Collector’s Philosophy: Do You Co-Exist or Glorify?

There are two schools of thought in the world of collecting:

  1. Co-exist with your collection
  2. Glorify your collection

There are pros and cons to both philosophies and both have good arguments.  Most of us do a little of each and it depends greatly on whether you are collecting for investment, safeguarding heirlooms, or collecting for the sheer joy of it.

To Co-Exist with your collection:

  • You use your items
  • Have them out where you can enjoy them
  • You are comfortable with the idea that they may get damaged or destroyed

To Glorify your collection:

  • You protect items behind glass
  • Store large pieces in an exclusive room
  • Do everything possible to guard against damage

If you have heirlooms you want to pass on to future generations or if you have pieces you are holding for investment, it is understandable that these are not items you want setting out collecting dust or being handled by everyone.  It takes ingenuity, perseverance and commitment to store them properly and make sure they reach your goals.

On the other hand…

If you have items that are more valuable personally, than financially, that sets a very different stage.

Think about it…

You go to grandma’s house:

Do you…

  • Get a big smile on your face when you see a “precious heirloom” that has been stored in a box for 50 years?

OR

  • Get a big smile on your face when you see something you remember seeing in the house ever since you were a kid?

It is the memories attached to an item that makes it valuable.

Most of us don’t have anything in our collection that is worth thousands of dollars.  The value of the item is driven by the memories attached to it.

If you enjoy collecting and are comfortable using your items, think of the joy they will bring you and others around you.  Is it really worth having something if you are just going to store it in a box?  Bring it out, let everyone enjoy it and let the memories of that enjoyment be the basis of value when you decide to pass it on. 

Enjoy your treasures,

Marie-

Philosophy helps no-one if it is not shared

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89 thoughts on “Collector’s Philosophy: Do You Co-Exist or Glorify?

  1. I collect vintage cameras. I display them in my home and as much as I can I put film through them. It’s in using them that I get the most joy from them!

  2. So true, so true! I have my mothers cut glass collection & other pieces that she only used on special occasions…
    I use them daily because EVERY day is special and things are meant to be used and enjoyed…we should own our belongings not be owned by them!

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  4. We are more of a hybrid household I suppose. I would say roughly 75% Co-Exist and 25% Glorify.
    My wife is pushing to raise the Glorify percentage! 🙂
    I guess if one studied this, the wealthier would tend to have a higher Glorify percentage!
    I enjoyed the post.

  5. I have some dinnerware that I bring out on holidays only, because I want to split the set and give to my children when they are older and married. (I use to have two complete sets, but “lost” some in storage–long story.) Hopefully, they’ll remember all the special times we were together while they were growing up when they use them.

    Then, I have a collection of vintage costume jewelry. The colors and glass are too beautiful to keep in a box (I have a very nice vintage box I keep them in that’s lined.) So, I want to make a shadow box or something to display them on my wall. Some are already hanging on picture frames and mirrors in my room. It does seem silly to not have them out where I can enjoy them more. I use to wear a lot of them, but not as often now, so it would be nice to look at them and have them add some sparkle to my room.

  6. Wow, this is really good. I used to glorify my belongings, but quickly realized that I had to enjoy them. Of course, there are still some items that I protect because I want to leave for my children (not that I have any right now lol). Thanks for sharing!

  7. Marie, I totally agree with you! I have many antique bowls and I “coexist” with them daily. Of course, I have to handwash them, no dishwasher for them. But I love using them and my kids will have them one day in their kitchens, which makes me happy to think about. 🙂
    http://www.mamastephf.com is my wordpress blog if you want to visit sometime!

  8. Agreed, emotion makes things more valuable than price ever will. Most of what I collect really isn’t functional, but I may take a hint from one of my teachers and start using my collection of old amature format cameras as decorations. 🙂 I love your blue chair in the top photo by the way.

  9. Interesting post! I’d say I’m more of the Co-Exist type. I collect records but I play them often (most of them). I keep them in good shape and most of the time I don’t let others touch them. They can enjoy the music without being the one to handle the records! It’s the part about being comfortable with them being able to be damaged or destroyed I have trouble with at the moment.

  10. Fab points here- I have never been a collector of anything (well, ABBA pics… back in the 70s… I have exactly 389 pics from magazines… I know that as I have obviously COUNTED them on some ABBA-mania afternoon in 1978) and what I do not see the point of is collecting things and then putting them in glass cabinets or putting them away….

