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During the last twenty years or so, it would seem that Britain has turned into a nation of collectors.  The advent of car boot sales, popular TV programmes, such as "Bargain Hunt", "Flogit" and "Car Booty" seemed to have added to the current fervour to collect something, or maybe even anything.

But what is the true nature of collecting?  What is it that drives a person to rise at 5 am at a weekend and scour local car boot sales, fleamarkets and charity shops for hidden treasures?  For many, it is literally a desire to find something that will offer a quick turnover in cash, even though they may tell you that they are 'collectors'.  That's fine, but there seems to be a quite different motivation for the person who regularly indulges their passion to collect unusual, decorative or even sometimes obscure items.  These are true collectors, a different breed of individual, who take their collecting and collections very seriously.

Take, for instance, the person who has filled his house with a particular kind of item and then has to build on another room, simply to accommodate the overspill.  Or then there's the person who fills every wall in the house with plates or pictures, or who has shelves or cabinets throughout the house, where their treasured items are on display for everyone to see.  There are those who keep their collections tucked away in drawers or cupboards, neatly labelled, occasionally taking them out to review them or to add new items.  Some people actually keep a log of their collectables, the price they paid for each item and when and where they bought it.

Then there is the collector who gets a real kick out of accumulating items that are "free", such as the person who had a huge collection of aircraft sick bags, or the individual who has been collecting different designs of plastic carrier bags since they were first introduced in shops and supermarkets.  Then again, there are those who love the colourful designs on packaging and have large collections of crisp packets, or even cereal boxes.  Some people love to collect bygones and early tools and utensils because it reminds them of a time when life was slower and less stressful and it gives them a sense of peace and tranquility.  Then there are those who want to preserve things of the past by building their own private museum and proudly display their collection to others who are interested in the same things.  Some with a more practical approach prefer to collect things they think will command a high value in time, with a view to selling them on when the price is right and then starting another collection.

Not to be forgotten about is the time-honoured occupation of stamp collecting - my very first introduction to collecting as a child but which, I'm afraid, I did not continue.  In fact, I didn't start collecting anything in earnest until I became an adult, when I started to collect unusual and attractive cups and saucers.  This arose from my interest in the delicate structure of bone china items and their pretty patterns.  Whichever way you look at it, true collecting is a passtime or a hobby, which people find stimulating, interesting and relaxing.

Isn't collecting a rather eccentric occupation, though?  The answer to that is, yes, probably.  But then again, there are degrees of eccentricity and, the truth is, this would put most of us into the "eccentric" category because, whether we like to admit it or not, most of us, yes most of us, collect something or other.  So, collecting need be no more eccentric than many other hobbies or interests that people are passionate about.  In fact, some psychologists would tell you that collecting can be a very healthy pursuit, so long as it doesn't feed a habit to hoard or clutter, which is easier said than done.  I suppose the trick is to keep it in its place, like most things.

So, what would be the best reason of all to start a collection?  The answer to that really depends on the individual but, in my view, the very best reason to collect something specific is because you really like it.  This is what will bring the most pleasure from collecting.  Then, if the time comes when you tire of that particular collection, you can always "flogit" and start a new one!  Many people get a lot of satisfaction from the whole process of collecting - from the excitement of finding something unusual or different, to maybe refurbishing the object if necessary and then proudly displaying it on a shelf or in a cabinet, or maybe in a special corner of the room.

Remember, collecting something you particularly like can be a very rewarding hobby but it doesn't need to take over your life.  It can be very addictive and absorbing.  Objects and things do not replace people and no hobby should make a person reclusive or provide them with an excuse for neglecting family or friends, or other important commitments.  In fact, collecting can be a really fun thing to do when that interest is shared with others - you just need to make sure you have the room for it and that it doesn't get out of hand, which is often the most difficult thing to control.  It is important to be selective, rather than to buy things just for the sake of it.  Then again, even the most experienced collectors make the odd mistake - the important thing is to learn from it and move on to something else.  Collecting is a great hobby which will bring you into contact with all kinds of people and you will find you never stop learning about any given subject.  It's also a great way to relax and "switch off" from the everyday things of life.

So, whatever it is you choose to collect - do have fun and happy hunting!

This is just a general guide for the person who is thinking about starting a collection.  There will me more of these guides to add to our portfolio in time, so watch this space!

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