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The Sale of 100 Things: Collecting Happiness

Been quiet for a while.  Needed some time away to refresh and recharge. 

Also, needed to find another couple hundred things for ‘The Big Sellout’, 2019’s follow up to the very successful ‘Sale of 100 Things’.  Yes.  I sold 100 things.  Almost 200.  Not bad really, but there’s still so much to left to get rid of.

A couple of quick observations before I wade into the deep end of the pool.  Ebay was more successful than social media for most items.  Sports bobbleheads are highly collectible and much easier to sell than Funko Pops.  Funko buyers are a strange, obsessive breed.  Most buyers don’t understand how the post office works.  No one wants Dorbz or Hikari.  Hats are hard to sell, too. 

This year will continue the Funko purge.  I’ve said time and again that I’m not one of those Funko collectors with a wall full of Pops and I’m not.  Turns out I keep them in storage in the basement instead.  Honestly, when you have to buy more and more boxes for storage, you’re out of control.   Do that whole ‘does this bring me joy’ thing and weed the collection down to what you want to display.  Get rid of everything else.  You won’t miss them.  I guarantee it.

So how did I end up with a basement full of crap?  Good question.  One I keep asking myself, and one I keep trying to avoid answering because I don’t have one.  I don’t know why I keep collecting things.  I have lots of interests.  They’re all over the nerd-map.  Star Trek and Star Wars.  Toys.  Books.  Movies and TV shows.  Drawings of Spider-Man.  Pressed tin Christmas ornaments.  M&M dispensers.  Junk and ephemera.  Devils and Day of the Dead.

Things that make me smile.  Things I think I have to have.

And somehow I’m not a hoarder. 

Or maybe I am?  But a social hoarder.  A high-functioning junkaholic who can hide the worst of my addiction behind a clean desk and daily shower.  I can still see the floors in my home so it’s not that bad, right?

So again… Why do we do it?  Why do we collect stuff?  We cant all like that one great aunt who collects ceramic monkeys, but doesn’t really because everyone saw one monkey on her shelf and just assumed she likes monkeys.  Then, after 40 years of getting monkeys for Christmas, birthdays, etc., she dies with a million ceramic monkeys that she secretly hated because she never really liked monkeys, she was more of gibbon kind of gal.  No, I’m talking about the stuff we deliberately go out and get for ourselves, our shelves, our offices, and basements.

I didn’t have a good answer, so I Googled it. There were some interesting reads past the paid results.  Children build collections as a way order and make sense of the world.  So do some adults.  Freud says it goes back to potty training and the sense of loss that accompanies flushing the toilet.  I don’t think that applies as I’ve never felt even the slightest twinge of regret after going to the bathroom.  Most of the times I feel relief, sometimes a little lighter.  Put that in your cigar and smoke it, Siggy. 

Nostalgia?  Sure why not.  People collecting as a way to reconnect with better days.  Saving ticket stubs to remember all those cool concerts we went to in our youth.  Buying back all the old toys we had when were

kids.  Makes sense for collecting some stuff.  Not sure how a bottle cap, stamp, or matchbook collection fits into recapturing your past unless you were a drunk, a mailman, or an arsonist, but whatever.    

Collecting for money?  I’m pretty sure that’s called ‘investing’, but some people do it.  I know a lot of people who collect Funko thinking they’re going to put their kids through college.  Maybe with some collections, but mostly….no.  You might make a couple of bucks, but you’re not going to make any money.  Pop collectibles can drop in value as quickly as they rise.  Investing in toys is about a smart as investing in scratcher’s tickets.  Interesting thought, if I tried to sell losing lottery tickets, I bet I could find someone who collects them.  I did it with magnetic baseball schedules, so why not.  I’m fairly certain there’s a collector for everything.  And I don’t say that to disparage. 

Serial collecting is a kind of collecting for money.  Not to be confused with collecting cereal boxes, serial collectors amass a collection, dump it for a profit and start over with something else.  Think flipping in the extreme.  The stories about some guy selling everything for huge dollars are exciting and aspirational, but also a tease.  The most extreme examples being used to gloss over an ugly truth, like political advertising on Facebook, or a slut-bride wearing white.  For every collection sold for six-figures, there are at least a dozen sold for pennies on the dollar at a garage sale.  Again…making bucks not money.

On a darker note, some psychologists listed compulsive collecting as a by-product of depression.  Retail therapy run amok if you will.  I wasn’t a fan of this line of thought because it hit a little too close to home.  I had a stroke last year and found myself buying more and more things immediately thereafter.  Also after a bad day at work.  Also, just because…hmmm… maybe I should talk to my doctor about Xanax. 

