Is collecting a money pit or a hobby?

May 31, 2012

Are you a collector? Is there something that you hold on to or go out of you way to buy even though you don’t need it. I used to be like that with sunglasses and watches. I needed a different one for almost every outfit. Thankfully, that habit is long gone and I sold more of my watches, and broke some of sunglasses (accidentally). Even at the peak of my of collecting habit, I was not as bad as my aunt.

Let me start off by saying that I love my aunt. I think she is a brilliant woman. She’s quick, she funny and she is a second mom to us. She, however, leaves 980 miles away by herself. She works in the public sector, and is fairly well off. She is a collector. She mostly collects random objects, such as picture frames and candle holders. Objects that don’t really have much value, and nor will there give a huge return on her investment.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because she recently had to move from her house to a brand new (smaller, but way fancier) condo, and have to start itemizing her possessions. Naturally my sister and I made the trek down there to her with packing and sorting. We were shocked to see how collections of random things she had. Keep in mind, it was wasn’t taking over her life, and nor is she a horder by any stretch of the imagination. She has tons and tons of the same thing.

We packed an entire box of salt and pepper shakers. AN ENTIRE BOX. Now I know they’re not cheap, esp since most of them were still in boxes with price tags on them. The same thing happened with the picture frames except they were out on display (with pictures of us of course).

8 hours of packing later we had 14 boxes of her “hobby” section put aside. Then it hit her, she wasn’t going to have room in the new minimalist, contempory condo off of her stuff. She started panicking a bit, not because she had so much stuff, but because there was no return on the investment.

Her options, as she pointed out, were save them of us (we wouldn’t want all of them) by placing all of her things in a storage locker, or sell them on Craigslist or Kijiji, both of which will bring pennies to the dollar.

Seeing her struggle over what to do with thousands of dollars of objects that she collected made me very anxious for her, and made me look into my spending habits to see if I am carrying around extra weight and justifying it under the guise of a hobby. Thankfully the only things I collect are books that I get sent and, and even those I am starting to give away to friends to enjoy after I read them.

The biggest questions that I have are as follows:

Do people collect to fill a void in their lives?

Do they assign monetary value to the items are they compelled to just add to their collections?

For the record, my aunt ended up picking up her favourite pieces from each collections, and allows my sister and I to do the same and donated the rest. 




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  • Michelle May 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I don’t collect anything, unless you consider clothes 🙂

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      I wish I didn’t either.

  • jefferson May 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    i never really understood the joy that some folks get from collecting…to me, i only try to buy stuff if i want to use it… many collectors seem to just buy things to have them, not use them

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Exactly! People keep things in mint condition so others can touch them either.

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka May 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I don’t collect and I’ve always assumed people collect to fill a void in their lives – objects are not important, people are, so why collect things that really hold little value? I also find collecting tacky, but that’s just me. It’s definitely expensive!

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      So expensive. It reminds me of horders

  • Modest Money May 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Sorry to break it to you, but I think your aunt is a bit of a hoarder. Some hoarders only build up certain items though. I used to be a collector but nothing crazy like a box full of salt and pepper shakers. It is interesting that she was for some reason expecting some kind of ROI on all that stuff. I’m not sure how she would have that assumption.

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      I think she was too. Thankfully moving into a smaller space made her come to her senses.

      • Broke Professionals June 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

        Yeah, I was thinking hoarder too. But she did seem to be able to part with those possessions without too much of a problem…

        My dad has always collected stamps – but he’s done it with a goal in mind: to amass a diverse collection that will have a high value whenever he decides to sell it. To me, that’s less “collecting” and more “investing.”

        • Modest Money June 7, 2012 at 12:47 am

          I dunno if a goal in mind even financial changes whether it really is collecting or not. Back when I was a kid blowing my money on hockey cards, I always had goals of trying to get that expensive card or completing a set of cards. I also hoped that it would all gain value over time.

          @Marissa: That is good that your aunt was able to come to terms with her collection, but it sounds like she really need someone else to convince her to move on. It’ll be interesting to see if she manages to find something else to collect eventually.

