I suppose it’s a sign of affluence when a society becomes enamored with collecting things. Not so long ago collecting baseball cards–except they weren’t limited to baseball–became all the rage once again. People who found a stash of old cards in their grandpa’s attic hit pay dirt. But everyone was collecting and trading–NBA cards, NFL, you name it.
My first brush with collectibles came when I was in fifth grade. My brother had a stamp collection, and I wanted one too–except, at the time, all the first class stamps were exactly the same. I had nothing particular to collect. If only I had had a starter set of stamps, I realized some years later, I would have had a little hope and maybe given it a try. I determined then I’d start saving stamps with the idea that someday I could pass them on to someone in need of a starter set of stamps. I still have them, though now stamp collection has morphed into saving unused stamps (though I heard a rumor that the used ones were again coming into collection favor).
I’ve saved some coins too–not many and nothing that shows up as valuable every time I check one of those coin books. But I heard recently that Canada is planning to stop producing one cent coins, maybe nickles too. I wonder if the US will soon follow suit. So perhaps keeping pennies might be a good collectible move.
When my sister and I returned from our year in Africa, stopping in a number of European countries on the way, we decided to do some souvenir collecting. My sister picked silver spoons. I chose key chains. I still have my collection which I’ve added to, but I’ve never figured out how to display them. And would anyone else really care about my key chains?
With the Great Recession, any number of people looked to make money by selling off their collectibles. People who had money were only to eager to buy. Gold, coins, antiques … all looked like a better investment than stocks and bonds, and nobody was saving money–not a big enough return.
I suppose there are two basic reasons people collect. One is the desire to own. Collectibles can be displayed so that others can see them, or they can be privately enjoyed the way old Scrooge McDuck used to enjoy his hoarded millions from time to time by diving into his large vats of cash or playing with it in some other way.
Collectibles also serve as an investment–Grandma’s china or silver or antique lamp might bring in a pretty penny at the next Antique Roadshow.
The thing about collecting is that a person never knows what will or won’t end up being valuable at some point down the road. What looks like junk sold at a yard sale for a small pittance often ends up being a rare item collectors are willing to pay thousands for.
In the US, I think we must be collecting more and more, despite the slow economy, because rent-a-space storage places continue to spring up all over. We can no longer fit all our junk into our garages or sheds, so we rent some place off site to store the overflow.
Collecting is a way to connect to the past. Old letters, photos, even books and music (sheet or vinyl) can become collectibles. They help preserve fond memories and remind us of people we loved.
But at some point, a person and his collectibles will be parted, and all that matters will be those treasures stored up in heaven.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:20-21)
So how do we go about finding heavenly collectibles? Apparently by giving away the earthly ones. Jesus told the rich young ruler who asked him what he lacked to sell his stuff so he’d have treasures in heaven.
Paul mentioned this too in his first letter to Timothy, but he was more expansive:
Instruct them ["those who are rich in this present world"] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Tim. 6:18-19)
So I wonder what it would look like to become a collector of good works instead of key chains or stamps or baseball cards.