Containing the cost of collection obsession

Most people collect something. Before you disagree, take a good look around—becoming a collector can sneak up on you. For example, I didn’t mean to collect things that resemble pigs, but when I gather the little guys up, they do start to resemble a herd.

When most people think of collecting, they think of stamps and coins; however, you can collect almost anything. Following is a list of commonly collected items.
Those who are more serious about collecting spend significant time and effort in their collections. There are even technical names to describe passionate collectors. You might have heard someone described as an audiophile, but did you know that a collector of recipes is called a receptarist?

Some collectors who teeter on the brink of obsession have assembled some rather crazy collections, like the woman who amassed more than 220,000 ball point pens. While I’m guessing that ball point pens are pretty cheap and easy to acquire (I accidently picked up two on yesterday’s shopping trip!), other collections are not as wallet-friendly.

According to

-Approximately 5.7 million people collect stamps, spending $1.18 billion each year.
-A typical hobbyist coin collector might spend $100 to $300 a month on this hobby.
-A typical doll collector might spend anywhere from $40 to $400 a month on this hobby.

Of course your financial commitment is tied not only to the subject of your collection, but also to your level of commitment as a collector. For example, shell collectors can either A) take a walk and pick up what they find on the ground or B) pay $20,000 for a rare specimen. No matter how or what you collect, there five main reasons why you might be compelled to hunt and gather. According to, people collect:

-to rekindle childhood memories
-to have fun
-because they are fans
-to achieve a sense of fulfillment
-as an investment

I am not anti-collecting; however, I don't believe that collecting stuff is a good investment strategy for most people. After all, who wants their financial future to be determined by whether or not people will someday want to buy this month’s issue of The Amazing Spider Man? (Hint: they probably won’t.) While there are stories about people who hit the jackpot with an exceptionally rare collection, in reality, a lot of collections end up on Ebay rather than the auction block at Sotheby’s. I think the value in collecting comes from personal enjoyment. (And it's hard to enjoy things when you are afraid that your very touch might devalue them!*) With this in mind, I came up with some guidelines to help collectors can have fun and be frugal at the same time:

-Collect what you love. If you really enjoy your collection, it has value. Avoid collecting items that are sure to quickly lose your interest. (Also, be aware that once people find out you collect something, you are likely to get them as gifts for the rest of your life!)

-Budget for your hobby. Because collecting is a want rather than a need, you will have to be disciplined with your spending. Going into debt to add to your collection is not a wise financial move.

-Don’t count on the cash. Even experienced investors’ collections are subject to fluctuating values. That means that your collection might not be worth much when you most need the money.

-Shop around. Rather than buying things on a whim, shop around for the best deals. You might find great bargains at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores.

-Do your research. If you do hope to collect something of value, it helps to do some research. Whether you collect for fun or profit, consider joining a collecting club to help you connect with like-minded collectors.

Finally, if your budget or minimalist tendencies don’t allow for much collecting of stuff, remember that collecting memories is free and priceless.

My unintentional pig collection.

*I just can't resist jogging your memory about the Seinfeld episode where Jerry "drugs" his girlfriend with turkey, wine, and home movies so that he can play with her collection of old toys.


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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