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Book Collecting or Hoarding?

(Tune in to our podcast episode on the topic here!)

"This is John from VJ Books.

What is the difference between collecting, accumulating and hoarding? While I define myself as a multi-disciplinary collector, my family finds me a broad spectrum accumulator, and has been heard to threaten intervention when it appears that I am becoming a hoarder.

The catch phrase often heard around here is, “I’ve got one of those around her someplace.

Historically speaking numerous personal collections have been the genesis of museums around the world. Much of our world history is stored in artifacts accumulated by those filled with the passion to collect.

Take, for example, the Capitoline Museums, the oldest public collection of art in the world. It began in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of important ancient sculptures to the people of Rome.

The Field Museum in Chicago, and its collections, originated from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the artifacts displayed at the fair. To permanently house those exhibits and other collections assembled for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the famous merchant Marshall Field funded the museum that carries his name.

The Library of Congress claims to be the largest library in the world. In began in 1800 growing to 3000 volumes, but most of the collection was burnt by the British in the War of 1812. Three years later the library acquired the entire personal collection of President Thomas Jefferson. His collection became seed stock for this enormous library.

All collectors aspire to have their personal holdings grow into something noteworthy. But that’s not really the reason we collect.

We find joy in the act of collecting – to assemble an accumulation of items of value and skillfully organize them into something meaningful.

As a child my collecting began with postage stamps. At first I accumulated stamps from across the world, but soon became overwhelmed by the sheer size of such an undertaking. I reduced my reach and specialized in stamps of the United States. While it doesn’t get much attention these days, I still have a collection that has grown for over 50 years.

Like many I tried collecting coins and paper money, but found them too negotiable.

As an adult for a time I dabbled in Fine Art. My venture into selling art saw little success as I seemed to be limited to art “I liked,” and parting with it became difficult. Today I have a modest collection mainly filled with the works of Jerry Schurr.

I tried my hand at collecting wine for awhile. As a birthday gift back in the 70’s I received a case of 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was great, and I drank it with abandon. In 1976 that wine won the “Judgment of Paris,” a blind taste competition organized by Steven Spurrier, and was the subject of the movie BOTTLE SHOCK, starring Alan Rickman as Spurrier. That wine helped to launch the California wine industry. A bottle sits proudly in the Smithsonian. The last bottle sold brought nearly $4,000. If I had only known.

My book collecting grew from my love of reading, and prior to our starting VJ Books, Virginia told me that I “needed to see someone” about by book buying obsession. Fortunately for me, I was granted a reprieve when we starting selling books. That accumulation became our first inventory.

When my collection grew beyond reason most of my books were sold. The grouping I was most proud of was a nearly complete collection of the works of Dean Koontz. A man from the east coast bought the whole collection, and has since grown that collection into what’s probably the second best in the world. One would expect for Koontz to have the first.

For now my collecting is limited to less than a dozen authors, most of which are on the shelves behind me. By narrowing the field I am able to focus on completion – that is acquiring everything an author has written.

Completion is the trademark of the seasoned collector. It is an obsession that brings joy to the heart of any collector.

The rest of my story is more of accumulation – not really collecting. I still have my 45 RPM records, and hundreds of LPs. With vinyl making a comeback my son Mitchell began collecting. He was delighted with what he found in the top of one of our closets. What seemed out of reach was already in hand.

To conclude; collecting is a pastime that can bring happiness, and a real store of value. But beware, it can become an obsession. I am reminded of a customer who had us spread his purchases across several credit cards so his wife “wouldn’t notice.”

I’d love to hear about your obsessions – NO – WAIT – WAIT – ER AH, your collections. Keep your obsessions to yourself, and please remember to have fun.

For more information about book collecting, how to grow and value your collection, sign up for our Book Collecting 101 Series. Make sure to like us on Facebook, and subscribe to this channel to be notified about our latest uploads."

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