stamp collection

Can a collector be frugal?

I always had some sort of collection on the go as a kid. Usually multiple at once. Key chains, interesting rocks, Beanie Babies, and old coins are a few I remember off the top of my head.

I think this is pretty common for children, but it doesn’t always carry over to adulthood. I won’t go as far as to say the world can be divided between collectors and non-collectors, but it does make for an interesting dichotomy.

The Collector Gene

Both of my parents are “collectors” in their own way.

My mom fits a less traditional collector profile. She has a huge assortment of house decor. I personally err on the side of “bare and soulless” for my own apartment, so it’s hard for me to understand why she would want to fill her home with these odds and ends. I will admit she does a great job of making it look fancy and curated, rather than cluttered with junk.

My dad on the other hand is your classic collector. Coins, comic books, records, guns–the list goes on!

Neither of my parents understand the other’s collection. My mom is slightly horrified each time my dad brings home another “treasure” from a garage sale, while my dad rolls his eyes at the multiple bowls displayed (but not used!) in the kitchen. It’s hilarious to me that they don’t realize that they are both separate sides of the same coin that is collecting.

Is there a socioeconomic factor?

Both of my parents grew up poor. They described their few childhood possessions–including my dad’s still-treasured comic book collection–as holding immense value and meaning to them.

My dad isn’t generally an emotional kind of guy. I was surprised by his overjoyed reaction the last time I brought him a haul of old, secondhand t-shirts from his favourite band (his main collection right now). I know people say things can’t give you happiness, but I have literally never seen this man so happy.

When I try to explain I don’t want a lot of “stuff” for gifts, my folks just don’t get it. The concept of minimalism is especially laughable to them. Unlike my parents, I was privileged to never have to worry about a lack of things growing up, so it makes sense we would view this differently.

Nowadays my folks are very well off. My dad and his brothers took over the farm they were raised on, and it grew to be very successful. Yet, my parent’s collecting habits and views of accumulation have stayed the same. I do believe there is an intersection between class, minimalism, and collecting.

My Collection

Am I still an avid collector as an adult? Yes and no. I have greatly narrowed down my “collections,” but, following in my Dad’s footsteps, I do have a growing comic book collection. That collection has come to a bit of a halt right now. The city we live in also has no comic book shop (blessing in disguise). Single issue prices have also increased, making it more affordable to wait until they’re collected into digest form. I have also taken steps to collect comics in a more frugal and sustainable way in the last couple years.

Is it possible to collect things frugally?

Unless your items of choice can be accumulated for free (like rocks or seashells), collecting is not an inherently frugal hobby. It can easily promote consumerism, and adds another layer of encouragement to search out things to buy. I do subscribe to the cliche of experiences over objects, yet I still find nostalgic pleasure in having a collection on the go.

I have, however, made some adjustments to reconcile collecting with my frugal lifestyle.

For starters, I narrowed my collections down from 5+ to just one, which saves money, time, and space. I also try to only buy used. I can often find great and dirt cheap comics at secondhand stores and garage sales.

Keep in mind your collection is not your investment portfolio. It’s generally a poor idea to start a collection as an investment in the hopes that it will be worth millions of dollars some day. I’m selective with the comics I buy, only purchasing the ones that I actually want to read, not ones that I think will greatly increase in value.

It may be obvious, but I think the most important piece of advice to only collect things that actually bring you joy–at least half as much joy as old Rolling Stones t-shirts bring my dad.

Do you have a collection, or did you have one as a kid? Do you have any advice to help me collect more frugally? Or do you think collecting goes against the basic principles of frugality? Is it even possible to be a frugal collector?