Collecting

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The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating merchandise, or stamps from all countries of the world. Others focus on a subtopic within their area of interest, perhaps 19th century postage stamps, milk bottle labels from Sussex, or Mongolian harnesses and tack.

The items collectors collect may be antique, or simply collectible. Antiques are collectible items at least 100 years old; collectibles are less than antique, and may even be new. Collectors and dealers may use the word vintage to describe older collectibles. Most collectibles are man-made commercial items, but some private collectors collect natural objects such as birds' eggs, butterflies, rocks, and seashells. Items which were once everyday objects may now be collectible since almost all those once produced have been destroyed or discarded (see Ephemera). Some collectors collect only in childhood while others continue to do so throughout their lives and usually modify their aims later in life. Philately, phillumeny, and deltiology (collecting postage stamps, matchboxes and postcards) are examples of forms of collecting which can be undertaken at minimal expense.

Contents

History

Collecting is a practice with a very old cultural history. The Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty collected books from all over the known world at the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family, in Renaissance Florence, made the first effort to collect art by private patronage, this way artists could be free for the first time from the money given by the Church and Kings; this citizenship tradition continues today with the work of private art collectors. Many of the world's popular museums—from the Metropolitan in New York City to the Thyssen in Madrid or the Franz Mayer in Mexico City—have collections formed by the generous collectors that donated them to be seen by the general public. The collecting hobby is a modern descendant of the "cabinet of curiosities" which was common among scholars with the means and opportunities to acquire unusual items from the 16th century onwards. Planned collecting of ephemeral publications goes back at least to George Thomason in the reign of Charles I and Samuel Pepys in that of Charles II. Collecting engravings and other prints by those whose means did not allow them to buy original works of art also goes back many centuries. The progress in 18th-century Paris of collecting both works of art and of curiosité, dimly echoed in the English curios, and the origins in Paris, Amsterdam and London of the modern art market have been increasingly well documented and studied since the mid-19th century.[1] The involvement of larger numbers of people in collecting activities comes with the prosperity and increased leisure for some in the later 19th century in industrial countries. That is when collecting such items as antique china, furniture and decorative items from oriental countries becomes established.

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