Note from John: "Having now spent over 3 decades listening to collectors, I have come to have some understanding of the problems and joys associated with collecting. This is the beginning of a series...entitled with a moderate sense of humor - What in the Heck Are You Doing?
What In The Heck Are You Doing - Issue 1
Collecting almost anything can be one of the most frustrating, depressing, financially exhausting and embarrassing activity you will undertake in your life time. Well, that's the downside. Collecting can also be one of the most exhilarating, gratifying, and financially rewarding experiences you may have while on this planet. At this point you have undoubtedly decided that you would prefer to be in the latter group, so let's examine some very typical collector problems and how to deal with them.
Problem: How do I know what to collect? I hear that I should be collecting things that have a "financial upside" but some of those things just don't excite me. Some areas of collecting visually are interesting but I don't now anything about them. What do I do?
Solution: If what you are doing seems illogical, then it probably is. Basically you need to buy a clue and figure out what you are doing and why you are doing. In my travels I met a young couple that had a large but good collection of African art… but it was strange. Half the collection was comprised of very tough pieces while the other half included very sensitive and beautiful objects. When I expressed my confusion, they laughed and explained that their plan was that they took turns selecting pieces to acquire. They were happy, they collected well; and, although the collection looked a bit strange, they had a plan and it worked. So at the outset you need to be honest with yourself and ask why you are collecting. Maybe the answer will be because you like it, or you secretly want to be a dealer, or it may be a good investment, or the neighbors are doing it and they enjoy it. Whatever...you need an honest answer to the question.
The answer, whatever that may be, is the framework for your collecting plan. This plan will guide you and will significantly minimize your problems along the way. Once you have some general answers to the questions of what you are doing and why, then you can become a bit more specific and your plan will be more detailed. While it is impossible here to run through all the various permutations of collecting a few examples might be helpful in getting the process started.You are a forty something male, successful with some disposable income, and your Mother just passed away leaving you a collection of quilts amassed during a long marriage to your father who died ten years earlier. You grew up with those quilts which bring back many happy memories of trips with your folks and a very happy, warm and secure home life. You feel obligated emotionally to continue the tradition and as in the past to add a quilt a year to the collection. You don't know anything about quilts but you are determined to learn. It's time to ask the questions… What in the heck are you doing, and why? A little honesty here could save a huge amount of misery later.
The obvious answer is that you are collecting quilts to continue the family tradition begun by your parents. But is that really the answer? No it's not because you are not your parents...you are your own person. You never collected or studied quilts because it really didn't interest you. You should not be continuing this tradition because your reasons are not good enough to motivate you to do what you need to do to make good collecting decisions. For most collectors collecting is not a primary source of income or in other words most collectors are really not dealers. In reality there are many quasi dealers who are collectors that make bad decisions because they have been unable to make the commitment to sell when they need to sell. So for collectors the process should be fun. If it is not fun, don't do it; because if you do collect under ill defined circumstances, you will be miserable. Under the heading of what in the heck are you doing we will discuss in greater detail your collecting plan.