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Maniacal about collecting?

Maybe your grandmother gave you your first fancy doll, or your grandfather gave you your first train and tracks. If you've been adding to your collections now for 20-40 years, this blog is for you!

There was an article in the Boston Globe with the headline, "Maniacal about collecting? These two are just the type" and it's about two guys who collect old typewriters. They have 900 of them and they continue to add about 90 pieces of obsolete office equipment to their collection each year. From the photo it doesn't look like these guys are 50 years old yet, so my guess is they haven't hit the wall when you say, "What am I going to do with all these?" Have you hit that wall yet?

I got a phone call this week from a couple who said they were thinking about getting rid of some things. They told me that their plan was to begin paring down since they wanted to move to the Canary Islands in ten years. They said they had a couple of interesting antique collections and would I come over to look at them. This is a call I love to get, but that becomes a slippery slope once I am in the house.

I walked in to find TONS of stuff everywhere. An amazing collection of American kitsch including close to 800 pairs of salt and pepper shakers! They were beautifully displayed on shelves and in cabinets; there wasn't an empty spot anywhere in the house.

As I looked around and began to ask about things, I could see and hear their passion for collecting - and collecting only.

In the Globe article, the typewriter collectors say, "Throwing things out is always a problem; I have always been finding and gathering things. Since I was a little kid I just collected things, all sorts of things." They say the appeal of collecting has more to do with their desire to accumulate items that fascinate them than any direct link to the typewriters. Hmmm... sound familiar?

As I continued my tour through the house asking the couple for prices and how they valued things, they couldn't tell me. They were totally unprepared to tell me. This was not a new phenomenon to me - - people think they're ready to sell, but when it comes down to it, they haven't put the time and thought into how they want it to go about it until I show up. My job, it turns out, is to launch them into a conversation about value and prices and get them to a point where they are comfortable having some things leave the house after receiving a fair price from me. But this is far easier said than done when you are dealing with folks who only collect without ever thinking about letting go.

I don't want to steer anyone away from acquiring things that bring you joy, but these folks went over the top! They know they have too much and they know they want to move eventually, but it feels daunting to dive into downsizing. Imagine if they were in a hurry or one of them got sick and neither one of them could manage the clear out?

There are plenty of reasons people are reluctant to part with their beloved collections. But as we get older and our collections become more burdensome, it's time to get on with it. Part of the difficulty we all face in this business is that the marketplace for these collectibles is soft. There are not as many people who care about salt and pepper shakers, head dolls, and figurines than there used to be. At this stage in the game, they collect dust, require some maintenance, and the kids don't want them! Don't let your collections run your life - the goal is to live peacefully with the pieces your truly love.

People who have passion about collecting have a lot of sentiment about their treasures. It is helpful before you have someone come in to buy, that you come to terms with what part (or all) of your collection do you want to part with? Without being too severe, because I like my stuff too, I encourage you to spend some time getting used to the idea first.

1. Spend some time with your collection. Maybe even divide it into categories. Ones you love, you like, ones you could live without. Only keep what you love.

2. Get an updated assessment of the value. Look at some books, look online, take a couple of good examples in to a local dealer and make friends with the numbers you see and hear.

3. Think about getting rid of what you can live without and trade up to improve the the overall quality of your collection, but not the quantity.

4. Invite your loved ones to come and share your passion. Before you sell, show them what you have, tell stories about where it came from and what it means to you. Then tell them to choose something, if they love it, and that you are getting ready to get rid of the rest of it.

5. Find an empathic antiques dealer who can help you deal with the emotional aspect of downsizing your collection. Make sure that if you have seller's remorse, you can still take something back.