The Vintage Newspaper

March 19, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Vintage

The idea of handling dusty old newspapers let alone collecting them probably doesn’t get your heart racing.

It’s not exciting or flashy. Unless there’s breaking-news newspapers are simply compilations of life’s most mundane snippets. And when there isn’t news to fill the pages you’ll find advertisements for everyday day to day items. Such exciting products like foot powders and rash ointments.

While the internet and social media is now changing things dramatically newspapers aren’t hard to find. They are dropped off by the box load at church socials and garage sales.

First a little background on the vintage newspaper publication itself.

The newspaper industry has some serious roots. In America right around 1690 there was the first unauthorized publication. Calling itself, “PUBLICK OCCURENCES.” Being unauthorized is an important distinction as it was very quickly supressed. The publisher was then arrested and all copies of the paper rounded up and promptly destroyed.

It wasn’t until about 150 years later a single copy was discovered in the British library.

Prior to that discovery there were many more attempts. For example, in 1704, then Post Master John Campbell tried and failed to create something with substantial circulation. Even though it was heavily subsidized by the colonial government of the day, his publication the “BOSTON-NEWS LETTER” also failed.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Many more attempts were made. Some more successful than others. And by 1814 there were a total of 346 newspapers in circulation.

Advances in the printing press, paper-making and even inks made it now possible to produce a newspaper that could be sold for a single penny – hence the Penny Press.

Now the masses had access to information through newspapers. Something that up until then was only available to the wealthy. This was a historical turning point for America. The information (exchange) age was beginning.

As the Industrial Revolution took hold the playing field for publications got even more crowded. And by 1850 the number of newspapers in circulation had grown to 2,526 , as documented in census records for that year.

With the appearance of the giant printing presses claims of printing 10,000 copies per hour became the norm. And by 1880 the number of newspapers in circulation had now swelled to an incredible 11,314.

By the 1890s the first circulation of 1 million copies was officially recorded.

Ironically even though newspapers were produced in such great numbers they are extremely rare today. This is likely due to the poor quality of paper used at the time – remember those massive runs. But also the various war-time paper drives.

Then came the organized take-overs. Where the giant newspaper conglomerates swallowed the smaller ones. Not only did this set up the modern day players but it also set into motion the groundwork for the modern news format. Including the sports edition and the funny papers or comic section.

“There is a wealth of fascinating information surrounding the vintage newspaper.”

Sourcing a copy or even the front page of a historical event would be like stepping back in time quite literally. The newspaper’s feel …the tone and layout of the copy and text and advertising.

And of course the front page news story itself. The historical event as documented and read by those living and experiencing the era. And maybe while holding the very copy you may be reading at the time.

Before looking into anything to do with newspapers I have to admit I had very little interest. But as I read more and more I’ve become curious to say the least. I’ll be looking into finding a front page or two worth framing.  Keep watching and check back often as I update this article on the vintage newspaper.

Thanks for your visit today

(Sources: The Press and America-Emery 1972, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers-Brigham 1947 )

Best of luck and collect well.


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Movie Memorabilia

February 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Memorabilia, New

Movie Memorabilia
Why not start collecting movie memorabilia?

The movie industry has been growing exponentially each passing year. Movie star salaries and film budgets are easily beyond the comprehension of most people. That’s probably part of the reason for the fascination with movie memorabilia and collectibles.

And with that huge growth in popularity film and television collectibles and memorabilia items have become more available than ever. Sometimes those items may be available through a general release by the studio or PR office. But other times you may come across something that no-one else has.

Controlled release signed collectibles and one-of-a-kind items are both well worth the effort.

It could be something as generic as some cutlery an actor used at a charity dinner. Or it could be something highly personal such as a lock of their hair. But in both cases it’s not something ordinarily available through a controlled release. And maybe never will be available again.

These are more rare which affects price on both the front and back end.

If you do have an opportunity to collect such items try and do whatever it takes to document the event. First thing you should be doing is keeping a journal. In addition, if there’s a public event attached to the occasion look for newspaper stories and online articles.

Let’s say for example, you had the opportunity to be eating at the same event …possibly a promotional event. You could pay for the meal and keep the receipt. Take casual photos of the meal or the meal event.

Game of Thrones Collectibles and Memorabilia

For an even bigger bonus get an autograph on the receipt or on your page of the journal – before recording your notes around the autograph.

Now that’s interesting documentation.

Maybe you could supplement it with a copy of the newspaper story surrounding the dinner or charity event and you have something highly collectible and probably valuable as well.

Even if you weren’t eating together you could get the waiter’s attention. Then offer to pay the bill and go through the same routine above. How you go about this is another story. If there wasn’t a bill take a copy of the menu …again try to get an autograph.

if they agree to give you an autograph they may ask for a name to address it to. It’s always better to not get a name. The item will be less collectible if it’s addressed to some distant auntie …or anyone for that matter. But if they insist on a name, and some do, ask them to address it to a group or an organization.

You want the autograph to remain as generic as possible.

It’s very hard for them to refuse such a request as it may be a charity. If they comment they don’t recognize the name simply mumble something about what great work they do. Most resistance will stop there as people won’t admit they don’t know something – human nature. They will likely just nod and proceed with an autograph.

Making it addressed to a group or charity keeps it somewhat generic and retains it’s collectability. Choose your own football team, your poker group or whatever. You could even name a fictitious group of your own design. Use your imagination.

You could also ask them to write something along the lines of, “Keep up the great work.” or “Wishing you continued success.” Still very generic and it can be applied to anything even as time passes.

NOTE: Something to be aware of.
If the group’s name you chose ever became attached to a controversy it could make it even more collectible. Just remember anything newsworthy is collectible. Exactly how collectible all depends on the depth of the news story. The depth is determined by a lot of marketing mumbo-jumbo. Just remember this …big news equals big collectability.

“Bollywood’s movie memorabilia is hugely popular as well as collectible.”

Collectability is all about branding on the part of the celebrity. For the collector it’s all about desirability as well as supply and demand.

NOTE: I need to mention something at this point. And that is to use common sense with approaching anyone. Just think about how you would prefer to be treated if in the same position as a visiting celebrity. Remember everyone is just a person with the same feelings as you or I. It’s hard to go wrong with a strategy of good – manners. At the very least it’s a good start.

I’m speaking from some experience.

I spent 18 years in the film and television industry. I was fortunate in that I worked directly with many very popular actors and directors. Both from television and films.

When it comes to collectibles I will refer to them as first, second and third level. This is just my own way of categorizing and is by no means a common standard.

First level collectibles would be ones that I’ve collected directly from a celebrity or production directly after working with one. It may be a script, a prop or even a part of the set.

Second level would be items a little more removed. They would be from a local production but not necessarily one I was involved with that season.

For example I may have gone to the set-sale after a particular television series had wrapped. A set-sale would be held after the production was finished.

It was a cost saving measure. Basically the production’s individual departments would organize a sale of items such as wardrobe, props and furnishings.

I’ve done this a few times and bought up pieces of the set or props. Most times I would buy things like recognizable signage or props used in the series. But I have also bought simple pieces of furniture for my office too.

Third level collectables would originate from a television series or film production I hadn’t yet worked with. Or it could be items from productions that were located somewhere else in the world.

For example I may have come across several old scripts or “stills” in a thrift shop. Stills are photographs of the actor in various scenes from the show. These are sometimes autographed.

So this first, second and third level business is just my own personal way of keeping organized. It’s a good idea to develop your own system too …regardless of what you’re collecting.

My first experience with collecting movie memorabilia was after several years of realizing I had accumulated things almost by accident. I had dozens of scripts, props and pieces of movie set dressing all over my office.

Soon I began looking farther away and collected from others working in the same business. I also on occasion received an autograph from an actor I may have worked with.

Now that I was fully engaged in this new collectible I started to purchase from dealers as well. Many outlets exist so I was completely comfortable. It also gave me the chance to buy things from actors or favorite films I would not otherwise come across.

