Oops, I’m a Collector

John W. Pinkerton


Becoming a collector can happen without our realizing it’s happening.  It starts with the purchase of something which intrigues us.  Then we find ourselves buying another similar item and then another.  We’ve become collectors.

Generally collecting is classified as a hobby.  However,  I don’t think this is the proper classification.  A hobby, I believe, is an activity.  Collecting requires only finding, purchasing, and storing.  This is a lot different from playing golf, or painting, or doing jigsaw puzzles.

The most popular items to collect are cards (mainly sports related), coins, stamps, China, and Beanie Babies.

Most collectors are mentally balanced.  However some collectors are pathological and center their lives to such a degree on collecting that they can’t live their lives.  I guess anything can be taken to an unhealthy extreme.

Most folks are collectors.  This tells me that there is probably a part of our primitive brains which urges us to collect, to store.  It’s original purpose was probably to make us predestined to store food.  Most of us have progressed enough that food is so plentiful there is little need to store more than a week’s worth.  However, the urge to collect is still there.  It’s hard to kill the primitive parts of our brains; therefore, we collect nonfood items.

Linda was the first to show signs of being a collector.  She must have been a very good little girl because she still has all of her dolls from her youth: a collection.  After she and I married, she continued her interest in dolls, and whenever we went shopping, she still showed interest in the dolls she encountered.  I, being a good fellow, encouraged her to purchase dolls she liked.  To make a long story short, I became interested.  We not only bought dolls, we also bought books about dolls.  I learned so much about dolls it’s embarrassing.  I still am certain I could enter any doll shop in the country and immediately point to the most expensive doll in the house.  The first money Linda ever won playing a slot machine, about $300, was immediately spent on a porcelain doll in New Orleans.  Linda’s good friend, Rose Ann, was an expert in making porcelain dolls, and Linda took lessons from her and created her own dolls.  When I added rooms to our home, I built her a doll room and a couple of doll cabinets.  I’m sure she’s still interested in adding to her doll collection, but there is only so many dolls one can properly display and store, and our interests turned to other collectables.

It all started with a tiny glass card holder that Linda inherited from her mom.  A card holder is a small vessel for holding business or personal cards.  This one was vaseline.  For those of you who don’t know, and I imagine you are legion, vaseline glass is a yellow glass created by mixing uranium into the melted glass.  Interestingly it glows under the influence of a black light.  The electrons become excited.  The first time I saw a piece of vaseline glass in an antique shop, I thought it was homely.  Like vermouth, vaseline is an acquired taste.  We began purchasing other pieces of vaseline.  Soon we had several pieces: a collection.  We have many, many pieces now: a large collection.

We like to go antiquing.  Antiquing permits one to encounter all types of glass.  Cranberry was the next glass we began to collect.  For those interested, cranberry is produced by mixing gold into the molten glass.  At any rate, its rich red color is very attractive.  About a hundred pieces later; yeah, we had a collection.

I remember the first time I ever saw a piece of Sabino.  Sabino is a French produced opalescent glass.  European opalescent glass must be the most beautiful ever produced.  Okay, okay, that’s just my opinion.  My appetite for this glass was insatiable for a time.  Not just Sabino but also Verlys and Etling, but not Lalique: I ain’t paying the price to enter that game.  Most folks who are familiar with Sabino glass know it as small animal pieces.  The real prizes are the older, larger pieces no longer produced.  We have several.  This collection grew to an impressive size.

I think I was the first one to notice that we had bought more glass than we could accommodate in our home.  After purchasing three really nice, large display cases and building numerous shelves into our living room, I realized that perhaps we needed to stop purchasing glass.

I’m withdrawing gradually. Several years ago, I bought a beautiful opalescent stemmed vase at an antique show in Bryan.  The seller knew nothing about the piece except that it was probably Italian.  Well, duh.  Italian glass is always easy to spot.  Don’t ask.  You get to have a feel for the makers of glass whether it’s Italian, French, Swedish, Czechoslovakian, or American.  The pieces are rare.  This certainly helps keep my purchases down.  The fact that so little seems to be known about the origin of the glass also keeps the value down.  I take a good hard look when pieces come up for sale on the internet and occasionally purchase one.

I tried to branch out from glass to California Raisins and Felix collectibles.  I didn’t find that these held my attention, and I sold all of them.  Cats, which are always of interest to us, have caused us to purchase many cat figurines: glass, wood, composite, etc.  I’ve never really considered these to be a collection, just an interest.

Linda began our marriage as the big collector, and she still can’t stop herself.  She still collects baseball and football and golf sports cards.  She actually sold 99% of her collection, but began again.  She also collects tiny cars.  She always stops in Wal-Marts or Dollar stores to see if there is a jewel among the cars displayed.  She tries to justify her interest in the tiny cars by occasionally selling a few on Ebay.

To this day, we still have boxes of glass stored under our beds.  They at least make good gifts, and my need to store food for the winter has been satisfied.  In the meantime, we get to look at beautiful glass each day.

The collecting urge is one part of my primitive old brain that I rather like.


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