What Do You Collect?

By Chad Leigh Kluck on

I have a fear of collecting dust by just sitting around. I need to be active and use my time. Getting a second job came to mind, but instead of spending the time collecting money to spend, I'd rather collect money to save. That is, save in coin holders. Let me explain what I and other Americans do with certain types of money: we put coins in nice square-see-through holders and store them away so that someday we can sell them for an amount less than if we would have collected interest from bank. Why? Why do some people collect dolls and match books? Because we have nothing better to do.

Actually I do have a reason I collect coins. What if I'm walking down the street, hit a time warp, and find myself in 1920? No one is going to take my penny with the Lincoln Memorial on back. Back in 1920, tails was picture of wheat. Without a penny how would I survive to make it back to the present? Sure, today a penny doesn't pay for a gumball, but as Grandpa said, "A penny back when I was a kid could buy me a newspaper, lunch, full tank of gas, haircut, and still have some left over to buy a stick of dynamite to blow up a tree stump, a garbage can, or an outhouse." With that one wheat penny, I could live like a king with military power.

Okay, I'll admit, my reason for collecting coins is absurd. How about stamp collecting? Here you complain about paying federal taxes but are willing to pay in advance for a service and never use it. Really, that's what stamp collecting is. Here's how it works: I pay six dollars and some thing for a book of stamps. Instead of redeeming them for delivery service by sticking them on a letter and giving it to the post office, I keep them to sell later and, as with most things, at a profit less than interest in a bank. No wonder the United States Postal Service pushes stamp collecting. They get to keep the money that was not put into service by collectors.

Now I'm not against the U.S. Postal Service, nor am I in collecting for the money. I am into collecting things for the history. You can learn a lot from the pictures on stamps and coins. You can also learn a lot about the era when the coin or stamp was made. In 1943 the government banned the use of copper and nickel so they could use them for wartime use. That year pennies were not made out of copper but steel with a layer of zinc to prevent rust. They saved enough copper to build 1,250 B-17s or so I'm told. See? History without the boring textbook. Just the boring explanation of how you can learn history from coins.

It's just the same as collecting magnets, spoons, or bells emblazoned with names of places you've been. I look at my file cabinet with magnets of the various states and places I've been and all the memories surround me. The class trip to Washington, D.C., where the gunshots proved that it wasn't the politicians that gave the city a high crime rate. My family trip to Chicago to watch the Cubs lose. The family trip to Denver to see the Cubs lose yet again. The train ride through the breathtaking Colorado Rocky Mountains. Getting locked out of the car in Wyoming and seeing buffalo in the Black Hills of South Dakota. And last but certainly not least, the trip with my friends to Chicago to see the Cubs lose. Again.

I also have collected all my childhood toys. So many memories surround me when I look at them. My G.I. Joes, Construx set, farm equipment, and my doll, Susan. She was a cute kid. She had my eyes, hair, and nose. Everything else she got from her mother Mattel. I could spend hours talking with my friends about the toys we played with when we were kids, Sure, maybe all of us toy collectors are pack rats at heart, or maybe we just don't want to throw our memories away.

One other fond memory I have about my childhood was getting introduced to baseball cards. It was when my neighbor introduced me to baseball cards that I fell in love with a great sport and a great team. He gave me three free baseball cards each from the same Chicago team. I look back and realize he wasn't so generous. Three Cubs cards? They were probably worthless. Heck, all baseball cards these days are worthless. The complete set I bought in '87 for $20 is now worth $19. Oh well, this collecting brought me into a relationship with a sport and team I will love for life.

As you see, we collectors are in collecting for the nostalgia, not the money. You can't put a price on history or childhood memories, although I heard my childhood toys are worth quite a bit. Hey, childhood memories are very valuable, not just to the wallet, but to the spirit.