I was surprised at how reasonable some of the prices were.

Most prices are determined by the film or series popularity. So if you had a favorite program from years ago check out the memorabilia from that film or series.

As actors get older and television shows replaced those prices now become affordable. But they do find a price resurgence in many cases too. Especially when a franchise is revived years later with a new cast.

So my suggestion is to find something you like and purchase it. It’s very doubtful prices will come back down. They may ratchet up slightly each year or shoot up like a rocket. That part is unpredictable.

So how do you find items worth collecting?

If you’re serious about being a movie memorabilia collector you need to build up your network of contacts. That means talking to anyone even remotely associated with the film business. This means waiters, trash collectors and security guards. People in these positions love to discuss how they rub shoulders with the rich and famous.

Next keep an eye out for movie and television being shot in your area. You could also go online and check out some of the ‘current production’ lists on your local Film Commission website. Some areas of the world are associated with film and television such as Hollywood, New York City or Toronto Canada.

Almost every city has a Film and Television commission. If they don’t have a dedicated film commission they have a liason department that oversees film inquiries. Call them and ask.

For example India is probably one of the largest producers of film and television programming in the world. The popularity of Bollywood is obvious proof.

Collecting movie memorabilia is now attainable by anyone.

To begin your movie memorabilia collecting let’s summarize.

1. Look for undervalued memorabilia.
It’s undervalued but with an awakening on the horizon. This is impossible to predict of course but …ask yourself a few questions. Such as, is there a new interest in the character or story? Maybe something timely in the news.

Autographed Big Bang Theory Collectibles and Memorabilia

Or the film or series may be resurging through a new cast or updating of the story. It could be the actor them self that’s undervalued. Maybe their career had gone into recession but a new project brought them into the public eye once again. Or they are making a comeback after a tragic life changing event. This is the ‘wild-card’ in collecting – the x-factor.

2. Make sure to collect based on a guideline you create for yourself.
If you have some level of expertise in the film or television industry even better. This will arm you with the knowledge to create a system or category hierarchy.

This may not make you an expert of the collectible but it may put you in the ‘right place at the right time’. If you’ve read any of my other articles you’ll know what I mean.

3. Look for items you enjoy.
Because, isn’t that the whole point of movie memorabilia?

Best of luck and collect well.

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February 13, 2016 by  
Filed under How To

How to collect Art
“I would like to learn how to collect art but it’s a little overwhelming”.

If you’ve ever said that to yourself then you’re not alone. Many people have experienced that same disconnect with the art world.

Collecting art is not all that difficult. Once you know what to look for and what you’ll need to know. But before we talk about what you’ll need let’s first clear up what you don’t need.

What you don’t need is a formal background in art – a formal art education. Don’t get me wrong it never hurts to have as much information as possible.  An art education will definitely give you some great insight but it can also be a hindrance. More about that in a minute.

Art itself falls into a very unique category.

Where else can you find a topic both so universally appreciated as well as intimidating. Think back to what you learned in school about cave drawings. What started as just a method of basically story telling is now serious business.

Art is simply communication. Turning it into a commodity is a modern concept.

I’m a huge fan of art. I’m also a sculptor – on some days anyway. And I know as well as the next collector that the value of art is 99% subjective and 1% objective. I might even be too generous with the 1%.

“I want to learn how to collect art but where do I start?”

I should also state that value and collectability are two distinctly different things. Some pieces obviously are highly collectible. In those cases the value as a commodity follows the collectability. Understanding those differences will set you ahead of the masses when it comes time to decide on buying a piece for your collection.

Take the example of a block of stone or the stretched canvas of an oil painter. Sure it has a value as a commodity but no more than a replacement value.

But let an artist go to work on them and with just basic carving tools that same block of stone will come to life. The story within will be set free. Same goes for the artist and their palette of paints and handful of brushes.

I could go on about the technical aspects of art such as negative space, textures and shadows etc. But it boils down to one thing …the story. No matter what that finished block of stone or piece of canvas looks like it’s still  simply a story. A story that’s being told by the artist.

Something else to be aware of is that the finished story makes up only part of the equation. I’m referring to the history on that particular piece of art. This history is referred to as it’s provenance. Basically the details of its lineage.

When a collector buys or sells a piece they’ll usually request the provenance. What they are asking for is everything recorded about it. It’s list of notable past owners. As well as galleries, exhibits and collections it may have been part of.

It will also note awards and distinctions it may have received. Auction and sales prices it has commanded. And of course it’s artistic attachment. Who was the artist as well as their personal and professional history in the art world. This is all about branding the piece.

You could almost think of it as the resume of the particular piece of art.

The next part of this equation is about you as the collector. Define exactly what you want from this piece. You need to be clear as to why you are collecting it.

“How to collect art can be approached in several different and unique ways.”

While there’s a multitude of variations, two basic extremes are at work here. The first is because you hope to make some profit on this piece. And along with that maybe enjoy some notoriety seeing you are now a part of it’s provenance. This is a more objective, analytical approach.

The other extreme is quite possibly from the moment your eyes found this piece it spoke to you – in volumes.

You simply can’t imagine not looking at this piece each day. This is the more emotionally connected approach.

Be honest with yourself as there are no right or wrong answers. Your reasons are completely valid no matter what they are. But different approaches require different strategies.

How to collect art …provenance or passion?

If you belong to the first example, then provenance is something you will have to consider. More about provenance in a minute.

If you side more with the emotional approach then provenance will be less important. Culture, romance and story will fuel your passion to follow the particular piece.

Govern yourself according to your goal.

If you’re a passionate collector then your method doesn’t require much explanation. You are governed by what moves you. Buy and sell as you see fit. If it’s for your own collection then all that matters is that you love that piece.

For some the provenance may actually interfere with the creative vibe or philosophy behind the piece itself.

There are those that feel true art shines and will find it’s way. For those collectors, the provenance matters less and in fact could be considered almost too “establishment” – running contrary to the true meaning of art itself.

When it comes time to sell.

While you may not have a piece with provenance your passion could very likely be shared by someone else.

I suspect with that passion you probably have the blood of an artist running through your own veins. If I’m correct then that too will shine through affecting the desirability of the piece. Passion is contagious in the art world.

How do I find it’s provenance?

If you’re driven by the branding and politics of a piece then you have some work to do. You’ll want to gather as much information as you can about the particular piece as well as it’s accuracy.

Information can be found from gallery owners, other collectors, auction houses and the artists themselves.

Make sure to get your information in writing.

Provenance means documentation. With documentation more is better than less. Even something as peripheral as a past insurance policy or receipt can contribute to the credibility.

You’ll need to do the same with regards to the artist.

Get a detailed biography of their artistic history. They are part of the brand – the provenance.

Look for newspaper and magazine articles written about the artist and their work. Reviews, awards and interviews. This is easily searchable online nowadays.

Again, talk with gallery owners, auction houses and other artists. Even professional art photographers may have an old shot or two that puts your artist in a desirable light. Look for historical connections as well.

This will give you a few directions with which to chase down more documentation. You may even uncover something new and significant that increases the collectability.

This is just a beginning when it comes to learning how to collect art.

Best of luck and collect well.


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3 Personal Risks to Collecting

January 24, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

3 Personal Risks to Collecting
No matter where our interests may lead us there will be ‘pros and cons’ to everything we do. The trick is to find out what those issues actually are before we set out. 

This article is about the 3 personal risks to collecting that I’ve distilled down over several years.

You may have developed something similar for your own personal circumstances.

If we’re undecided about the suitability of an endeavour we usually resort to this mental balancing act. Weighing something out. Analyzing on a point by point basis before taking that final step. The step where we commit whole-heartedly.

You may want to apply this ‘weighing-out’ process to your collecting as well.

We may become seduced by the pros and may not notice the cons until it’s too late. I’ve been guilty of that one many times. In the real world they refer to it as an impulse-buy.

