James Halperin is a professional rare coin dealer and the founder of Heritage Auctions, the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. In an essay for The Intelligent Collector, Halperin answers one of the most frequent questions he gets asked: why do people collect things? Halperin believes collecting is a basic human instinct that has been intensified by centuries of natural selection: “Those of our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scare objects may have been more prone to survive long enough to bear offspring.” That is to say, acquisition of rare items led to wealth that allowed someone to have and care for more children. But collecting is not just an instinctive behavior, observes Halperin, it can be a combination of some or all of these other reasons:
Knowledge and learning
Relaxation and stress reduction
Personal pleasure (eg, pride of ownership)
Social interaction (eg, sharing knowledge and pleasure with other collectors)
Recognition from other collectors
The desire to possess and control a small part of the world
Connection to history
Accumulation and diversification of wealth
And collecting diligently over many decades has its rewards. Halperin shares a story of a friend who with a modest income, who studied coins and built an extensive collection. He even mortgaged his house to be able to travel and purchase rare coins. When he passed away, “with no apparent regrets”, his coin collection was sold at auction for more than $30 million dollars, benefiting his family beyond their dreams. For example one Canadian coin that he bought for $400 in 1954, sold for $345,000 in 1999.
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For further reading: http://www.ha.com/intelligent-collector/why-do-we-collect-things.s?article=collect