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What’s Your Treasure?

“Ever since I was a kid and my brother Mark had a beer can collection, I wanted to create a collection of my own,” said Lara. “I didn’t want anything that would take up a lot of room, but I wanted something interesting. I decided on thimbles, and eventually branched out into antique sewing items like beautiful old pin cushions, unique tiny scissors in cases, WW II sewing kits for soldiers, bobbin holders, and so on.”

Lara went to work educating herself about thimbles and, though they may be small, her vast collection now graces her walls with multiple thimble shadow boxes. Other sewing antiques occupy a large curio cabinet, and she has plans to build more storage units.

Collecting, not to be confused with hoarding, (which is a whole other strange emotional attachment to objects), was popular with aristocrats of the 1700s and 1800s, who searched the world for artifacts which they kept in “cabinets of curiosities” for viewing. These were the folks responsible for establishing the first museums in Europe.

Almost everyone has collected something, perhaps beginning in childhood with baseball cards, dolls, arrowheads, coins, stamps.

People build collections for many reasons: to preserve the past by acquiring antiques; a desire for unusual or exotic things; for investment purposes as with classic cars or gold; to widen their social lives with like-minded people; or for the sheer pleasure of the hunt.

Research finds that those who have a hobby are generally happier and have less risk of depression and dementia. Hobbies can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and boost work performance by improving creativity, confidence, and decision-making ability.

Collecting improves observational skills. As one becomes better acquainted with the details of what they collect, they in turn become more astute at finding what they seek.

Collecting requires sorting and cataloging, thus improving organizational skills and increasing productive thinking in other areas of life. Growing in knowledge about one’s collection, both the desire to learn and self-esteem increase, as may one’s social confidence.

Gathering similar objects opens thought to seeing patterns and discovering what doesn’t fit and why: it may be a fake, an exception, or something that just doesn’t belong. This can lead to critical thinking in other departments of life.

Collecting can increase creativity. Through those objects that are visually pleasing or thought provoking, one may discover innovative ways of combining present knowledge and skills with a new and useful idea, much as writers and artists receive inspiration from their own treasured collections.

Some types of collecting motivate commitment to a good cause, e.g., collecting Federal Duck Stamps which support protecting wetlands for wildlife. One writer began collecting rhino figurines after seeing her first real rhino. She now collects them to support their protection.

Other collectors seek social connections through a common interest and forge new bonds of friendship. In some cases, collecting has even led to a career path.

As for our friend Lara, she’s content to scour antique shops wherever she goes. Smiling cheerfully, she says,” It’s like a treasure hunt!”

Constance Watkins