Collecting can be a great hobby, but can bring with it problems too

Ever since I started writing my regular commentary about the sorts of things that we have in the Admiral Document Storage facility I’ve increasingly been talking to our customers and others within the storage industry about what they have to store.

This has led to a number of us sending emails back and forth, often of the “you’ll never guess what I have just been asked to store…” and “My Brother in Law has just told me about a neighbour who collects…”

The reality is that people do collect the strangest things. And when the collection gets too big for the house, or when the collector’s long suffering spouse or partner says “that’s enough”, part of the collection comes our way.

One of the strangest collections reported to me is sugar packets.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with collecting sugar packets; it is just that I ask myself “why?” And come to that “how did it start?” Is it that the individual just thought, “I’d like to collect something that no one else collects,” or did something happen earlier in life that made the individual think, “wow, sugar packets are really interesting.”

Another collection that has been mentioned by colleagues is Scratchcards. This utterly bemuses me since I long ago gave up dealing with Scratchcards, having never managed to win anything with any of them. And, it appears, virgin Scratchcards are actually considered to be of higher value than scratched scratchcards.

Now this is funny, I think. Because one might have a lovely collection of pristine scratchcards but never know if one of them actually won the top prize in that particular competition.

Of course, many of these collections preserve history – not just the history of a product or service but the history of a way of doing things. For example, in the early days of the internet AOL sent out millions of CDs which had different designs on, and which the recipients were invited to stick in their computers and use to set up an internet connection.

All this has gone with broadband and the like, but for a while AOL was the king of internet connection. So the hunt is on to find all of the 1000 plus different designs that AOL used.

Thus the list of collections goes on. Chocolate wrappers, banana labels, napkins – all have been, and are being, collected. And in some cases the collection leads to some sadness too.

Imagine a person who has taken to collecting something highly unusual, such as the examples given here. No one else can understand the ins and outs or share the passion, but as the years advance it is clear that this collection has given and continues to give a huge amount of pleasure to the individual.

Eventually the sad day comes when the individual passes on and his/her descendants are left with the most difficult decision as to what to do with the collection.

The problem is that with a unique collection it can be impossible to find anyone else who would welcome it. To simply throw the collection away would be unthinkable because that would be to harm the memory of the individual who so valued this collection.

So what to do?

I had not realised until I started having this conversation with those in the storage business, and with people who use our facility, that it can be a real problem. The collection meant so much to that one member of the family. It is now left behind, but no one quite knows how to handle the situation.

I have no answer, of course, although we can and do store such collections. What one really wants is for the collection to be named in honour of the departed, and then displayed properly with full recognition of its origins in a suitable museum. But for many collections we are still waiting for that museum to be built.

Yet perhaps each topic will have its own museum one day. For the sake of those who agonise over the problem, I do hope so.

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