7 Reasons Why People Collect Antiques

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As a fan of PBS’Antique Roadshow, I often find myself pondering what prompted a person to collect the item they are showcasing in the first place.  In the popular show, you get to see a huge variety of collectibles from furniture, to quilts, to decorative collectibles, to fine art, musical instruments and  paper collections.  The show hosts often asks the collector how they came about acquiring the item and the individual stories often vary.  But other than the occasional person, who basically fell into acquiring the collectible by accident (as an heirloom or gift), most of the guests loved and sought after what they collected.  So after a little soul searching, I put together a list of positive reasons why people collect.

  1. Money and Investment or Creating Family Heirlooms – You enjoy finding and collecting items that you want to leave as part of your inheritance or to make a statement of who you were to future heirs. Usually your collection, will have a dual purpose of not only pleasing you aesthetically but actually have an inherent monetary value that is established by antique experts and similar professionals.  Most collectors in this category collect fine art, furniture, vintage fine jewelry and other similar items.
  2. Collect for Sentimental Value or Nostalgia – Fond memories of the past or your childhood, inspire you to collect those objects that promoted your happiness and the process of collecting these items inspires these positive feelings.  Many collections can remind you of close relationships with loved ones or admired mentors  and the influence that these people had in developing your personal taste and style.
  3. Personal Hobby – The time and attention you put in researching, finding, purchasing, cleaning or restoring your collectibles and then displaying your collection, relaxes and or energizes you.  Engaging in your hobby makes the cares of life seem distant and provides you with a sense of accomplishment and restored energy.
  4. Personal Aesthetics – Your sense of style draws you to the aesthetics or beauty and rarity of the items you collect. Most avid collectors enjoy finding unique ways to display their personal collections throughout their homes.
  5. Enjoys the “thrill of the hunt” of finding rare items – One of the best parts about collecting is the thrill of the hunt.  The expectation of finding a treasure is a big motivator for the collector.  Many collections have been built by  carefully combing through boxes and tables at a yard sale or flea market, a sudden find at an auction, going through listings in the local paper or online (Craigslist…anyone?), or even an unexpected find at a store.  And when you find that item, it’s an awesome feeling!  This is especially true if you have been conducting a search for a long time or if the item is rare.  Acquiring the item or desired collectible, has less of a thrill for this type of collector than the thrill of searching for and finding it.
  6. Enjoys the restoration of antiques and collectibles – Not all collectors restore their collectibles, but many develop skill sets that bring added beauty and value to the items they collect.  These collectors enjoy the process so much and with added practice become so good at it, that they soon find themselves giving away their collectibles to grateful recipients and/or selling the items they restore.
  7. Feeling of Community/Social  – Over time, many collectors have individual and highly specialized knowledge about the items that they collect, that they find themselves joining or participating in groups that collect similar items.  And what should be surprising about that?  Many collectors enjoy the conversation regarding a similar collectible, the praise they get for the items they might have collected, and the additional knowledge and expertise they gather  from engaging in discussions with those who have broader collections of similar items.

So there is my wrap up of what I believe are the reasons why people like to collect.  While this blog post doesn’t address all of the reasons why people collect, I think it gives a broad idea of what motivates many collectors and the underlying reason common to most collectors is that they enjoy it immensely.  What motivated you to begin collecting?

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