I have collected as a child, first it was stamps which was a natural since my father collected them.

Over the years, I have variously collected coins, pens, lighters, LPs, Buddhist artifacts, Khmer ceramics, Dieter Ram’s Braun design, pipes and other tobacciana, prints, AR Penck, autographed books, Song ceramics and the list is still growing.  I have many books but owning many items does not necessarily make a collection, it may be just an accumulation.  I have often wondered what drives man to collect, and if there is more than simply the idea to possess or capture?

For one, the instinct to gather and possess is human and stems from the covetous nature of our bent minds. How many times have I experienced the burning desire to own an object, only to banish it from my thoughts once I have taken possession of it?  The pleasure is in the hunt, another instinctive that seemingly brings hidden pleasures to the mind, so collecting is to hunt and keep.

To seek out and take possession is a focused process which in itself can bring mind pleasures, whether a Picasso ceramic or a series of travel books, or even plants for the garden.  In this sense, it is probably less agonizing to aim to collect what is affordably collectible and also what is available.

Collections do evolve as one’s tastes evolve, circumstances dictate, or interests shifts.  Items too easy to collect either because of low cost or widespread availability will not bring pleasure as it poses no challenge and the excitement of the hunt is not present.  On the other hand, to attempt to collect the uncollectible relative to one’s circumstances can be an altogether frustrating experience that brings no joy.  Just imagine me trying to collect Picasso paintings, I may not come to own a single one in this lifetime, so what is the point?  Thus the art of collecting is in part the art of carefully choosing a suitable theme for the collection, one that brings pleasure of possession as well as being affordable without being too easily hunted down.

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