  11. Definitely coexist. Some of my pieces are behind glass mostly because it helps keep the dusting duty down, but I definitely use my stuff. Why have it if you’re not going to use it? When I put on the dog and serve a dinner full on with a bunch of my ruby glass people just gasp at the beauty. What could be better than that?

  12. Thank you so much. What a thoughtful post. As long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector. As a child, it was model horses, things found outside, and books. As an adult, its LPs, books, old milk bottles, vintage breweriana, bookmarks, postcards, and mining antiques. I definitely co-exist with my collections. I never thought about it like that before reading this post. My things provide visual pleasure, functional purpose (whether its an old milk bottle storing coins or a record spinning adding a soundtrack to my day to day), and a sense of calm just knowing they are there. The journey to find these treasures, knowing where they came from, and knowing what they mean and have meant to me and others is always the best part. Thanks again! Co-exist!

  13. I’m definitely for co-existing. When I read this blog, I thought of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” A toy that was loved and played with became real after it was worn out. Using and enjoying special items does create memories and makes them real.

  14. An excellent post. I was writing about pretty much the same thing very recently when talking about collecting… I didn’t put it as elegantly as glorify versus co-exist.

    I’ve collected comic books and toys in my life. And there’s just something very weird when I see people with toy collections that are nothing but manufacturers boxes filled with objects that will never see the light of day.

  15. I strive for peaceful coexistence. A tough order with 3 little ones and flying balls everywhere! I collect China tea pots, cups and saucers – with an occasional dessert plate. Hardly an original item to collect, but they are pretty. Some of my dessert plates – given as a special wedding party gift – had an ill-fated run in with a soccer ball (despite being hung on a wall over the dining table)… ah, well. Such is life. If you never take the new crayons out of the box, they never get broken or worn down, but you can never color!
    Grandma’s antique China set, and crystal glasses from Portugal, remains behind a child-safety screen… but we do use it for special occasions.

  16. I definitely co-exist. Perhaps my most prized possession in my book collection is my first edition Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. After years of use, it no longer has the same cover it had when I bought it for 30 bucks back in the 80’s. Pages show signs of smudging from years of grime. But somehow, all that grime seems to make it more endearing, especially since I know how much grime I have trudged through in my toil. That BHS is probably worth a couple of hundred today if in new condition. But I would have to be on my way to my execution to part with it.

  17. Great post! I have been wondering for the longest time if I keep a healthy balance between the two!
    I am a flea- and antique market addict. Being in France, that is not a healthy (for the wallet 😉 habit to have! I do use most of the items I collect. There are some that only come out on special occasions, especially china and certain elements of table settings (like knife rests or bread plates), and antique books I collect more for the beauty of their covers, print, and pictures than for actual reading. Overall, I’d say co-existing more than glorifying (but you’d better not break one of my glasses !!!)

  18. Hi, Marie, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    I definitely fit into the “co-exist” category, but this might be because none of my possessions are of any real material value. I do own things that are priceless to me due to their emotional tag, but they are probably the ones I use the most (rather than lock away for fear of breaking them). Somehow I feel the best way to ‘worship’ them is to make them part of my everyday life, if this makes sense.
    Going to browse through your other posts now. Well done.

    Didi @ mylittledog

  19. What a lovely site and a lovely message. The same is true for anything and anyone – live in it and with it and enjoy it while you can. Love people today, in the moment, and speak from the heart while you can. Anything behind glass, heart or heirloom, is wasted.

  20. A very insightful and pertinent entry. Having worked in museums for a while, the urge to glorify was great while I worked there but at home I tend to use my antiques, live with them, make them part of the family. How else can you urge your kids to respect something if they can’t handle it and feel its weight and angles and see the colours and textures? Yes, I have broken some things, they have suffered for it, but nothing lasts forever. Things should be enjoyed, worked with, allowed to enhance your life. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed too…

  21. Well, I don’t really collect anything… I tried collecting rocks, I still have some big quartz-y things, I almost collected stamps but that was too difficult.
    Up until a few weeks ago my dressing table was covered in fairies, elephants (my dads), rocks and sea shells but now they’re in boxes because I moved my furniture… they just collected dust anyway, seeing as I never cleaned them, so that wasn’t too healthy for me to be around, lol.
    I have my Dads elephants just because I wanted to make some kind of connection-y thing, but…. neh – I hope I might keep them for my kids to see though, just because they’re cute, and it’s be nice to say “this one was the first your grandfather ever got when he was like 8 or something”.
    I reckon if I was ever rich enough I’d have a room filled with Barbie dolls, but out of their boxes, sitting on little (homemade… lol) furniture and stuff >>; I also liked those porcelain dolls in the little lace dresses with the curly hair when I was younger, but they’re too creepy to collect, people will think I’m crazy….er.

