Why Do We Collect?


Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why humans like collecting just about everything?

Here at Gemr, we sometimes use the term “collectibles” to describe items that are designed to be collected, but really, just about anything can be a collectible to the right person. Stamps, for instance, weren’t originally designed to be collected, but people got so enthralled with collecting them that we have the vast variety of stamps we see today. Other collections are far more esoteric, including small chairs, traffic cones, and toothbrushes (none of those are jokes, by the way). Yet no matter the collection, the underlying desire to collect remains the same. What is it about human nature that drives us to accumulate an exhaustive array of one type of thing, and is this a trait we develop over time?

As it turns out, while philosophers and psychologists have taken stabs at the question, the underlying reason we collect isn’t as complicated as you might think.


Let’s get one thing out of the way: yes, many people collect as a form of investment. Even if you’re not into the collecting scene, it’s hard to ignore the news stories that surface when an old Star Wars toy worth $10 thirty years ago is worth thousands today. For people with a keen sense of prediction and the capability to keep an item in mint condition for decades, collecting can indeed be a viable financial strategy. However, for the majority of collectors, a collection tends to hold more sentimental value than financial value. Sure, stumbling onto something worth a ton of cash is a thrill, but strictly looking at the monetary side of collecting skirts around what makes the hobby so fun.

The truth is, our collections are oftentimes extensions of ourselves. For many of us, our collections of toys, video games, or comic books were not developed because we said to ourselves “I want to collect something, this seems like a good thing to collect.” Rather, because we came to love a particular kind of collectible at some point in our lives, we naturally built the collection in the pursuit of finding more of what we love. At a certain point, when a collection becomes large enough to be something to show off to friends, the urge to build that display even larger kicks in. Though finding your first thirty Funko Pops might have been easy, the stakes are raised when you find a figurine you like that you don’t already own.


That’s right, the pursuit of an item can in fact become more emotionally rewarding for us than having the item itself. In an article on The Telegraph, Dr. Rebecca Spelman explains that “our fascination with collecting objects starts early in childhood.” She goes on to explain that children form emotional bonds with items such as blankets and teddy bears, and so too does that sentiment carry on into our collectibles later in life. Whether we collect something that connects us to a nostalgic time of our lives, or we carry on the collection of a friend or family member, it’s that bond that drives us to collect more and build more emotional connections. Our brains fire off with its pleasurable sensors when we finally find that new piece to add to our collections, and naturally we begin the hunt anew for that next thrill.

But hey, that’s just a short summation of why the human race is naturally drawn to collecting. Maybe a certain piece of this resonates with you, or perhaps your reasons to collect are completely different. All we ask is that you enjoy loving your stuff and showing it off, as there’s no shame in fulfilling the basic human desire to collect. So go ahead, sing loud the praises of your collection – even if you collect traffic cones.

To connect with collectors just like you, check out some of our clubs!

Gemr is a social platform for collectors and enthusiasts. Users can buy, sell, organize, or just show off whatever it is they’re passionate about. From Funko Pops to fine art, or antiques to anime, we have unique communities waiting for you to share your stuff. Sign up now for free, and download our iOS and Android mobile apps!