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At the Crossroads - again!

Brian Wolfe



At the Crossroads Again!

For the vast majority of collectors collecting is a passion, an obsession; some would even call it a sickness, however, those are the people whose opinions are completely unworthy of consideration. They are like vegans at a BBQ telling me that if I knew where that steak came from I would not eat it. First of all Ive been a butcher in one of my varied past work experiences so I know where meat comes from and second I tell them that I see myself as a non-practising vegetarian, I support their views in principal but shut up and pass me another hamburger...please (I always like to be civil if not completely supportive). Im also a supporter of PETA as long as that stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. My perfect meal would be steak and shrimp with BBQ chicken as a chaser just to be fair to the animal kingdom in covering all of the bases of earth, sky and water. Im nothing if not fair...oh yes, and civil. By the way I do know that chickens dont fly, or at least not very well.

Now that we have eliminated the opinions of those annoying people who fail to understand us, be they friends or spouses, we can move on, even though, for some unexplained reason I am getting hungry.

When we start out collecting there seems to be a never ending supply of whatever it is that we have decided to base our collection on. Take medals for example, British medals for the sake of this discussion. You go along building a collection until you have almost all of the common specimens then you realize that unless you are collecting to a particular regiment and want to continue adding to your collection the next level is going to be quite expensive. Going from a WWI Trio at around $195.00 to a Crimea 1854 Sebastopol and Turkish Crimea 1855 pair at $795.00 can take ones breath away. (Current prices provided by Tanya Ursual of Medals of War)

So there you are at the proverbial crossroads of collecting (and the theme of this blog) with decisions to make. Do you take the jump to the higher level of collecting, continue on adding the same old/ same old or change collecting direction completely. Ive managed to come to this crossroads many times. Which way to go? Spend more money or change direction? Decisions, decisions, what to do? Lucky for me I can make such decisions easily as I almost always do both. Unfortunately Ive hit quite a bump in the road in that is as disastrous as the feared crossroads. No its not the advancing years of old age because I shall collect until my children pull the plug, pry the keyboard (eBay) from my cold dead fingers and nail the lid on the coffin. Actually my dear wife, Linda, said that one cannot let age determine how much we do or even what we do, within physical limits of course. Mixed Martial Arts is probably not in my future, nor Olympic javelin catching, but as to collecting its full steam ahead and the devil take the hind most.

Im actually out of room in the study for any additions to the collection that take up much space. So I am left with a decision to make, sell some items (like thats going to happen), stop collecting (seriously?), take over a second room (a possibility, one is available) or mainly collect smaller items such as medals. I do have a good deal of drawer space left for medals in the units I have built for that purpose. On the other hand that other room is looking more and more inviting all of the time. As you can see even collectors who have been collecting for a good number of years still find that they are standing at the crossroads from time to time.

I do have some advice for younger collectors, those who may still not be too deeply in debt to the dark side of collecting, to the point where their collection is no longer referred to as eclectic but rather just a jumble and bits of odds and ends.

Always set goals.

Ive always done this, however once a goal has been met and new ones started your collection will still become eclectic but at least not a hoard as might be expected of a hermit living next to the city dump. I set my goal for the British black powder firearms section of the collection starting with the Brown Bess and ending with the pre .303 cal. Martini Henrys. True somewhere along the line I did add a Bren gun and then an A1L1 FN, which still has Linda wondering how those last two fit into the collection. My only argument was that this section of the collection was a Brown Bess to Bren collection which was a great argument (to my way of thinking) until I purchased the FN then that hastily fabricated rational fell apart rather rapidly. Setting goals will assist you in staying on course and will end up costing less than collecting whatever comes along because you can afford it at the time. Its perfectly alright to have more than one goal at any given time within reason. For example you can be collecting British medals, German medals and cavalry swords at the same time but not also antique clown noses, left handed salt and pepper shakers and high compression muffler bearings. Its just too much. Keep it simple and focus.

Costs should not set the goal of a collection.

Dont let costs be the determining factor in the area you are collecting. By this I mean dont get to a point where there are still a good number of specimens left to collect but the price is getting too high. Still collect but not as much; were looking at quality/rarity verses quantity. Just because a Military Cross is a lot more money than a BWM should not be the only reason for changing direction. Sure if you are ready for a change then do so but if it is based on the cost then you need to slow down and add a new specimen when you can afford it and dont purchase other material at the same time.

Research, research, research.

Part of your collecting activities should be researching and studying the subject of your chosen field of collecting. There is a wealth of information out there in the form of books and on the internet. Take full advantage of them. Nothing is worse than a fellow with a large collection yet lacking in the knowledge of the history of the items themselves. Studying the background of the item in question will not only build a more interesting collection and a more interesting you but will help to ease the temptation to add more and more lower end items which prevents you from adding the more expensive and crucial items. Soon the addition of knowledge will become as crucial to your collection as the items themselves. Warning: While I said you will become more interesting it will probably only be so to fellow collectors. Dont expect the plebeians to understand.