  22. Interesting post and question….Definitely using and loving it all, daily, from antique textiles made into throw pillows, to Victorian silk shawls I wear to jewelry and tableware. These things were all made to be used and enjoyed!

    I once opened a cabinet, a can fell out and shattered one of my favorite antique crystal vases. I was really upset but it was a good lesson — stuff breaks. Nothing lasts, so enjoy it and share it while you can.

  23. I definitely co-exist..I get so much joy out of using a quilt that my great grandmother made or seeing the cat sleeping on an afghan that my mom made for me.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!!

  24. I never would have visited this post except for the awesome title. I just had to find out and I enjoyed my visit. I co-exist with my collection, books mostly, surrounding my desk on floor to ceiling shelves. I like them close by so I can grab any one of them off the shelf at a moment’s notice and look up a reference or learn a little more.

  25. Hi, loved reading this today. I own Kellies Antiques in Brisbane , Australia. I am married with two children and we live amongst our ‘bits’. We don’t put anything behind bars so to speak. We have children but they grow up with rules. ie do not play football in the living room. There is absolutely no use having things and not using them, seeing them, enjoying them and sharing them with others. We are not over the top, but we enjoy our ‘bits’. I tell all my clients from both Kellies Antiques and Australiss to use and enjoy. We cannot take these things with us. Lovely antiques things just seem to get better with use. Silver is a perfect example. Love your blog, thank you.

  26. I have an old pressed glass ice cream set that I love. I didn’t want to hide it away so I put a good white silk hydrangea in 3 of them and have them safely decorating my fireplace mantle. I get to enjoy seeing them every day and they’re the perfect accent arrangement – not too much, but just enough.

    I also use my pressed glass toothpick holders as bud vases. It’s also great to use them this way at individual place settings for dinner parties.

    As you can tell, I love pressed glass and I love living with my collections rather than hiding them!

  27. Pingback: Collector’s Philosophy: Do You Co-Exist or Glorify? (via Antique Alter Ego) « Recession Dodge to Victory

  28. fine line between “collection” and “obsession”… having one for a client and one for a long time friend, there’s a tipping point where it’s totally out of control. but”letting go” lots of family furniture from the ’50 when i moved into my retirement pad, i realize i don’t need tangible memories or a box of pics (yes, some from 1940’s) – I have my departed loved ones in my heart forever… and there are a lot of “Tired Angels” (Debbie Davies) – check it out……

  29. Good post! I collect books, and more often I coexist with them. I don’t mind lending my books, but it depends to whom I will be lending them, and how much I value a certain book. I used to cover them in plastic cover and avoid creasing them, but I realized, who cares if they crease? It doesn’t really give me a big satisfaction by not doing so. What matters is I enjoy the read. =)

  30. I think the approach somewhat varies with the actual utility of the item. I don’t think I’d urge someone to drag a Song dynasty wall scroll out for a picnic, but I’ve got a load of fountain pens from before 1940 that I don’t hesitate to load up and use at work . I’ll admit to occasional regrets over how thoroughly used all the first run Star Wars action figures I’ve got are, but that’s quite overwhelmed by the joyful memories of having put them in that state when I was 10.

  31. You have got to co-exist. I enjoy looking at something and saying “I remember when this thing looked different when I was a kid…”. There is nothing wrong with an item showing some wear and tear, or perhaps becoming unusable or unrecognizable over time. If I want to see something glorified, I will go to a museum.

  32. When my grandmother passed away, we found brand-new items she’d been “saving for good” to use on special occasions, and never did. I try to use my things – even the crystal that she was given as a wedding gift way back in the 20’s! No, I don’t really want it, or my depression glass collection, or whatnot – to break, but I’d rather enjoy them while taking that chance…because I will never enjoy them if they are stuffed in a box somewhere never to be seen! I admit, tho, to some special things that mainly hang out in a curio cabinet….but I will use them on very special occasions!

    • A lot of people used keep things “for good” and then never used them. It’s unfortunate they didn’t get to enjoy them too. Thanks for your comments! Marie.

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