“This is what I consider 3 personal risks to collecting pretty well anything.”

Or …we may indeed see both sides and the pros outweigh the cons. Or vice-versa. We collectors are just as vulnerable as the everyday  consumer.

We need to make the decision based on information and not only emotion.

If you move forward on your decision to pursue collecting you’ll need to decide what it is exactly you’ll want to collect. This is the time you’ll apply that critical thinking. A mistake at this stage will translate into something much larger for you down the road.
There may be more but this is a good overview. If you’ve experienced something in addition please share it in the comments. Starting with the most obvious…

Physical Risk:

With anything old, vintage or antique there will always be risks.

In order to understand what poses a risk you need to have a good look at the item itself. The riskiest items, and usually the most obvious, would be those that were originally intended for causing injury, such as weapons. These sit at the top of the list.

We first think of antique firearms or edged weapons but there are many more categories to collectible weaponry. 

Consider the construction of those medieval type trap devices. Some relied on momentum or weight. Many were spring-loaded. But even something as simple as an mace (club) is just as deadly today as it was a thousand years ago. Any of these could still have the potential for a fatal injury.

That should give you an idea of the blunt force injuries possible. But what else could be waiting for us?

Let’s look at what’s right in front of us.

I’m referring to the finishes on some antique or vintage items. Many product manufacturers or craftspeople had no idea of the toxicity of their products.

It usually took science and many years of people dying to unlock some of the breakthroughs we are lucky to have today.

Let’s start with metals and metal toxicity. The banning of lead and lead-based paints was a huge change. Lead toys and lead paints are still found in collections to this day. If you are an antique toy collector you certainly have some of these culprits tucked away.

But lead is not the only offender. Mercury, believe it or not was utilized as well. As was cadmium. It was cheap, soft and had a lower melting point. Making it ideal for cheaper casting into moulds. Cadmium was also used in oil paints for fine arts.

Glow-in-the-dark paints and plastics contain a radioactive trace element called radium. Right into the 60s it was still found on toys. Problem is we now consider it highly toxic to the human body.

What about physical dangers we don’t necessarily see?

Let’s start with molds, spores or insect harborage which is just a fancy way of saying, “where bugs can hang out.”

Some older items are perfect breeding grounds because of their grossly outdated design standards or material compositions. This could be layers of fabrics or glues that have started to breakdown. Reactions to these could have disastrous effects on some people.

Many years back I was considering collecting antique medical equipment -‘quack’ medicine. You know the stuff I’m talking about. Those crazy devices that measured intelligence or that promised to make you taller.

While researching I had to sort through many things and one day I ended up impulse-buying a set of vintage false teeth. It was a crazy purchase as I’d never come across a set of these before.

When they arrived I opened the box and immediately regretted my purchase. I was so unnerved by these things as they stared back at me grinning from the carton. I almost immediately put them back up for sale.

Unfortunately I found out very quickly that most auction sites have strict rules against these.

I had no idea since this is where I bought them originally. I was so shocked and not just by the creepy-factor. It occurred to me that this was once attached to a human body. That could mean traces of biological contamination. I seriously doubt anyone sterilized these things before selling them.

And by the way, that goes for edged weapons as well. Anything that was once used specifically for cutting flesh probably has some biological traces still intact. Think about that next time you take that knife out to admire it.

Social Risk:

The risk of offending someone nowadays is pretty great. This could be socially, politically or professionally. The internet has brought a voice to anyone who cares to speak up.

Sometimes you’re best advised to just stay clear.

This is a considerable concern nowadays. With the increasing reach of the web and the damage it can do. Even someone wrongly pointed out for the most innocent of slights can be dealt an onslaught of negative attention.

If you were a public figure you would have the most to lose but even the average citizen could put themselves at risk.

I’m thinking of an story I once heard about a gentleman that served in the Second World War. He had brought home wartime items. Whatever his reasons for keeping these at the time were his own.

He had collected items such as used weapons and various pieces of memorabilia. Such as NAZI badges and pins. These were genuine war collectibles.

The point being he was vilified for having such items. And that happened to him over 25 years ago. Nowadays with social media I can’t even imagine what could happen. And it could happen overnight.

This is something to be aware of.

Your collection would be very difficult to keep private in this day and age. And with social media many people have made careers from commenting on the lives of others.

Is your collectible affected by the 3 personal risks to collecting?

Here are some other examples.

Items of a macabre nature such as memorabilia from serial killers. Which believe it or not it is highly collectible. I’m not referring only to their tools of the trade but childhood items such as drawings or teenage love letters.

So what are some items that could draw negative attention?

The rule of thumb here is basically anything that profits from another’s pain, suffering or misery.

If you have a sizeable collection of a particular item…when public sentiment turns against such a topic, you may find yourself a social leper. Attempts to liquidate your collection may also be unsuccessful.

Don’t forget about the stigma.

People could assume you’re a hoarder. Or at the very least you’re just plain weird.

That goes for publicly associating with someone else, through your collection, that may be guilty of something as well. Remember collectors are a clique driven bunch.

Financial Risk:

This is the easiest topic to go through. I could probably stop right here.

If you want to see where you can lose financially just re-read the first 2 parts of the 3 personal risks to collecting. That should be explanation enough. But sadly there’s more.

You may simply have over-paid for the purchase of your collectible.

After all, who determines the price for these things we pursue?

If you bought online who can say for sure you weren’t affected by shill bidding. Our zeal in obtaining that item at- any-cost, is not lost on the seller.

Shill bidding can be a real problem. That’s where a third party manipulates your auction, places bids, for the purpose of artificially driving up the price.

Buying an outright fake, being defrauded, is always a possibility. The seller himself may have even been unaware he had owned a fake all these years.

Buying an item that is in fact genuine but turns out to be stolen from the rightful owner prior to being sold to you. This is a tricky one that involves not only huge financial losses but social risk as well. You could be identified in a news story and be forced to defend yourself.

The risk of robbery and theft once you finally get your genuine item home safe and sound is always a risk. Just look to the crime statistics for proof of this disturbing trend. If you happened to also be present for the theft this would be an obvious physical risk as well.

All said and done you’ll still have the maintenance costs associated with your collection. That could include storage, display and insurance.

That may look like a lot to consider. But hopefully it gives you food for thought before committing to a particular collectible.

And I bet you figured it would be all fun and games. but looking closer when you distill it down you will find at least 3 personal risks to collecting almost anything. Hopefully all that hasn’t put you off completely.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Why We Collect

January 22, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Why We Collect
Have you ever stopped to wonder why we collect things? What switch is flipped in our head that pushes that desire? Drives us onward to possess something at any cost? Or to make us search out a particular niche or specific item?

Is there a root psychology behind that urge?

In the course of a normal day the cycle of search and purchase replays over and over. Practical things like the necessities or services that go hand in hand with our daily routine. Like groceries or fuel for our vehicles. This is simply our hunting gathering instinct at work.

The urge to hunt and gather is actually one of our most basic survival systems. It’s a long developed primitive instinct. For our ancestors this could’ve determined the difference between life and death in an extreme situation, such as a harsh winter. So part of ‘why we collect’, could actually be hardwired into us.

We’re all familiar with the gathering habits of an animal packing away food for the winter or perhaps to feed a growing brood. Think of the rat or maybe the crow.

Many animal species have been classified as collectors …close to 70 around the planet.

That would account for the necessities of life but what about everything else?

You know …the impractical, frivolous or even ridiculous items. That achilles heel that every collector seems to have. I know … I’ve had one or two in my life. For me, the focus of my collections changed as my interests changed.

That would account for my losing track of items I collected 15 or 20 years ago. A fact I’m reminded of each time I venture deep into one of my storage units. On any such housekeeping day I would find cartons containing dozens of a particular collectible, years later. That happened again recently as I opened some of my older boxes.

