The Psychology of Collecting – From Baby Teeth to Hollywood Memorabilia

Most of us have a collection of some sort, and while bills could qualify, I am talking about those assortments of things that have some meaning to us as humans.

There is value in creating a collection. From sentimental to financial, the reasons behind lining up fancy eggs in a glass, lighted cabinet are usually linked to some type of emotion.

From stamps to baby teeth, our reasons for collecting are as varied as the collections themselves, but have you ever wondered what the psychology is behind collecting?

An article in The National Psychologist (McKinley, 2007), explores why we collect saying that some of the more common reasons for collecting are;

Enjoyment – collecting can be tied in with a hobby, or a hobby itself, such as constructing model cars. The sense of accomplishment from building (be it a car or a collection) can provide contentment.

Investment – memorabilia enthusiasts, classic car collectors and antiques dealers see the value in collections for a future return on their investment. With many collections, the more time that goes by, the more valuable the item is.

Security – for some people, collecting is a kind of psychological need. By collecting they are able to fill an emotional need, or it may be compensation for a lack of control or stability. This is often associated with the more serious collecting condition of hoarding.

Preservation – collecting allows people to preserve the past by acquiring antiques and other pieces of history.  This category also applies to investment, as rare and classic items increase in worth over time.

Excitement– the treasure-seeker collectors love the thrill of the hunt and find value as much in the acquiring as in the owning. 

Items that create a timeline such as stamps and coins mark a passage of time, and can span generations. Fads and trends make for collections that exemplify a specific point in time, and can be worth money as time goes by.

Antiques, items that have intrinsic history and therefore value, are among the top collectables. Humans strive to have a connection to the past. It only makes sense then, that we restore classic cars (note the word classic), pay top dollar for a Hollywood starlet’s signature and put pieces of history behind glass.

Whatever the reason, it seems that we all collect things that resonate with us on some emotional level, even if it is elation that will come from an eBay® auction.

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Post Author: Gurjinder Cheema

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