Beware the Card.

Never and I mean never collect on the card. Credit cards are great and as long as you pay them off monthly everything will be alright. The pit fall is (and the banks are counting on this) if you purchase an item on the credit card then make the minimum payment at months end because there is something else you want you are dancing on a mine field and chances are that you will end up with the nick-name stumpy; a fellow who is always just short of being able to pay the credit card bill.

Disposable income.

This is a tough one and ties into the next and last bit of advice. What is disposable income? Thats the money you have left over after EVERYTHING ELSE in your life has been paid off for the month. Its money you can afford to tie up, perhaps for the rest of your life. True you can always liquidate your collection when the need arrives, if it arrives, but at what loss. Youre probably making most of your purchases at market so when it comes to selling you will most likely be looking at wholesale values. If you need to dump the lot as soon as possible you will not likely get much more than twenty-five cents on the dollar invested. Only a fool thinks that everything he or she touches turns to gold, most of the time when you need to sacrifice a collection what you will realize out of it will be more akin to something you would spread on a garden. A sad but true fact of life.

Theres more to life than your collection.

I do not want to sound like one of, or both of, your parents but far too many collectors end up spending their limited free time on the collection rather than on family and friends. Collections come and go and so will family and friends if you ignore them long enough. This is getting preachy but better you hear it from me than a divorce lawyer.

In summary.

Set some goals, stay the course and remember that there will always be more material out there to collect than there is money to purchase it. Most of all dont forget what is really important in life.

Happy collecting.



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This post was fantastic!! Great advice, I hope the younger collectors take heed. This post honestly should be mandatory reading for anyone starting "collecting" whether gallantry trios or pez dispensers.

" A non practicing vegetarian" made me laugh out loud....sending that to a vegan friend of mine :)

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Well said, Brian. I was a magpie collector for a long time before it dawned on me that there are other ways to collect. What interests me now are documented and attributed items and groups in certain areas, and individual items in a particular theme, say, like early Russian aviation. I'm starting to thin my collection of many individual items that are not in a particular field of interest for me or don't fit a theme that I'm collecting - even nice things - or, at least in a couple of fortunate cases, have become too valuable to hold onto without hiding them in a safe deposit box. No one in the family wants my collectibles or my guns or even my tools. I don't understand it but there it is. What's the point of collecting if you can't bore people with you new acquisitions? I'll sell some collectibles now and my darlin' wife knows to contact Paul Wood about the remainder when the inevitable comes about. In the meantime, I enjoy the heck out of owning and learning from them and participating on this forum and, I must add, collecting more things but with a more sophisticated eye. Maybe.

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Hello Chuck,

We both seem to live parallel lives in several ways. My family has no interest in either my collections or the tools/machines in the cabinet shop so when I'm gone it will be auction time for the lot.

You're bang on about the whole point is about boring people with the latest addition. ;)



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Well done Brian - another worthwhile blog, which can only be of benefit to

our newer and younger members.

When I was running the Soc. for the Pres. of Militaria in Durban, it quickly

became apparent that out of 500 members quite a few practised the 'numbers'

game. This is where you try to have more items in a particular field then

other collectors. They were buying in order to keep saying - 'look at my new

sword'. However, the research was not there and they waited for more

experienced members to tell them what thay had bought.

We have this - to a lesser degree - within the Forum. Many members have

bought or, are planning to, and use our expertise as a guide. I have no

problem with this as many members like research.

Anyway - well done - a good and informative article. Mervyn

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Thanks Mervyn.

I think most collectors start out with their focus on building the collection and only after a length of time start to take a deeper interest in the items and their history. At lease I hope that is what most do, otherwise all one has is a pile of old trinkets.



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Thanks for your comment Chris.
I left a reply just after you made your comment but I see that for some reason it did not "post". I probably hit the wrong key.


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I empathise 100% having recently had 2 of our grown ups leave home I now have access to my museum/office. I've managed to fill almost every space with my collection but there are a few small places left plus a wardrobe full but this room is mine and mine alone. No bed just desks and bookshelf, display cabinet and I love it. My own little oasis of collectable heaven. However my other half has taken control of the larger spare bedroom to do her sewing in. Loads more room and a bed plus furniture but hey ho on we go.......collecting that is.

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Great advice.

But as someone who was born with the collecting gene, I would

not listen to the advice of others. All these lessons had to be learned

first hand--the hard way.

I am older and maybe a bit wiser now. I only collect small things

and "usually" only if I feel I can afford it but there are times when

that little voice pops back in my head :(

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Hi Greg,

So true and exactly what I did in my youth and I still have those temptations even now from time to time.
I've also come to the stage where I am starting to collect smaller items, though not necessarily less expensive.
In fact, this coming week I am trading my WWII Wireless Set No. 19 Mk. 2 for a group of smaler items; at 65 pounds the radio is too heavy to move and I need the space freed up for other, smaller, military radios.

Thanks for your comments.

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