There were die cast cars I had collected almost 20 years earlier. It was a small collection of around 30 models, still-in-box, 1/18 scale quality die cast vehicles. It was also a bonus to discover I had originally collected well. That is to say these models were no longer available. At least not at that level of quality.

Their production quality was quite high compared to what I would have to pay today. For example quality paint finishes and soft rubber tyres on chromed wire rims.

Which may not mean much in the context of this article. But the differences to me were quite surprising as I usually handle a lot of this stuff.

And I say collected well but what I consider my good fortune was probably more so a reflection of the better manufacturing standards of that time period. And not some particular insight I had when originally buying. The bottom line? My collection sold very quickly.

I lost track of these items once they were in storage. 

If I had catalogued my collection back then that probably would never have happened. I’ll be addressing the topic of cataloging in a future article. It’s an absolute necessity nowadays.

As for the single niche collections out there, I know of other collectors that will pursue a specific item their whole life. So how do we begin to address why we collect anything at all?

“There appears to be some general consensus on why we collect”.

If you ask around you’ll probably hear things like…

Learning – “Collecting butterflies teaches me about butterflies.”

NOTE: As a kid I had a close friend, one of my best friends actually. He was fascinated with rocks. He collected them everywhere. Now as an adult he studies rock compositions within glacial ice movements. Maybe not a typical example but it shows there can be a range of differences in why we collect.

Social Bonding – “Collecting butterflies brings me closer to my peer group of butterfly collectors.”

I’m reminded of the days long before the internet. Back in the 60s, as a child I remember my mother entertaining other neighbourhood women for lunch or tea. Sometimes we would go to the neighbour’s house as well. And in each home you could always notice small collections of items in a curio cabinet.

Or sometimes they would line the kitchen window over a sink. The collections were highly visible and identifiable. The one item I remember in particular was the tiny ceramic figurines available in each box of Lipton tea. It seemed like whatever house we visited there they were …displayed on the window ledge.

It became almost ritualistic in it’s bonding.

It made sense actually. It was a safe common collectible item. It made everyone the ‘same’. Or at least made you similar to your neighbour. Plus they were included free in each box.

I doubt Lipton’s marketing had this bonding effect in mind but if they did then they are geniuses.

The women would admire each other’s tiny rare collection poised over the kitchen sink as they sipped tea. The tea was a social lubricant between neighbours. The window sill collection gave them something to talk about as they sipped away.

Could the answer to why we collect be distilled down further?

Could it be that collecting was something so appealing because it brought in those that were on the social fringe? Regardless of looks or status.

To be part of a group that collected a certain item brought you casually into that fold. You were part of a clique.

Look no further than fans of Star Trek.

It’s almost commonplace now to hear something negative about collectors of Star Trek memorabilia. Being part of the larger group keeps them insulated.

The buzz – “It’s simply the thrill of the hunt”.

Researchers have actually reported that collecting, or finding something new for your collection, releases a shot of dopamine into our brains. That means we could be getting a buzz from this activity. Sounds reasonable. It’s the reason we do anything really.

But with collecting the dopamine effects begin to have a lesser influence each time we discover something new. This leads us to shore up that buzz. We seek out our chosen niche target over and over again. The items get more rare and the collection gets bigger. You can see this with some of the huge collections out there.

They could be responding to a dopamine hit.

There is also the case of brain injury. Researchers have noted patterns between those individuals with abnormal collecting behaviours and those that have suffered brain damage. Particularly brain damage that has occurred on the right side of the frontal lobe of the cortex .

Before you jump to any conclusions about your own collecting habits consider this. The Bower bird of New Guinea and northern Australia, is the king of collectors. Not only is the Bower’s nest a sight to behold as it can cover several metres across, but the Bower gathers and collects a range of items.

These items include things such as nuts, distinct leaves and colorful flower buds.

They also tend to organize their collections into individual stock-piles. But the really interesting part is that it’s all arranged separately from each other. It’s absolutely fascinating to look at.

At first glance you may think it to be housekeeping or decorating. Some have actually theorized it’s all in order to attract a mate. The stock piles contents representing supply and survival to a potential partner. Whatever it is it’s definitely a fascinating topic to explore.

The focus of our collections don’t seem to have as much relevance as the Bower bird. Our collecting seems to be governed simply by what we have an interest in on a day-to-day basis.

It’s more about the process itself.

That process being to learn, to belong or …just to get a buzz. There may be many reasons why we collect.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Display your Collection

January 16, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Display your Collection
The time has arrived to display your collection of ‘whatzits’. The day it will no longer be relegated to that stuck drawer. No longer stuffed into those generic plastic storage tubs marked, “Shoes“…lurking at the back of your garage.

What brought on this new insight?

Maybe you’ve just tripped over that bloated cardboard box.  You know … the one full of ‘whatzits’, for the last time.

Or, maybe it was the purchase of that final collectible …the crowning jewel for your collection.

Whatever it is that got you here I say, “good on you,’s about time.”

It’s not been an easy journey. Your collecting road has taken you to out-of-the-way shows, auctions and even online. You’ve met others along the way. Some like yourself and some slightly fanatical.  

You’ve spent years buying and selling individual pieces. Tweaking your collection. Massaging it into what it has today.

Which has brought you to where you are now. You’re ready to display your collection. Ready to share with the world.

And why not?

Every piece you own has a long ribbon of story in it’s wake. Snippets of facts and trivia you can recite on cue like a Shakespearean actor. But there’s more.

You also know the story in acquiring each piece. Your story. What it took to find and to make it a part of your collection and your life.

We go from privately enjoying what we have quietly gathered to showing the world the collection we have built. And developing that into something shareable for everyone.

I’m talking about your willingness to now display your collection.

Letting those around you in on what you’ve spent all this time collecting.

There are many positive reasons for displaying your collection too. It may have become large and unmanageable. This will compel you to take stock of what you have.

If you display your collection you will be forced to distill it. To trim off the fat. After all, collections require physical space. In some cases lots of it. This will help you to identify which items will move to the top shelf and which will become part of the next sell-off.

Displaying will make you more social too. When you collect you get a sense of identity. When you display your collection you now gain a sense of community. Think back to the last time  you admired someone else’s collectibles. I’ll bet the conversation flowed as free as honey.

You were always going to get here. It’s the collector’s nature. In fact it’s the one biggest differences between a collector and a hoarder. Hoarders simply gather in guilt.

Displaying is not an option. True collectors move to making their collections public. They are proud of what they have accomplished.

So how do you begin to display your collection?

There are going to many variables to consider first depending on the individual and their unique collections. Space needed versus space available is a huge consideration …maybe the biggest. Followed next by your budget.

This is a story about an experience I had many years ago.  This is especially for those who may feel they have far too many items to display. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. A new way of thinking really.

First a bit of back-story. Fifteen years ago or so,  I was running my own landscape construction outfit. One day I received a call from a gentleman inquiring about me coming to work on his property. He was brief and to the point. His address was close to mine and we made arrangements to meet at his large rural property the next day.

His was originally a farming community named “Snelgrove.” It was now dotted with new subdivisions. Including one where I bought a small home. The community had been annexed by the encroaching city but large farm properties still existed.

I arrived at his address as arranged. It turned out to be over 100 acres of rolling property with a large ranch style home and 3 large barns. All very well kept. Except for the fact the construction styles were decades old it looked like everything was brand new.

I started down the paved driveway and arrived at a wrought iron gate framed with brick pillars. I pulled my truck close  enough to reach the intercom when the gate suddenly lurched. It began slowly churning out a rhythmic, “clak-clak-clak…”

And like the great “Oz” himself…revealing himself as the curtain drew. I now could see that gentleman that had placed the call.

There sitting silently on a large gleaming riding-style mower was a man close to 80. He looked one size too small for his clothes. But he was dressed very neatly in crisp beige cargo pants, spotless white sneakers and blue shirt buttoned to his chin. A tall straw cowboy hat tipped heavily to one side. He looked like a character from a movie. He was extremely dapper.