          • Marissa June 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

            I don’t think that she will. She’s pretty gun-ho on the look of her apartment.

  • femmefrugality May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I used to collect angel figurines. Then I got divorced…a lot of them were gifts from my ex husband so I smashed them against brick walls on days he made the process harder than it had to be. Easy fix! Haha. And great therapy.

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      um… wow.

  • Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity May 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    The hoarders aren’t collectors of anything–they just can’t let go of items. Big difference there–hoarders keep anything and everything. It’s evidenced by the shows. they have piles and piles of everything not just specific things. It’s a compulsion that causes them not to throw anything away, not to buy more just to have.

    Collecting can be a huge money pit. I remember when I was a kid, there were only a few different comic book and sports card companies. It was easy to collect without spending every dime on it. As time went on, more companies jumped into the mix and the original companies spun off new brands as well. It came to a point where it would literally be impossible to keep up with the explosion. Back then, there was actually real value in those products as well. Now, unless it’s vintage or the ability to find mint copies is severely limited, there really isn’t much value left. I’m just glad I got out while I was still able to (mentally and emotionally speaking)

    • Marissa June 1, 2012 at 3:45 am

      I collected sunglasses, but classic RayBans for a while (before they got mainstream and a dime a dozen). Nowadays I just save up for something fancy 😉

  • yourlifeforless May 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I do think people fill a void with stuff, whatever it may be. This is how hoarders are made. A lot of times they don’t even realize they’re doing this until a friend or family member talks to them about it.

    As for me, I used to collect baseball cards and a few other things, but I’ve since halted my collecting habits because I don’t want to deal with clutter.

    • Marissa May 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      I think thats my issue too. I can’t deal with the clutter anymore.

  • Sean @ One Smart Dollar May 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I think collecting is more of a hobby, but it can be worth while if its something with appreciating value.

    • Marissa June 1, 2012 at 3:44 am

      It depends on the items, too.

  • From Shopping to Saving May 31, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Sounds like my future MIL. She comes home with the randomest crap EVER. Sometimes even pets – like crawfish. I mean, really? Necessary? No!

    She has a lot of random trinkets like vases, instruments made of wood, stuff for the bathroom. It’s so cluttered and it drives me insane. I am kind of a clothes hoarder but that’s…ok right? I make sure to sell items a lot or donate them, and most of the time I get my money back.

    • Marissa June 1, 2012 at 3:44 am


  • Lance@MoneyLife&More May 31, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I collected Magic: the Gathering cards when I was younger, but I could also play a game with them so I feel it was different. I did end up making a decent chunk of money when I finally sold them but I don’t know if I got what I had put into them. In your Aunt’s case if she had actually use what she collected I’d call it a hobby but for what she collected I’d say it was just a money pit.

    • Marissa June 1, 2012 at 3:46 am

      I agree.

  • PersonallyFindNancys May 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Collecting is a huge money pit! A while back I was really into collecting make up… ugh what a waste!

  • david June 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I’ve found that there is no guarantee that anything you collect will go up in value. I bought some collector plates made in China about 20 years ago.

    The theory was that they would go up in value and look nice being displayed at the same time. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. They go for about 10$ more than 20 years ago. When you factor in inflation, they are probably worth less than they were 20 years ago.

    My feeling is that collecting is something you should not count on to appreciate in value.

  • June 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I am holding on to a lot of stuff that could be “turned into something” – time for a clear out and let them go and be someone else’s work in progress.

    Less clutter = less cleaning after all

  • deacon June 3, 2012 at 3:42 am

    I think people should really consider their financial situation before spending a ton of money on collecting stuff. I mean, does it make sense to have a second mortgage, credit card debt, a car loan and then go out and buy $5000 worth of comic books?

  • Early Years June 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

    I bought Money Pit thinking it was the movie with Chevy Chase and they bought an old house or something… What is the name of that movie???Thanks in advance..

  • Paul @ The Frugal Toad June 5, 2012 at 2:18 am

    I have the exact opposite problem, I like to throw things out! Can’t stand clutter!