Why We Collect

JULY 29, 2019
Shirley M. Mueller, M.D.
Thirty-three percent of the population collects one thing or another.  Among these collectors, many are physicians with disposal income. This begs the question. Why do we collect?

The reason we collect is simple. It makes us happy. In this faraway place, apart from the rest of our lives, we can imagine. This is different than when we are involved in the routine aspects of living; then, we can reliably predict much of what will happen.

On the other hand, with collecting, we don’t know what to expect. It can take us anywhere, and we can easily anticipate a whole new world of excitement.lifestyle physicians collect joy effort passion

Along with these expectations comes a quest for knowledge far beyond just reading. It broadens into joining associations related to our collecting specialty, meeting wonderful people, attending conferences, going on trips with like-minded groups, and individually pursuing destinations of interest. It can take over life itself. What a pleasure.

Collecting isn’t a job. Collecting isn’t a hobby. It’s better. It’s a passion.

Secondary Reinforcers for Collecting

When we collect, we do not diffusely seek pleasure; rather, we pursue it in a very specific manner. There are psychological reinforcers that feed into our pleasure center that spark our desire for these items.

One contributing motive is pride in acquiring special objects. This is heightened by gathering a group of like items together for the first time. During the search, excitement is further sharpened by identifying a rare piece that sets us apart from our peers and may provide recognition and admiration from associates.

Other collectors, aside from the rareness of the piece, want to acquire it at a modest price. That is their joy and gives them pride in being so astute. It’s the possession for comparatively little money that excites them.

Then some feel a sense of history when they assemble precious items. By owning antiques, they feel closer to the past or perhaps even ancestors, important figures, or circumstances of long ago.

 The reverse of feeling a sense of history is looking toward the future. This collector may hope to build a legacy by passing on special objects to future generations, for example, giving one’s collection to a museum. 

Some collectors find that the process of collecting provides intellectual satisfaction. The gathering of pieces from a specific area requires discipline, knowledge, and an eye for the unusual or particularly beautiful. This may have been the impetus for Stephen W. Bushell, a physician to His Majesty’s legation in Peking (present-day Beijing) at the end of the nineteenth century. As a medical doctor in a remote outpost, Bushell turned his hobby of collecting Chinese porcelain (readily available in Peking, but still a novelty in his home country of Great Britain) into a passion and then an avocation.

Collectors also gather what they consider treasures to enhance their network of friends; in other words, they have a social motivation for collecting. Perhaps their love of objects came first; then, somewhere along the way, they realized there are others like themselves. They may find them independently or join organizations for like-minded people. Friendships forged through these vehicles expand social lives.

The enjoyment of arranging and rearranging a collection can also be the motivation for other collectors. Though this may serve as a means of control, it could also simply be the demonstration of organizational skills applied to collect as taste and knowledge accumulate.

For more collecting insights, read on here!





About the author:
Dr. Shirley Mueller is a physician turned financial consultant and investment educator. Her fee is hourly, not a percentage of assets. She is also the author of Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Play.

She welcomes comments at ShirleyMMueller@MyMoneyMD.com. For more information, visit her website at MyMoneyMD.com.

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