(Side thought: Does the popularity of anti-depressants correlate to the popularity of Funko Pops?  More importantly, can I get a grant to study it?)

(Side-side thought:  Depression is a serious issue and yes, I’m making light of it.  Never pretended not to be an asshole sometimes.)

In the middle of all this navel-gazing, I got into it with a first-year psychology student who maintained that we collect things that represent what we want to be.  Now, I have a long-held belief that fist-year psych students are the absolute worst.  Right up there with first year religion and philosophy undergrads.  Two or three courses in their major and they question everything they’ve learned OR they decide that they’ve been given the secrets to the meaning of life. Either way, they’re insufferable.  I had a girlfriend in college who took an abnormal psychology and decided that pretty much everybody was a deviant.  Started giving me and all my friends a bunch of behavioral tests to prove her point.  It was not unlike taking a daily Buzzfeed quiz to figure out what color my lightsaber should be, and think real hard on that analogy while you try to figure out which one of the F*R*I*E*N*D*S cast you are – can you say ‘data mining for targeted content’?   Anyway, answer just the right way and you’re Mace Windu.  Answer wrong and you’re a borderline sociopath with deviant friends.  F*ck you, Katie.  F*ck you.

My prejudice notwithstanding, what I disliked most about this ‘hypothesis’ (f*cking psych students, pick a real science), was that it was too ‘stretchy’.  In order for it to fit every possible type of collection a person might have, you have to ascribe some kind of an meaning to every possible thing a person might collect.   Collect superheroes…then you want to be a hero, which only makes sense for Batman, because everyone wants to be Batman.  If you collect elephants, then you want to be….fat?  I told him I collected Devil figures and Day of the Dead figures, but had no desire to be dead or the king of Hell.  He responded that I wanted the power that the Devil represented (notice he glossed over the calaveras)  What about the toy robots I like?  I aspired to the perfection they represented.  The M&M dispensers?  The Star Trek ships?  Wrestling masks?  Uh….yeah, just what I thought.  Crickets. You really have to read more into what’s there than what’s there to make this work, hence ‘stretchy’.  Hop on the ‘F*ck You Express’, Sparky, and introduce yourself to my ex.

And speaking of stretchy, I came across several articles that said collecting was an inherent human trait.  That not the stretchy part, that comes later.  Being hardwired to collect is actually something I’ve thought of myself, that we collect because we can’t help it.  But then I think ‘What about crows?  They’re know for collecting shiny objects.  Are they on the ‘humanity spectrum’?  Are they too collecting for knowledge and learning?  For relaxation and stress relief?  Altruism?  C’mon, man, they’re birds.  We’re better than them!  We’re human beings for Manny’s sake!  Technically we’re apes, but you get my drift.  We’re above that kind of behavior, aren’t we?  Where the idea got stretchy was an article (a couple actually) that said collecting was all about status, and therefore, reproduction.  The thinking goes that an elevated social status leads to an elevated chance of getting your freak on.   As someone who has collected toys for most of their adult life, I challenge this assumption.  He with the most toys might indeed win, but a shelf full of action figures will not get you laid.  In fact, it is mostly a red flag. 

I stayed mostly away from articles on hoarding.  They’re depressing and possibly a harbinger of things to come. Like if I don’t let go of some of this junk I, too, get to be on TV crying into a dumpster.  Maybe if they rebranded it as ‘Extreme Collecting’ I wouldn’t fear it as much as I do.  We all have an emotional connection to our crap (not that crap, Mr. Freud), sometimes it goes awry.  We get too attached to our stuff, give it to much power.  I think there’s a hidden irony in the Marie Kondo decluttering process.  You thank your stuff then toss it, trying to get down to what ‘sparks joy’.  Guess what gives a hoarder joy?  EVERYTHING!  We’re not hoarding, we’re filling our homes with happiness.  Go on, pry this shit from my cold dead hands.

Anyway, after this extended period of researching and soul-searching, I was still left asking myself why I bothered to collect the gazillion little things that I’m currently trying to pass on to others.  Every reason I came across, including hoarding, applied to something that I collected. Maybe I was motivated to collect because of the trauma of potty training, or in response to my stroke, or on the outside chance that Daffy Duck was going to land me a handjob.  Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.  Maybe psychologist should study a real science where their results could be quantified and put into charts and graphs and everything fits into neat and tidy categories.  Just take a quiz and find out if you’re a nostalgist, a hoarder, or Mace Windu. 

Long and short of it, after reading all those articles, doing a little self-examination, taking some online quizes, and watching Marie Kondo…I think the answer remains the same as it ever was: this stuff made me happy. 

I think that’s probably enough.


Watch out for ‘The Big Selloff’ starting in a couple weeks.

Posted in: Lifestyle