“A non-scientific analysis of why there’s no more room in the house.”

If there is one character trait that doesn’t follow the basic mandatory needs of food, shelter, clothing, warmth or a classic muscle car, it is man’s innate desire to collect.

Collectors are products of both nurture and nature, so everyone has the potential for becoming a collector, in fact, may already be a collector. This is true for the collector who openly admits to being one as well as for the one hiding in the closet. (With all their stuff most likely).

But why do we do it?

What is it that makes having one Hummel, one carriage clock, one painting or fountain pen not enough. Not enough!? It’s NEVER enough! As my father reflected frequently in his life - If one is good a dozen is better.

This extended to the year he came home with a box of 12 egg “cubers”.

Unfamiliar with this fabulous device, you say?

Well it takes hardboiled eggs and presses the egg into a square , or “cube” shape. Nowhere, on any of the twelve that he purchased, was the explanation as to why this should happen to the hardboiled egg. What advantages, nutritional or otherwise would be achieved from a square egg versus the more traditional shape. Or what to do with the extra egg that would not fit into the one-size-fits-all “cuber”.

I understand that several former Eastern bloc countries are working to genetically alter chickens to produce naturally cubed eggs thus eliminating the need for this product. (Clearly a sign that they will become rare and that one should begin collecting them. NOW! - By the way I have eleven if you want to start.)

OK one, maybe, but twelve……………………. Alas I digress.

Some say that it is the lack of permanence in the products that we now enjoy in life – Say a disposable lighter versus a Zippo or Dunhill – The easy of the paper towel versus the elegance, and, yes effort of, a linen napkin - The loss of writing versus everything.

Alvin Toffler’s book “Future Shock” in the 1970’s offered the idea that technology was making products too quickly and that industry was operating on a strategy of planned obsolescence. Actually the use of the term was first introduced when critics of Alfred P. Sloan Jr., then the head of General Motors suggested annual model changes to spur the sale of automobiles by creating the demand for the latest changes.

In support of Toffler’s writings we have only to look at the changes that have occurred over the last few decades in the music and media industry to see his concern. From vinyl to cassette tape (with the briefest side trip to 8 track) to CD’s to MP3, to direct download, and now a return to vinyl – Really?

Is it a reaction to demand from consumers or reaction from the industry to make the last improvement obsolete to create demand and therefore purchases to have the latest and greatest?

This lack of permanence can certainly account for part of the drive to have objects that have greater staying power.


What is it that drives people to be lined up at the door of an estate sale at 4:00 in the morning to be the first one in the home? That causes someone to see a trash pile on the side of the road and spend 20 minutes assessing the piles’ contents, pulling articles out of the refuse of someone else’s life. To spend hours scrounging in a box after box of an attic’s contents, knowing that there is a pony in there somewhere. Nowhere else in life, except out of necessity, would this occur. You don’t see otherwise reasonable, secure people going thru the garbage for food, but show the same person a pile of stuff and watch out.

Now it is true that occasionally that trash pile yields an absolute treasure. Yes, I have a pair of Asian blue and white lamps at home that came out of that very trash pile. Yes a friend stopped to tell me about the box of sterling silver he found in a home clean out / re-modeling dumpster. Yes we read about the painting that was bought at the yard sale that fetched $1.2 million at auction. So it can occur. But what drives us to try and find it? Is it ONLY the potential monetary value?

I have observed what I believe to be two clear indicators as to why we collect, the one I want to discuss her is:

Hunter Gatherer

I believe in that part of our primordial nature, our genetic programming, that has been subjugated over the generations – We are hunter gatherers and no longer have to track down our food. The need, however, to hunt and track is still a part of us and needs to come out. It is that which drives out gathering instinct, our need to assemble and provide, in short to collect.

So all you hunter gatherers out there have at it.

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