How to Start a Collection

How to Start a Collection

Discover the joy of collecting treasured objects and sharing your hobby with loved ones.

By: Debra Steilen

Collections start before you know it. You gather a few seashells while on vacation. Your kids give you a pretty bottle of perfume for Mother’s Day. You’ll soon find that the excitement of acquiring and displaying amazing objects becomes a rewarding way to spend your time, as well as making for a fun activity to share with your spouse, kids and grandkids. Start your own collection with these tips and ideas.

1. Decide What to Collect
If you’re starting a collection from scratch, simply pick a theme that interests you and see where it goes. However, you should choose a collecting theme that’s broad enough to make the hunt for new acquisitions fun and fruitful. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money (but it’s also okay if you do). You also don’t have to buy a multitude of items; three or more is a collection.

Tip: Cast a wide net to find pieces for your collection. Along with retail stores, consider collectors’ shows, antique shops, tag sales, flea markets, online auction sites and classifieds, and even trading with other collectors.

2. Learn as Much as You Can
Sure, there are collectors who get their thrills by admiring their collectibles in private. But for most people, the enjoyment in collecting increases because of opportunities to tell others about their favorite acquisitions — and why they’re worth collecting. So get to know the history of the items you collect, especially if they’re particularly rare, were created by a prominent designer or they date from an earlier decade or century. Collections start conversations.

Tip: Exercise your brain! The longer you collect, the more you’ll learn about what you’re collecting — which leads to smarter, more focused shopping and ultimately more impactful displays.


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3. Display Your Collectibles Creatively
The objects you exhibit offer other people insights into your personality. Think of the Victorians, who hung shadowboxes of labeled specimens on the wall. Doing so indicated an amateur collector was fascinated with science, the natural world and the origins of life (one of the pressing questions of the time).

Part of the fun in displaying pieces is so visitors to your home can admire what you have. Smaller, three-dimensional pieces look great on open shelving or fireplace mantels, unrelated art prints or vintage photos become instantly unified when you frame them in identical frames and display them as a single graphic unit, and clear glass jars offer a simple but stylish way to hold collections of small objects such as marbles or buttons.

Tip: Just as museums do, rotate parts of your collection to keep the display fresh to your visitors’ eyes as well as your own.

Ideas for Collections
What should you collect? As we suggested earlier, the answer starts with whatever captures your interest. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Love to do needlework? Collect antique samplers or embroidered arts-and-crafts-era purses.
  • Are you into fashion? Amass a collection of designer purses, silk scarves or vintage brooches.
  • Do you have grandchildren to impress? Collect antique dolls, lunch boxes or vintage action figures.
  • Do you love music? Chase down old sheet music, vinyl record albums or antique musical instruments.

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