After introductions I learned he had owned the property for well over 50 years. He had farmed thousands of the surrounding acres. That is until the “city people”, as he referred to them,  started arriving and building subdivisions.

My home too was on land he had plowed decades earlier. He even grumbled about the clay content he had to deal with on my corner.

As times changed he switched careers and began to sell insurance. He’d now retired from that as well but had apparently been quite successful. Throughout it all he maintained his property, never downsizing below 100 acres. In fact he renovated the barns and home while adding paved walkways and sitting areas all over the property.

We talked very briefly about the job he originally called me about. And while he was an extremely likeable old gent I could not afford to work for him. He had some ideas that would’ve taken me days to complete.

Offering me $30 per day was the tip-off that he was very out of touch with current operating costs or he considered labor to be very cheap. He came from a time where simple hard work got you through and he seemed surprised I had to turn him down.

I then suggested he may be better off looking for someone more in line with his budget. There were many students in the area that would’ve been happy with the arrangement. As I began to climb back into the cab of my pickup he suddenly asked if I’d like to see his collection before I left.

Okay, now this could be interesting, I thought.

So I happily accepted. He stayed seated on his riding tractor and started down an immaculately paved winding pathway. I walked behind him.

After a few minutes we arrived at barn #1. He opened the door and turned on the lights. I was stunned. Looking at this gentleman should have been an indication of what I would see inside but nothing could have prepared me…

I watched as the lights flooded the interior. Besides the aisle there wasn’t an unfilled spot in the entire building. This barn was jammed full. Antiques dating as far back as World War 1 dressed the ceiling and walls.

My head had to catch up with my eyes. I was looking at antique advertising everywhere there was available wall space. Many for products I’ve never even heard of. It was part old time country store and part museum. It was stunning. Vintage glass display cabinets formed a labyrinth of aisles to follow.

There were saluting mannequins wearing military uniforms and medals. Some sitting on overhead wire shelving suspended by cables. Display cabinets were neatly stuffed with even more arrangements of military ribbons, patches, awards and photographs.

Wartime hardware was positioned wherever he found space. I saw antique field radios, knives and helmets. A military motorcycle was frozen in time with a mannequin rider. There were letters, books and magazines that looked like they would be more at home in a pre-war office. I moved throughout the space in awe. The old gent remained politely quiet.

The silence was finally broken by an old style ringer.

One of the many antique wooden phones came to life. He had about a dozen of them mounted to the wall right beside the door we entered. He walked over and answered one of them. He muttered a response then replaced the receiver.

He turned to me and spoke for the first time since going inside. He said that he rigged up old phones in each of the barns so his wife could check on him from the house. He then laughed to himself.

Wait…each of the barns?

Suddenly I remembered there were two more barns. I stammered something along the lines of… the other barns…they look like this too? No, he replied. They were more organized.

We eventually went to the other barns. They were just as mind-blowing. But inside them the collections were more focused. In barn #2 he had partially recreated the platform from the original Snelgrove Train Station. A station that had been gone for almost 25 years.

There was a ticket booth, overhead signage, ceiling and wall fixtures, benches for waiting passengers, luggage dollies with antique luggage…it was truly amazing. He told me he was there at the station the day it was torn down. He bought everything that was salvageable. His goal was to preserve it’s history.

Barn #3 was the same as the other two but this time he had recreated the Snelgrove Telephone Exchange. Antique desks, those strange looking displays with cables plugged everywhere and operator headsets were surrounded by mannequins wearing fashions of the day.

And of course lots of signage, glass display cabinets, desks, lighting and anything else to recreate the illusion of a typical work day for the telephone exchange employees. It was truly amazing. This was way beyond a typical display.

This was a dream project for him. I remember thinking it would take several lifetimes to build this project. And here this little old man had accomplished it all in one.

He noticed that I was overwhelmed trying to take it all in.

Something he had probably seen in the faces of visitors many times over. Admittedly I was a little sad for this guy. These were just barns after-all, not professionally constructed facilities. How could this be sustainable? What would become of all this effort?

He told me that memorabilia collectors and antique dealers have been calling him for years  from all over north America. He didn’t mention a successor so I think he was contemplating finally selling it off in pieces. Not because he needed money but because he wanted some control over where it ended up. He believed strongly in this piece of history.

It wasn’t a wasted effort though. For years now he had been holding tours for local school children and senior centers. About once a week a school bus would arrive for a scheduled tour. The visitors would be shown around the huge collection as well as learn the local history.

He not only spoke of the individual pieces and their significance but how they came to be in his barn. He kept a giant medieval-looking book for comments and signatures. It sat atop an ornate pedestal near one of the displays. It was stuffed with commentary. He even invited me to sign.

Remember what I said about you becoming a part of the story fabric? This old guy had that down pat. He became a part of the living history of each of those pieces I experienced that day. He gave me new insight that hit me like a tsunami. And it’s stayed with me ever since. All in exchange for about one hour of my life. It was a bargain.

“If you display your collection will it change the world?”

Maybe not. But instead, ask yourself this. Will it change one person’s life? If you have dedicated yourself to the message behind your collection then to that I would answer…just maybe. Maybe it will indeed change one person’s life.

So you’ve got some thinking and planning to do. First have a good look at what it is you are collecting. Obviously size is a factor. Collecting vintage buses will present a different set of obstacles than collecting vintage belt buckles.

It’s unusual to have the kind of available space that old man had. His circumstances were unique. But then your collection probably doesn’t rival the size of his either. If you ever feel your task is too great just think back to that old man and his three barns.

The old guy had a very first day too. He started with a single vintage glass display cabinet. In it he placed his most prized pieces. The rest of his collection and his story grew from there.

Now you have some choices to make. You need to start by taking stock of your space requirements. You do that by looking closely at your collection.

Is this going to be displayed in your home or place of business? Will it be viewed by large numbers of people, as in an office lobby, or just a few, as in guests to your home?

Will your display involve a simple ‘stand’ or would you prefer an enclosed case? An enclosed case will need only a wiping down where exposed individual pieces could be a dusting nightmare. Not to mention a case will keep curious fingers at bay. Depending on what you have to display may require a custom approach.

The benefits to an enclosed case are pretty obvious but it does come with a cost consideration. The choices for display cases can number in the thousands. Full glass, glass and wood, custom finishes or you could go with one of the formed acrylics. That’s always an option if cost is a concern.

The possible configurations are as varied as the number of collections out there. You really need to look closely at your situation and identify your ideal solution.

One suggestion though with regards to the glass. Opt for tempered glass, or safety glass if possible. You’ll also want something that protects against UV rays. Those are the  natural ultra-violet rays present in sunlight.

UV is notorious for fading color on whatever it contacts, over time that is. The last thing you want to find on your prized possession, is one side is a brighter color than the other.

After deciding on what you can afford there are some styling cues you should be following. It should blend with it’s surroundings while providing an unobstructed viewing experience. Don’t forget the small details as well. Details such as shelf dimensions or locks. Display cases are big business and you get what you pay for.

One good thing about the display case expense is that it’s cost will be amortized over the life of your collection. You will likely buy a display case only once. After it’s paid for you won’t need to spend any more. Unless of course you decide to expand.

If you’re already thinking ahead to expanding you must consider how many pieces are going to be displayed. Will you display everything or just the cream of the crop? Do you have a location for the additional cases?

The display will cost real money and you want to make sure it is within your budget while adapting to changes in your growing collection.

If your collection grows will it accommodate your additional pieces?

The higher end manufacturers may be able to configure something that can grow with your collection. And don’t forget about the finer details like custom wood finishes and mirror inserts.

You’ve dedicated a good part of your life to collecting what you love. You have painstakingly grown your collection to the point it’s at today. Sure, you will eventually part ways. Your pieces will one day find themselves with new people, that’s life. But for now you are the caretaker.

