The More the Merrier

The Psychology Behind Collections


Go to your dirty old closet, I know you’ve got one. How many random sets of things are there? Perhaps there’s a box of old sports cards, or some McDonald’s toys from your favorite movie. No matter what we decide to collect, we always find joy in getting a set of something to call our own. But what reason is there for the human mind to enjoy gathering collections so much? Why do we find the urge to put similar things in groups? I know what you’re thinking. Thrilling article, Sam. Look, the news was slow and my alternative was speculating about the fate of the British queen, so sorry about that. Just hear me out, ok? It’s more interesting than you think. 

Ever since we weren’t much more than the basic ape’s awkward brother, we’ve always wanted to get the best that there was, objects of unprecedented value that rose far above the rest. This peculiar phenomenon of the centuries-long tradition works in strange ways, and the most spectacular thing is the limitless bounds of what can be collected. All this big talk about how collecting works, but what’s the appeal? I wanted to give you some scientific fancy speak about how the brain works, but it’s all basic psychology when it comes to your urges. Say you’re a coin collector or you have a knack for baseball cards. What’s going on that makes you want more of it?

Some collect to learn, some collect to relax, and some collect because someday their collection will turn a profit. You’ve seen all the stories about collectors putting their prized possessions in museums for spectators to see. Like with many things, fame and fortune is often the most powerful influence on whether or not you’ll collect something. A Charizard from the original Pokémon card set can be sold for massive cash, and the single rarest card of all time, Pikachu Illustrator, sold for $900,000 at only a PSA grade of 7. In comparison, a PSA 10 Charizard from the base set only sold for $420,000, though it is no slouch in the value department. The reason behind these insane gets? Market value. The reason your cards (usually) won’t sell for more than $1000 dollars if you’re REALLY lucky is because they’re young, and probably still on the market wide-scale. Prices go up when the set ends, and prices go up even higher years after years of it being unavailable. People tear, dirty, and otherwise abuse the cards, making the cards carefully preserved even more valuable. If you’re really lucky, there’s a good chance you can make something out of your childhood passion. Just don’t expect a lottery payout so fast. 

Another reason why you could start collecting is the history. Sometimes, you’ll collect something because there’s history behind it, like having collections of ancient coins or old toys. Many collectors prefer to build up collections to preserve said history. There’s a reason that the toy robot collection which was discontinued due to child safety concerns involving lead paint is in your local museum. Someone poured their time and effort into bolstering it up and preserving the moment of history. Maybe that history is more personal? You’re going to the doctor for a flu shot, and your crying gets on your parents’ nerves. Five dollars later, you’re holding a small mechanical hamster. Suddenly, you’ve made a tradition. Every time you go to the CVS for your flu shot, a five dollar hamster is introduced into your life. With so many hamsters, you’ve created your first obsession: five dollar mechanical hamsters from the local CVS. The history is an important, integral part of the collection which cannot be understated. A collection is pointless without a purpose. 

Now, there’s plenty more reasons for why you would collect something. Maybe it’s the competition of getting the ultimate collection of an object, receiving the most valuable or rare object for it before anyone else. Perhaps it’s the fact that it gives you a small side interest to enjoy while the world around you is unchanging. And maybe-just maybe-you’ve got your own five dollar hamster. Whatever the reason you collect, we’ve all gotten into it at one point of your life. Try digging through your closet. Maybe there’s a little piece of history stuck in there for you too.