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What Do You Collect?

For Christmas this year, my “adopted” godmother (a longtime family friend who grew up with my father) gave me, as always, a very thoughtful gift. She knows how much I admire her Christmas tree, which is always beautifully decorated with handblown glass ornaments. This year she gave me two of my own, to start my collection. This is meaningful for several reasons–one, it is the start of a new collection, something I’ve considered beginning for several years on my own, and it is even more special because she’s started it for me. Two, one of the ornaments she gave me, the leopard, was the one that my grandmother gave her many years ago. It’s so lovely to have this special gift passed down to me, and it’s something I’ll always remember.

I collect several other things–enamel boxes and Herend figurines, among others–and I am always happy to start a new collection. Partially I think this is because we moved with some frequency during my childhood, and having small things around me that were easy to move was a comfort. As well, both of my grandmothers and my mother were avid collectors; I grew up with meaningful things around me, some of which I have now.

I wrote a little about traditions to start with the children in your life recently, and one of them was starting an ornament collection, one for each year. I think that, if you’ve been considering starting a collection of your own, this is a great place to start. Choose a style of ornament that appeals to you–a needlepoint ornament, blown glass ornament, or perhaps a silver ornament–and choose one for each year.

The most important part of a collection, however, is its meaning. It shouldn’t be forced–because you think it will look good on Instagram, or in your home, but has no true sentimental connection to you. It should be natural. If you want to start collecting, but aren’t sure where to start, think about what you like. Do you like a specific style, or a particular animal? Do you have a lot of room to collect larger things, like a specific type of porcelain, or do you have limited space, where you might prefer enamel boxes?

Do you collect things, and if so–what do you collect? Can you share the story behind your collection?

7 thoughts on “What Do You Collect?

  1. Books and art are my primary collections. Part of the entertainment of my graduate school program was tracking down extremely minor figures in American lit and art and being able to acquire some of their work. If I couldn’t get the art, I would try to find a museum catalog. That’s often a nice substitute.

    As a family, we have a few things: Nutcrackers for Christmas and engraved silver bells on the tree. Marigold art, courtesy of my 3-year old daughter’s obsession. Recipes from family and friends, thanks to my wife’s foresight in preserving them before they are lost.

    Most of what we collect is small, meaningful, and more sentimental than extravagant. As you said, things that are special to you are truly valuable.

    1. Oh, I have so many books–apparently I ended up collecting dozens of pre-Columbian studies books during my stint at a research institution focusing on pre-Columbian studies. Museum catalogs are also in great evidence in my collection as well–you are correct that they are a nice substitute!

      My father has a vast nutcracker collection as well! I like the idea of collecting recipes from family and friends; my aunt does that, and that’s something I’d like to do as well. I love the sentimental value of collecting!

  2. I love this question (and blog). That leopard ornament is so thoughtful, and is reminiscent of the tiger on your toddler’s needlepoint stocking!

    I collect something pretty esoteric — and I’ve been at it for 30+ years. I believe broad collections should be refined over years. #fewandbetter !!!

    I started with Quimper (French pottery), morphed to another subsection of French faience, then moved again to another. I started collecting a mark that, at the time, no one knew who the maker was. I liked the esthetic, and more: the mystery of not knowing who had made these pieces. (It’s from the late 1800s.) As I sold off the Quimper and other maker, I made room (and money!) to search for more. The maker has since been discovered (Alcide Chaumeil; mark = CA), a book written, and once again, I refined further.

    I now collect “CA” almost exclusively, and more specifically: pieces with the chien d’or (golden dog) featured. It’s been fun to see the collection morph and change over so many years. I FINALLY have a decent enough collection that I am really focusing on #fewerandbetter pieces. Questions I ask myself before I purchase: 1) It’s CA, but do I have this shape or decor? 2) If not, do I LIKE the form and motif enough to buy it? and 3) If it is the holy grail — is the dog well-rendered? Priced right? Condition?

    I love finding new pieces, but now have a big enough collection, that it’s hard to do! I have found forms not in the first CA book, and hope to contribute photos and pattern numbers to the next printing!

    I also collect “Dragons in Compartments,” early to mid-19th century, often Worcester. I like it because it is English porcelain (very fine) designed to imitate Chinese porcelain and theme. While I have a few pieces of Chinese porcelain, it’s generally too expensive. We had a dear friend who was a dealer. My tastes are quite a bit higher than my budget!

    It’s WILDLY expensive, so my collection is small! Again, I look for pieces which are not duplicative in form to those I own , AND are mislabeled or underpriced. I have a teacup and saucer for which I paid less than $100. I’ve seen them as high as $950! And so … the hunt continues!

    NB: My husband is a ceramics dealer and restorer which helps with the hunt. I started the CA collection before we met, and actually found his restoration studio (and him!) vis-à-vis a precious piece which needed restoration. The rest, as they say, is history!

    For reference (for anyone interested), here are links about both collections mentioned:

    Alcide Chaumeil, Chien D’or:

    Dragons in Compartments:

    1. Thank you!! I love your collections, and thank you so much for sharing the story behind them. I have really enjoyed seeing the pieces you’ve shared with me, and I’m on the hunt to see what type of pottery speaks to me, as well 🙂

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