Which means like it or not you are part of it’s fabric…it’s living history. In 100 years regardless of where that item ends up it will have once been displayed by you. That fact can never be changed. That responsibility alone deserves a well thought out way to display your collection today.

Best of luck and collect well.


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The Compulsive Collector

January 13, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

The Compulsive Collector
When I started this article about the compulsive collector I actually had a different direction in mind. But then I began to recall a particular event in my life from several years ago. That first idea now started to fade and the following story came back to life. Hope it’s as good to read as it is to remember.

So what is the compulsive collector?

We all know what a collector is. Or at least we have a pretty good idea. And if we’re not one ourselves we probably know of one personally. In is this day and age of downsizing and people living with less a collector stands out quite readily.

So that just leaves the compulsive part. I think there too we all have a good idea but let’s take a look at the definition of  compulsion.

This one is from from

“Compulsion: an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often of a trivial and repetitive nature, against his or her will.”

Hmm, …trivial…against his or her will?  I may have to re-think collecting.

You may ask yourself …could I be a compulsive collector?

Anyways, back to my story. I guess it was about  7 years ago. I had been on the road …job related, when I pulled over for lunch at a deli-style Italian bakery.

It was a great little family-run place that oozed atmosphere. Anywhere there wasn’t a table stood open racks of newly baked breads. All of them cooling in full view. Probably more due to a lack of space than an attempt at ambience. But it provided for a fantastic setting nonetheless.

There was also a deli hot counter. Where a very short, very heavy and very matronly woman was filling take-away containers. You know the kind …metal foil …cardboard lids.

I lined up with several people. Most of them sounded like regulars. The “specials” rolled from their tongues like they were schooled in the old country. The old woman too, she could recall exactly who preferred  extra toppings …even before they did.

I definitely made a good choice in stopping there, I thought. Especially when you see burly truckers and clusters of tradespeople. 

You couldn’t ask for a better endorsement of a food place.

As the line progressed my eyes flashed over row upon row of different meats, noodles and side dishes. I could hear the older woman. She became easily agitated if anyone stumbled in ordering.

Even more-so if they mispronounced a signature family dish. I did my best to listen as orders were placed and the line shuffled forward. I silently practised.

When I finally reached the hand written, “Order Her..” sign, I had to bite my lip. But suddenly, and after all the now wasted rehearsals, the old woman was suddenly distracted by a loud commotion in the back room. Wringing her hands in her apron she magically glided her frame through a sliver of a door and disappeared.

And this is where the real story begins.

A much younger gentleman now appeared to take up her position at the cash register. My first impression was that this was her son. His English, while very good, was delivered in a thick Italian accent. He was quite personable while he took my order.

Which by the way was for a veal sandwich with peppers and mushrooms. I decided to forego any of the complicated sounding combination plates at the last second.

I watched them cut the fresh bread roll. Then layer in slices of steaming veal. And after a generous helping of peppers and mushrooms they drizzled on a bright homemade tomato sauce.  The whole thing was presented to me wrapped in aluminum foil.

I placed my key chain on the counter and reached for my wallet.

I was anxious about holding up this line of hungry tradespeople when the register guy locked his gaze on my key ring. I could half-hear him ask about my folding ring knife.

Still fumbling for my wallet I was sure he was just being polite so as to not make me feel like I was holding everyone up…which of course I was. And then it happened – the compulsive collector appeared.

He asked me where I got it and how long I’ve had it. And the truth was I couldn’t recall. Sure I stammered something about picking it up at a garage sale because in all probability I did. But I was more interested in paying for my sandwich and letting the next guy get his order.

“And then the compulsive collector in Joe took over.”

He sensed the next customer’s impatience and began to take his cash while waving me aside. He wasn’t letting me pay …or leave until he had a chance to talk about my ring knife.

I stepped aside with my sandwich and waited until he cashed out the next couple of people. He then walked around from behind the counter to continue the conversation.

He introduced himself as Joe. He went on to tell me he collected pocket knives and lighters. It was at that second that I politely asked about his collection when I noticed his replacement at the cash. I later found out to be his wife.

She simply rolled her eyes …likely having heard it all before.

I told him I also collected.

Not lighters but I did look for interesting hardware and I did come across lighters and knives frequently. To make a long story short I didn’t pay for that veal sandwich that day. And once a week for about a year or so I would pass that bakery and drop in on Joe.

Some weeks I had information on a great lighter I spotted on Ebay so I’d pass that along. Or I may have even found something interesting at a garage sale. They were never too expensive so I was happy to pick them up for him.

Whatever I found he would happily reimburse me for. And to make it worth my while he always built me a beautiful sandwich whenever I arrived.  I had a lot of fun searching out this unusual niche.

And since it wasn’t my normal niche it was somewhat empowering. I could enjoy this hunt while remaining objective. Joe on the other hand was fanatical about this. Maybe he needed me to insulate him from the activity directly.

Either way, I have to admit it was fascinating listening to him. He gave me all kinds of input on what exactly to look for. I never looked at a lighter the same way again. He had been into this a long time and had built a sizeable collection.

But he never balked at anything I purchased in his name. I would have to say he was the compulsive collector. Not to mention the king of sandwich building. It was a great balance.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Start Blogging about your Collection

January 10, 2016 by  
Filed under How To, New

Start Blogging about your Collection
If you’re like me you enjoy conversation about your hobby of collecting. You probably have an interest at least in reading about it or you wouldn’t be here.

So why not take it a step further? Why not start blogging about your collection?  Others would probably like to read about your stories too.

When I started out with this I had no idea that so many people would share my interest.

Collecting means many things to different people. If you ask 10 people what collecting means to them you may very well hear 11 answers…yes, 11.  It can mean something different to everyone and can sometimes mean more than just one thing.

Some of the conversations I’ve had about collecting included everything from stuffed exotic pets ( bizarre but true ) to bartering for war-time propaganda posters. If anything interesting exists somewhere, anywhere at all, chances are there are some people collecting it.

Collector’s stories have provided some of the most interesting reading I’ve experienced.
Many people can be closet collectors.

They prefer to collect under the radar. At first I was under the impression they were keeping a low-profile in order to find deals. Now I believe it could also mean that it happens to be very personal or simply private for some. They may want to enjoy it without any scrutiny or questions.

Think about your own situation and your personality. You may be living proof of that.

For those of you that are not actual collectors you may be thinking that collecting means baseball cards and souvenir spoons… well think again. While it can include those it’s so much more.

The truth is that all collecting can be categorized under a loosely defined range of topics. Each of those topics is further made up of several smaller niches – sometimes dozens of them.

Those niches can now splinter down into even smaller micro-niches. If you’ve been through my site you will see article topics 0n activities such as collecting stamps, coins or even guitars. Think of those as good examples of very broad collection terms.

A smaller niche could be one that focuses on a specific period in history or geographical location as well. For example, the term “coins” is broad. If you re-title it to something like, “American coins from the 1800s” now you have a smaller niche.

You could keep going.

This is where you could splinter off even a more specific topic to create a micro-niche. Let’s now include a person or group of people. For example, your new title could be something like this: “American coin collections – from the 1800s – owned by famous people”.

Further still: “Historically significant American gold coin collections – dated from the early 1800s – owned by famous Rock Stars of 1980s”…and so on.

Consider a ghost writer to start blogging about your collection.

That exercise was simply for the sake of an example but just the act of writing it out fully makes me want to Google it. I’m guessing you could probably come up with a few lead-ins yourself. If your looking for ideas on what to collect it’s a great way to generate ideas.

This is really a fascinating subject.

You could slice the categories a hundred ways into the most obscure micro-niches and still find someone else in the world that shares an interest in it.

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, as the title reads, start blogging about your collection – there is no shortage of interest when it comes to this activity. Collectors are some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever encountered.

