Are You a Collector?

By Kate Riley May 16, 2019

It piques my curiosity when I learn that someone is a collector, and the revelation of the object they collect is a window into who they are. There’s always a story behind the passion to collect a certain thing. What is it about that object that a person loves so much that they gather dozens (or hundreds)? Often it’s something to do with a fond memory from childhood. Somewhere along the way they became attracted to a particular thing and as a result began collecting it.

Matt is a numismatist, he started very young collecting coins and going to coin shows and although he’s bought and sold plenty over the years, he still collects rare coins to this day. I have one friend who collects Fiestaware and another who collects vintage GI Joe dolls. I’m not an avid collector of any one particular thing, the only thing I truly collect (if you can call it that) is a unique piece of art from the places where I travel, and it’s usually by a street artist.

In this KonMarie age when the movement is to eliminate excess stuff, it begs the question how much of a material thing should one accumulate? But since one of the tenants of the movement is the requirement that the thing “sparks joy”, collections qualify. I came across this image a few months ago where a family has a Thermos collection on display and thought to myself, well that’s quirky and cool, I wonder what the story is there.

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Collecting art I understand the most. I find it interesting and visually pleasing when a specific style is displayed on one wall in a gallery style, like these vintage dog paintings, engravings, and seascapes.


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My sister in law collects antique floral patterned teacups and she has a collection on display much like this image below. I find that so charming. It takes up a small wall in her dining nook and she’s served coffee to me and to friends on many occasions. She actually puts her collection to use so not only do her teacups make her feel good looking at them every day, they also serve a purpose of connection and friendship.

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I’ve become more minimalist with my own decorating, seeking an airy aesthetic and appreciating more the impact of negative space. It stems from my internal dialogue to simplify and my focus on attaching myself less to material things while placing more value on experiences. However I do get a thrill from seeing something vintage or unique gathered up and displayed in one area.

I was walking through Portugal and stopped into a cafe where all of the walls were filled from floor to ceiling with glass cases which were filled with vintage tchotchkes and my first thought was “wow, cool” and my next thought was “but someone has to dust all of this” :)

If you watch any of those antique appraisal shows you know that there are plenty of material things that exist that have absolutely no value to one person but have real monetary value out in the world because of their uniqueness or scarcity or desirability.



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Groupings of unique things that share commonality are visually pleasing. When styled in an appealing way, the collection draws the eye to the artful display.




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I find it enchanting when people get excited about certain objects they collect, enthusiasm is such an attractive characteristic in humans. I enjoy seeing the light in someone’s eyes when they are talking about some thing that they’re passionate about collecting.

Do you have a collection of treasures? What’s the story behind it? Can you share any funny stories of collectors you know, friends or family?



  1. I’m torn about my collections because, like you, I love the look of the objects but don’t want to be materialistic. I have a collection of wooden birds – shorebirds and decoys. I even have a giant snowbird. I started 40 years ago. They are from craft shows, antique shops, gifts from others and networking. They are considered so “out of style” but are a big part of my life and the memories of the fun of collecting.

    • I don’t think they’re out of style at all! Have you considered displaying them in an interesting way? Quite a conversation starter!

    • I collect hot wheels. It’s nothing special but i have over an estimated 10,000 in my basement hanging up. I started in 2008 because I left the military and i needed something to occupy my time.

  2. I don’t really have a collection of a certain thing but a friend once said, “boy, you must really love leaves” and it was the first time I even noticed that many of my things like, throw pillows and blankets, artwork, draperies and other items had leaves either embossed or had a tone on tone leaf motif going on. It made us both laugh. I still couldn’t tell you why the attraction exists. LOL

    • Because leaves are organic and part of nature so you’re tied to them because they satisfy your soul!

  3. I collect white ironstone tureens, and blue and white cantonware. I have a collection of santas and snowmen from years ago, but I still get them out each christmas. I have a gallery wall in several places in my home.

    • I love when people collect things for a certain holiday! One of my best friends from Norway collects gnomes and displays them all over her house at Christmas, it’s a ritual she loves and so does her family. :)

  4. When I was a baby, one of my aunts started a bunny collection for me that grew over the years. There were all sorts of bunnies from all over the world- ceramic, wood, paper mache, etc. I had it displayed in my room growing up, and then at some point in my twenties it got packed up to come live with me as an adult. I kept it in boxes for a long time, thinking it wasn’t the right time or place to get it out yet. But somewhere along the way in my many moves during that decade or the one after, it disappeared. What I wouldn’t give to have my collection back now. I’m just heartsick about it.

    • Oh NO! I’m so sorry Amy, that’s tragic. Hoping someday it reappears in your life!

  5. No true collections for me but it does make me think of my mom’s green depression glass dishes. I think she had a substantial set and then always liked to have something specific to poke around for in antique stores.

    • That’s so true, being a collector means you’re always on the hunt and there’s something about that kind of curious searching that is appealing!

  6. I was a collector of books, mirrors, embroidered linens, glass, tins until last May when all were lost in a house fire. There were quilts and paintings of my grandmother, books from childhood 60 years ago, furniture purchsed at auctions. The loss has been difficult and I have unmoored from myself. None of these were expensive but held such memories of days, places, and people that were in my life; those memories were intrinsitic to my understanding of the story of my life.

    • Wow, I’m so so sorry. Thank you for sharing how meaningful those things were to you and how they helped define the story of you.

  7. I agree with all your thoughts about this matter, I collect little bells and I have stopped displaying them since I get bored to clean dust ! BUT I realise now that I miss them! I must try again!

  8. For quite a few years when I wrote book reviews I collected bookmarks. This is an area of collecting that is among the smallest around but it is amazing. These tiny bits of paper, fabrics, yarns, bronze, gold, silver, stones and other things had histories you simply cannot imagine. Another collector I found and I wrote a weekly column on them for years.

    Sadly, I sold them all to her when I was unemployed and needed the money. I miss them–but I have not begun collecting them again and probably won’t. I love that I did, though.

    So, today, I collect nothing. I agree with you that airiness and lightness are primary in my home. Despite being pretty much that way, I did manage to cut about 30 percent of what was on my bookcase off. And that pleases me very much.

  9. I collect rocks, big egg shaped rocks from Oregon coast, small red rock from Assisi, a friend sent one from the southern most point of South Africa. You can write on them with a skinny sharpie. But they are packed up, now I travel around in a tiny motor home with no room. No more rocks. I miss it so, I am going back to collecting some and every so often, mail a box to my daughter. It’s crazy but I’m still grieving 2 rocks I left behind in the Moab area last year.

  10. I collect tall glass candlesticks. I use them for dinner parties, or just whenever I feel like it, in groupings. My favorite was a dinner party with about 9 candlesticks of unequal heights and styles, but all glass, lined up down the middle of the table, with white candles. Ivy and lemons swirled around the bases. It was so festive and so different. That’s my only collection, and I have more than enough so no longer add to it.

    We also like watercolors and have what we call the “lonely wall” which is canvases of snowscapes and water scenes, all peaceful and serene and tones of gray, blue, and white. Another wall has watercolor flowers: tulips, hydrangeas, mountain laurel, etc.

    I really like seeing people’s collections on display,

  11. I collect milk glass. I get a lot of funny looks about it because it’s so much but it makes me happy and I love knowing some of the pieces of are part af American glassware that is no longer made unfortunately.

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  13. Kate,

    Your ideas and pictures are inspirational. Likewise, I like to have green leaves in all my belongings. Either it is pillows, or window screens or anything, I would like to have colored leaves as a pattern of style. I like it, Wow!!! I loved your way of organization though.

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