Collecting vs Gathering

As an auctioneer and appraiser for several decades, I have seen it all as they say. I have come to a conclusion, that there is a difference between a collector and a gatherer. This blog is not intended to pick on the gatherer, but more to inform an early collector of the pitfalls we can all fall into.

First of all, whatever you collect, it all starts with a passion. If you do not have a passion for what you are doing, then your motivation will soon fizzle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACollecting is not so much about objects to me, as the thrill of the hunt. When I look at pieces that I have collected, I remember the story of how I found each and every one of them. It is exciting to find something new when collecting, especially when the price is right.

The crossroads of a collector and gatherer typically are at the point of refining. The goal of a serious collector is upgrading to rarity and condition. I have seen many collectors sell duplicates and pieces at the bottom of what they collect, just to raise money for the better pieces. They will pass on all mediocre and strive for the very best. A gatherer is still a collector but tends not to focus on rarity or condition and often has several duplicates.

Often collectors in the upper realm keep their enemies close. I am joking of course, what I mean is, top end collectors know who their competition is, and what the odds are of who will win the piece at an auction.

There is an interesting story of a collector I spoke with in Pennsylvania. He collected the rarest California gold quartz walking sticks made during the Gold Rush. He said to me that there was twelve known of this particular kind before this one showed up at our auction, and he owned eight of them. When the auction hammer went down, he owned his ninth for an astounding $40,000 by bidding over the phone. The interesting thing was, he knew where the other four canes were and was friends with all of the owners. These owners knowingly bid against him and each other, and they all knew who each other was on the other phone lines. All of these collectors were striving for the best of what they collect, hence the record price.

We all have to start somewhere when we collect, and the road to a collection is paved with mistakes, stories, connections with other collectors and the challenge to collect or gather.

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by Martin Willis
Gemr Community Manager

martin@gemr.com 

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