Maybe you have had similar experiences. If you’re a collector that means, to someone out there in the world, you are fascinating too. I have come across some individuals that go above and beyond what I would consider routine collecting. I would love to read a formal study on the psyche of a serial collector.

So why not write about your own interest in collecting or in a particular collection. You’d definitely find an audience.
Nowadays it’s easier than ever to start a blog or website for any topic you may have in mind. This is something I have done several times over. There is nothing more satisfying than discovering an audience for something you have written.

Most writers will say finding topics is the toughest part of the equation for them. Most will talk of writer’s block. To that I say, as a collector you have much to write about. If you have an interesting collection you’re already ahead of the game. Collectors have some of the most fascinating stories imaginable.

You could start with where your interest in collecting began.

Was it a chance gift? Maybe you are following where one of your parents left off. What were the circumstances and who were the people that influenced you the most? Some people begin collecting as the result of a celebrity encounter. Collecting items surrounding the history of someone they admire.

“Hardest part when you start blogging about your collection is finding a lead-in”.

Or maybe you could write about your own journey as you built your collection. What hurdles were in your way. Where did you find the motivation to discover that prized piece in your collection.

Why not talk about the most obvious part of all – your collection itself? Does your collection represent a strategy or system for finding each piece. What was your first find? Your last? What is your favorite item?

Any future plans for your collection? Will it be passed on to family or traded and sold when the time is right?

Don’t let the idea of all the techy stuff stop you.

There has never been an easier time to set up a WordPress site. There are a ton of free website templates available from WordPress. You could also check out any one of the hosting provider’s websites. Don’t forget you will need a domain name before you do anything.

Get out a pen and paper and start to play around with domain name ideas. Keep in mind your search will not be easy. Great names are tough to find unless you have deep pockets. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I have 50 + domain names on reserve at any given time.

Don’t forget to check out domain auctions as well. I’ve bought several names as they were set to expire. The advantage to auctioned names is that they usually have some history which could mean Alexa ranking, Moz ranking or domain authority.

That may not mean much to you right now but believe me, it’s better to pay the cost for a mature name rather than to try and age one from ground-zero. Either way works but why waste the time? A mature name is always more responsive to SEO.

You will also need to set up your domain on a website.

Check out as many tutorials as you can find. Talk to others and read blogs. The sooner you get great information means the sooner you can get back to creating your own great content.

Another big plus for me is the customer service. I mentioned earlier that I only have limited experience – less than 2 years. I needed a hosting company that would respond quickly to any inquiries. I have to give my own hosting provider a ‘thumbs-up’ on all accounts. So what are you waiting for?

Isn’t it time to start blogging about your collection?

Best of luck and collect well.


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Collectibles that can Kill

January 10, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Collectibles that can Kill
I’ll admit collectibles that can kill sounds like a fairly extreme title. Just the very fact that something is collectible probably means it’s also rare. If that rarity is age-related then this article could very well apply. While products today are generally safety tested and certified that wasn’t always the case.

There are many combinations of collectible items that can cause bodily harm.

Obviously collectible items such as weapons, for example firearms and knives, can be lethal. This article is referring more  to the type of item you wouldn’t normally associate with an obvious risk or danger.

This article is leaning more  towards the type of item you wouldn’t normally associate with an obvious risk or danger. I’m referring to your normal consumer type goods. Things you would find in the average home. This article will explore some of those items,.

This is especially true for products created throughout the 50s and 60s. During this period there were many advances in industrial manufacturing as well as in the use of new polymers.

Polymers were the building block compounds in plastics and rubbers.

Manufacturers everywhere were anxious to begin producing an assortment of consumer goods. Plastic and rubber toys were simple and engineered to a lesser standard than something like a machinery part.

Military collectibles that can kill are not the only dangers.

While the benefits of new plastic combinations were welcomed the negative impact was not mentioned. With less restrictions and less product knowledge in general, combinations of plastics could easily have been off-gassing.

To determine how dangerous something may be or might have been we look at the most vulnerable areas in our lives. For example, any product that would come into contact with food or water. This may very well be a toxic metal component such as lead, mercury or cadmium.

Or it could be an item that would normally be enjoyed by children.

Toys would be the most obvious items.  The bright colors may indicate lead or cadmium traces in paint finishes.

The first toys to require warning labels only began to appear in the 70s. They were legislated in direct response to the  choking death of a small child. The child had apparently swallowed a tiny piece of plastic. One that was part of a space ship model.

The model was made popular by a science fiction television series. This would probably be a collectible model today. Maybe even more-so considering the ‘ushering in’ of the safety labeling era can be attributed to this specific toy.

Were toys accident-free prior to that?

It probably wasn’t the first fatal accident from a consumer product. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of consumer complaints. Or maybe they weren’t identified as anything but accidents at the time.

My  theory is they just didn’t give toys a second thought.

This generation had experienced true hardship and had serious things to fear. Toys just didn’t even  show up on their radar. Remember that the consumer of the 40s – 70s had all been somewhat de-sensitized because of the wartime years.

Before a lot of the strict new product regulations we see today, many products made it into the marketplace. Some of these would leave you shaking your head in disbelief. Of course things are much different today.

I remember several examples of toys from the 60s that caused me injury.

I got off pretty easy actually since they had the potential to do much worse.  My first wood chisel set, complete with razor sharp carving bits and a wood mallet, lacerated my index finger.

This was a product marketed to children and sold in the toy aisle at a large department store. I remember begging for this set only to take it home and split open my finger within minutes of using it. The thick scar is still obvious almost 50 years later.

Another example would be the Creepy Crawler Maker. This contraption was basically a piping hot griddle where liquid rubber was poured into removable steel molds. I received several seriously burned fingers after making adjustments while this was still hot.

I can remember letting this contraption heat up in my room beside my bed without a second thought. I had no perception of the danger of fire. Not only that but I inhaled all the noxious fumes from the bubbling rubber goop.

There were some others as well. They may have been less obvious but they were still just as dangerous. Take the dime store figurine that I named the site after…the Smoking Monkey.

Keep in mind this was a ten cent ceramic figurine.

Inside the package was included several stick-like cigarettes. Kind of looked like incense sticks. You would fit one into the monkey’s mouth and light it up. Once lit the monkey puffed and blew smoke rings.

It was the coolest toy for a kid but you needed matches to light it. I remember lighting this thing up all the time. All very comical until you think about a kid of 7 or 8 playing with matches in the bedroom. Again I think since smoking in the 60s was totally acceptable it somehow translated as normal for a kid to be lighting play cigarettes.

Not really something to panic over I guess since cigarettes and matches were on par with the times, so commonplace. Back then smoking was mainstream. Even my family doctor had an ashtray on his desk. Pretty sure I remember him smoking while he sat and chatted with my parents.

At the time warning labels were pretty well non-existent.

This may have been due to many toys coming from overseas. Regulations and guidelines were probably very different. Or maybe none of the manufacturers actually cared. Not that toys were outright killing people but the likelihood of injury was certainly high.

Once the first offender’s products were identified the floodgates opened.  It wasn’t that there were so many more unsafe products being manufactured.  It was more a case of products finally being identified. My guess is that if you had a product that was deemed unsafe you had eyes out for your competition’s product.

Suddenly dangerous products appeared everywhere.

“Collectibles that can kill… sounds like it’s own category”.

Sometimes re-branding and label modifications weren’t enough. Some products were not salvageable.

These had to be discontinued or outright banned once they were found to be a danger to the public. The most serious offenders usually affected the most vulnerable…children.

This usually meant in the form of choking or strangulation. But that was no means the only dangers out there. Risk of severe burns also ranked high as did blunt force trauma. Items that presented danger from long-term chemical exposure were also identified.

Once the list of dangers grew to cover a wider swath the warnings began to extend beyond toys. Now it was moving into consumer and household goods.

This usually came about with the item being used for something not originally intended. For example, using a decorative item for drinking out of or to hold a food product.

Take the case of radium poisoning.

