As I finally start to write this, I sit drinking a cup of tea here at my Grandma’s house in England. I’ve been wanting to write a blog on this subject since January, yet like everything else, there are always other things to be done. Not today. There is nothing for me to do today but write, grandma has gone out for the day – and for the first time since I got here I am alone. Alone to write. I find it appropriate that I am sitting where I am, now I finally have time to write this. The setting is actually perfect.
You see, my grandma downsized a few years ago. She moved from a large house to a small retirement cottage. Now not only did grandma make the move, but so did her memories, possessions, and collections. In front of me are three wood spoon shelves. Each with three rows and housing about 75 spoons total. I remember as a girl these spoons being displayed along my grandparent’s walls. Grandma has collected spoons for as long as I can remember. Below the spoons are a collection of owls. Shelves clinging to the walls displaying the things she has cherished over the years.
My favorite part of her house though, is a tall glass case, inside is her prized collection of the most beautiful Swarovski Crystal. To count the pieces would be in vain, they range from miniatures, to characters, to ornaments. They are all spectacular. Not too long ago I sat on the floor looking into the cabinet as grandma stood over me pointing out the ones that she’d be given and by whom and when. She talked about the pieces as her collection grew to what it is now. These crystals are people, they are memories, they’re stories, and most of all, they are love.
So why am I so fascinated with grandma’s things? Why is it that I love the fact she’s taking up 30% of her kitchen cabinets to store glassware that she probably won’t ever use? Why do I run my fingers over the dangling spoons as I pass by them there on the wall? Why? Because they are her, and therefore they are me.
The items we collect, those pieces that we invest in, they are us. Since dad and I are in a business for collectors it has been something we’ve enjoyed discussing. Helping others build their collections is a privilege for us to be able to do. However, in January (as most of you know) we went to the FUN Show and that is what sparked the desire to write this blog. The walkways and booths were bustling with people pulling carts and excitingly flipping through albums, rummaging through dollar buckets, and calling over to friends to share a rare find. I stood in the middle of the large conference room watching the crowd of collectors hop from one table to the other eagerly energetic and excited as to what they may find. Not only could you feel the energy in the room from this alike group, but you could see another common variable: they were all apart of another generation.
I stood scanning the room and realized I may just be the youngest person there. But why? I talked to a fellow banknote seller and my dad’s friend’s daughter – she was a few years younger than me. I asked her how she felt about collecting, did she get excited when her dad got in a new order of notes. How she felt sifting through the countries and finding information as to why the banknote was designed the way they were. She looked at me blankly, she had no interest in collecting anything but shoes.
This brought me to my big questions: why do people from my generation not collect? We don’t collect anything (well, except student loan debt!). None of my friends have anything their remotely interested in. Not silver, stamps, postcards, thimbles, shot glasses, china, figurines, nothing. When we were younger our parents may have encouraged us to collect baseball cards, seashells or TY Beanie Babies … yet as adults we have no desire for it.
Have we become a new generation of people who hate clutter? Are we just minimalists? Do we go to our grandparent’s house and feel as though it’s a museum and do not appreciate the art? Or has technology became something to fill the void of time that before had been spent looking at our prizes? I asked my friends: do you collect anything? The answers were about what I expected. “When I was young I had a doll collection” “Eh, my mom had so many knickknacks I think collections are for hoarders” “No. I barely have enough extra money as it is, why would I waste it on that?”
The answers made me sad. They made me feel as if we’ve lost something. I’m writing this longing for your insights. I really hope you comment your thoughts on this topic below. I want a discussion as to what has changed in our minds. But also, how do we spark an interest in young people collecting again? Collecting as a whole, not just currency (though of course that’s our love) just to collect anything.
If my generation and those to come continue to feel no value or interest in a collection, then this business will fail. My job, as the daughter of someone whose business is collections, is to not have that happen. Dad always gets so excited when he sees children at the FUN Shows. He always keeps notes back to give them for free. He loves so much our customers who do buy for their grandchildren. We want to be able to give the love of collecting to others, because more than anything it is important. Collections, no matter what items they are, just are simply us. And in a time where people seek who they are online and through others approval on social media, wouldn’t it be nice to help them discover another part of themselves through stories and memories and collections? Through items you can actually place in their hands.
My childhood TY Beanie Baby collection sits squished in a box in my parent’s basement, and they probably will stay there for several more years, because I outgrew it. Yet I still remember the joy of getting a new addition, the times spent flicking through the collectors book and seeing which ones I had and folding over the corner pages of the ones I wanted. I loved my collection, and I loved the feeling I had. That feeling. That’s what we need to encourage and give to the next generations. They need to have a sense of accomplishment (and not just a participation trophy) a desire to seek, a joy in the hunt, and the pride of showing their findings.
Perhaps in time my friends will eventually see something they like, a vase or an old war memorabilia. Maybe they’ll hold it in their hands, wondering who it belonged to, the secrets it has. I’d like to think they would take it home, put it on a shelf, and it would make them happy, for no other reason than because it is something that resonated with them.
I don’t really know where I wanted this blog post to go, it’s more just a rambling of a thought I had a few months back. I do hope that when those of you who purchase notes from us receive your package have the same feeling I get of joy, and wonder. Perhaps you spend the next hour researching the person on the note, or translating the script, or maybe you just reminisce flipping through your prior finds. I like feeling the used currency and thinking about what was happening in the world during the time of issue. Wondering what the note had bought for those who had used it. From milk, to shoes, or maybe lost in a horse race… it’s circulated from person to person and town to town and now it is yours. It sits in your collection and you feel joy.
So happy collecting, thank you for allowing us to be a part of it and those who know of children who may have any interest shoot us an email we always keep notes aside for the young collectors and would be more than happy to send you some. Because after all, our collections are people, memories, stories, and most of all, love.