarding them. As such, the result will most likely be possessions that clutter and congest active living areas, and eventually, compromise them from being used.
Randy Frost gave Yourgrau a few points of discussion to help readers get a more creative understanding of hoarding. Frost, the Father of Hoarding Psychology, said that hoarders can be likened to artists in that they possess a particular imagination and sensitivity towards objects. Unfortunately, unlike artists, they see the difficulty in “cutting” said objects.
Yourgrau also highlighted a particular visit he made to Barry Lubetkin’s home to see a few items in his collection. Lubetkin, both a prominent psychotherapist and a collector, had 200 items’ worth of “Psychcollectibles” – his collection purely dedicated to psychology.
Lubetkin told Yourgrau that he had a particular fascination with antique shows even as a child. He eventually decided that the only way he could handle such a fascination was to “develop a specialty.”
“Otherwise I’d be engulfed,” he was quoted saying in the article.
Sidebar: Managing, Coping With Hoarding
If you see yourself as a potential hoarder, and especially if you think your collecting is starting to affect your life in negative ways, don’t immediately let go of the craft. Rather, try following Frost’s advice. Perhaps you can try throwing away something as an experiment first.
Frost said it might help to let go (sell?) parts of your collection, and build a “specialization” from there. This helps if you have quite a lot of items in your collection, but not everything help express you as a collector. Perhaps you can let go of things until you find items in your collection worth showcasing to others.
Or you can go the alternative route and make sure when you add something to your collection, it’s not at the cost of things that are important to you. If you really think your hoarding is starting to affect your life negatively, do seek professional help.
In the end, if there’s anything I admire the most about collectors, it’s their amazing management skills. It’s not everyday that you can see people work hard “mastering” the craft of finding only the perfect pieces to their collection. They work hard, save hard, and search hard to make sure they get that one piece they need – and wow, is it worth the wait.
Smarter Collecting: Approaching The Hobby With Strategy
If you’ve read the previous retrospective, you may have noticed that a lot of collectors approach their hobby with a bit of strategy in mind. For hardcore collectors, they collect not willy-nilly, but with a particular “goal.” Going outside the entire “reason for collecting” earlier, this means approaching collection with both satisfaction and practicality in mind.
If you’re hesitant on collecting because you think you’ll go “all out,” we may have some tips for you. Remember, the key here is to properly set your mind towards a particular objective as a collector.
- Specialize for fun: Finding a specialization can be difficult. This is especially if you want your collection to be unique. Don’t panic, though. Instead, focus on what makes toys fun for you. Focus on collecting those first, and then branch out after.
- Remember your budget: A lot of people joke around couples breaking up about collections. However, this does have a legitimate basis. Money isn’t easy to come by, but that doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your hobbies. You should be smarter when it comes to spending, though. If you allocate a specific budget for your toys, you can buy them slowly without compromising your needs.
- Choose your preferred buying method: Getting toys and collectibles are hard. If you want to start collecting, relying on only one source for collectibles might not get you anywhere. Try to explore your options with your particular specialty. Toy lovers who love playing, for instance, can actually go outside the usual Toys R’ Us and Toy Kingdom. They can go to Kidscompany, which is actually the online store of Richprime Global Inc. (RGI). This is the company that actually distributes brands such as TMNT, Voltron, Barbie, and Hot Wheels to various outlets.
The Bottomline: For Toy Collecting, There’s Nowhere To Go But Up
When hobbyists start collecting, the idea of stopping seems to be a bit hard to digest. People shouldn’t think of the idea of collecting as an addiction, however. Sometimes, the shrill thrill of being able to acquire a testament to your love of something can be captivating. As the above shows, the powerful connection collecting establishes between person and craft isn’t limited to toy collecting alone. People who love collecting books, stickers, stationery, clothes – all of them show love for particular concepts and themes.
And like any other craft, hobbyists and creators will likely step up to introduce innovations. These innovations won’t be replacing classic beloved methods, though. If anything, these innovations will elevate collecting to new heights, and this makes everything all the more thrilling. Imagine the kind of thrill going to a toy store or a hobby store, expecting to find a specific toy for your collecting. Now imagine yourself, 20 years later and with a child, with a new kind of thrill when you see toys both you and your toddler like right on your tablet screen.
Stores transitioning to online paces such as Kidscompany will definitely be a thing of tomorrow. In fact, the advent of online shopping introduced people to the wonders of one-day shipping, convenient searching, and security. What more could toy collectors ask for?
Personally speaking, I’m actually invested in finding out just what sort of thrill this added alternative will give to toy collectors. And just how convenient is this new option? Perhaps there’s room to find out – and stay tuned for the upcoming second part of this toy collecting retrospective.