Radium is a highly toxic component used to create the glow-in-the-dark items you may have seen. Manufacturers used to paint the hands of clocks and watch faces with radium laced paints. This was very common for decades and unfortunately many people that were involved in their manufacturing and  assembly have paid with their lives.

Toys too could also contain traces of radium. The manufacturer had introduced a radium component into the plastic and rubber components. Remember those advances with polymers. This was usually done for effect. In the 60s I can recall many toys with glow in the dark features.

I personally had a series of rubber finger puppets depicting ghost cartoon characters. They were based on a television program at the time. Thinking back they were certainly treated with something to give them a glowing effect.

Some of these old toys were so bizarre they don’t really fall into any collectible category. If you don’t agree with collectibles that can kill as a category you could stick with bizarre toxic toys from the 50s and 60s. Though I’m not sure if that sounds any better.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Become the Expert

January 9, 2016 by  
Filed under How To, New

Become the Expert
To become the expert in most fields normally requires years of study.

Don’t forget to also factor in the additional years of practical hands-on application. In the past you may have been required to live in the shadow of a mentor or label yourself an apprentice.

To become the expert in anything usually means intense study through immersing ones self in that particular subject. While it’s possible to fast-track the process; that would usually require access to a consistent flow of educational materials. This is not always available to the average person.

It sounds tailor made for the collector-type of personality.

Being considered an expert has many benefits for the niche collector. Whatever the circumstances that brought you to this point don’t really matter.  What does matter is that you take full advantage of the situation.

So go ahead and declare yourself the ‘expert.  At the very least, acknowledge you’re on-the-road to expert status.

What exactly does one have to do to become the expert?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it. An expert is…

“someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study.”

I’d also include that in order to become the expert you must be that one individual that steps forward when no one else does.

Let’s use the ‘whatzit’ as an example.

You may be one of only a handful of people in the whole world that collects ‘whatzits’.

  1. What if you acknowledge publicly, through a blog or website, that you collect whatzits?
  2. Now, what if you’re willing to share (establish credibility) information  you’ve discovered about the whatzit ?  (I’ve listed 10 bullet points down below, to help you do just that).
  3. What if you’re the only one available to answer questions at that moment when questions are being asked about whatzits?

Does that qualify you to become the expert?

I would say that if you can answer “yes” to any of those additional qualifications that not only could you be considered an expert but you may possibly be considered a ‘leading’ expert. Maybe even a leading-world-expert.

Not to undermine the actual background knowledge aspect but you can see that many factors go into determining who is the expert. Of course a deep knowledge is the backbone but once you factor in more criteria you can rocket to the top of the pile.

It has a lot to do with the context in which surrounds the situation.

Okay, so you’re now the self-proclaimed expert on whatzits.  What good is it?

You probably want to take some time for a reality check and think seriously about what your goals are. We’re all familiar with the internet and its reach. You are here now, so I think it’s safe to assume you’ll utilize the power of the web in your quest for expert status.

I should probably add something here. The information I’m giving you is by no means exclusive. This is fairly straight-forward stuff that you would no doubt find on your own. I’m giving you my boiler-plate version. This is what has worked so far for me.

If you have made it this far it’s time to share the news. This is one of my favorite sayings.

              “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it…does it make a sound?”

Okay, I know that’s a little cliche. But I think it makes a good point.

It’s the same with your expertise. If no one knows you or that your collection of whatzits exist…then guess what…they don’t, and neither do you. Maybe a cliche will drive that point home. Here’s another saying I like to use.

 “Perception is reality.”

You need to establish your place in the pecking order of things and then hammer-home your credibility.

If you want to be an expert start by letting people know about you and your collection.

The fastest way to leverage what you know and let people know you even exist is to start a website or blog. There are a ton of choices out there. You can look into some of the free blogging platforms. Keep in mind there are pros and cons to everything.

One of the biggest cons to a free hosting platform is that you can have your site removed at any time. Not to mention your image as an expert may be questionable on a free platform.

You can still pick up a template, or theme, fairly inexpensively as well as a good hosting package. You want to consider reliability and usability for both you and your readers. Read reviews for as many themes as possible.

Don’t go unheard.

We live in the most socially connected time in history. Social networking is a topic unto itself. One that could fill volumes. Read up on as much as you can regarding promoting (PR) yourself , branding and social networking.

There was a time we all existed and communicated without the internet and without online social networking skills. Those days are long gone. Especially if you want to be known beyond your dining room table. Promoting yourself and your collection is absolutely necessary if you want to create a larger than life footprint.

My best advice in a nutshell.

Build a blog and post regularly to it. Check other blogs for ideas on style and format. It’s easy to feel a little intimidated but remember that even the biggest website in the world had a first day.

Writing about something you love is generally not that difficult. Writing about it gives you a voice. This is a big step in building your credibility. Grab a pen and a notepad and simply start a conversation with yourself…just don’t forget to write it down.

Here are 10 straight-forward ways to get heard, gain credibility and become the expert.

  • Write reviews or guides on either your whatzit, or something closely related such as a service. Make sure to use your expert voice. EBAY is a good place for this. Remember to link-back to your site or blog.
  • Guest post on another blog or send in an article about your collectible item, again in your expert voice. Don’t forget to link-back.
  • Look for magazines or newsletters that share your particular interest. If you can’t find one on your exact collectible look for a more generic topic like ‘collecting in general’ or a sub-service like insurance for collectibles. Contact them and offer to write an article. Make sure a link-back is part of the deal.
  • List one of your related collectibles for sale on an auction or classified website with a link-back to your blog or site. At the very least make sure your contact info is available to anyone that may have questions.
  • Post a picture of one of your items on your Facebook or Google+ page. Issue a challenge to guess what it is or what it does. Use an attention grabbing title. Include a link-back whenever possible. You could create a whole site around the mysterious whatzit including fresh trivia mixed with a “guess this” photographs.
  • Offer your services as an appraiser for items similar to your collectible. In this case, whatzits.
  • Decide on some facet of your collectible (history etc.) and create an interesting ebook. If your are not up to writing it yourself hire a ghostwriter. Create a non-fiction work or even a fiction piece centered around your collectible. Bring awareness to it. This again would be done in your name and expert voice.
  • Do a search for charitable silent auctions and donate one of your pieces. Create a bio about yourself – remember to write about your expert background. Donations to silent auctions usually come with some free promotion.
  • Look up free stock photography sites and submit pictures of your item. Include whatever information you are allowed and again link the photo back to your site or blog. If your photography skills are lacking contact someone locally to provide some great shots.
  • Host a forum on your site. Invite comments, articles, posts or whatever. Becoming the hub of information is a good way to be perceived as the go-to guy or gal.

So what is the benefit of all this effort in the end?

My suggestion would be to monetize what you know and what you share. That includes your blogs or websites. For monetization the list of strategies is limited only by technology and your imagination.

And once you learn the ropes for building a blog, or site, the next site comes much easier. It doesn’t take a big imagination to see the possibilities of how far this could go.

Okay…so that’s the most obvious benefit. What about some more subtle ones? With the blog comes an increase in your credibility as an expert. You could build upon that using all or some of the 10 bullet points I mentioned above.

Creating your expert status may be part of a bigger plan. You now have the attention of listeners or readers. You could use your new status to cross-promote into another category…something that was originally less accessible even.

Think strategically!

Your name as author on an ebook would be a huge boost in credibility. In turn it will bring more traffic to your website…and another boost in your credibility.

Remember too, you can always hire writers, photographers, graphic artists or PR people.

All this recognition as an expert will drive traffic to wherever you choose.

Conversely, the additional boost in traffic builds your credibility and furthers your expert status. Some other benefits include owners of the best examples of whatzits will now be contacting you for advice or to make deals.

Your collection will gain traction and value just by being associated with an expert owner. So that’s it in a nutshell. Today is the day you step forward and become the expert.

Best of luck and collect well.


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