The Key to Collecting

Man, I don't know why I'm posting these pics. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. Welp, here ya go. Just a taste of what I've accumulated throughout the years, ever since my 3 dollar purchase back in 2001. I started out just buying cookbooks, booklets, and pamphlets from the 40's through the 60's, but then I noticed similar tastes and styles with children's books, textbooks and various other ephemera, like maps and brochures, from the same era. What is it about paper? I swear I cannot pass a flea market booth without skimming for paper goods. And the fact that some of these things are cheap (anywhere from 2 to 10 dollars), makes it all the more fun for me.

Yes, eBay has played a major role in obtaining most of these items -- usually the books, of course. I try not to spend more than 20 to 25 bucks on a particular title, unless I know just how rare it may be. The good thing about most of these books is that the seller doesn't know what they have, and will be selling a hard-to-find book for $5. Lucky me.

You can see some of my Little Golden Book collection here. I have more at work and some just lying around in the attic. Like the rest of my collection.

I have not one organizing bone in my body, therefore I resort to boxes and plastic bins for all of my stuff. One day I'd like to be able to organize everything into separate catagories. Wouldn't that be nice? Anyone care to share your organizing secrets?

Having everything together in one place helps because I like to go up into the attic sometimes and just sit and browse through it all. Thumbing through pages and pages like a customer in a bookstore, I pore over all my purchases, often recollecting the times when I first bought them. Sometimes I might forget about a particular item, and then a rush will go through me, as if I'm looking at the book or pamplet for the very first time. There's nothing like rediscovering your collection -- at times it feels like finding a $20 bill in an old coat pocket, or something.

Of course there are the times I look at my huge collection and wonder, "Just what in the world am I going to do with all this stuff?" Am I really benefitting from having all these old books and papers up here in my possession -- a fire hazard, no less? But then I wake up from this fog when I pick up some booklet on Kotex products from 1955 and sit down and laugh at the cutesy female figure with spirals for eyes. I get lost in that world, I do. Not like I would've loved to live during that time, but I sometimes try to imagine what it would've been like to look at these illustrations and artwork when they were fresh and new. To have the knowledge that this was the way it was -- not "retro." To know that if I walked outside, I would see big metal cars with beautifully designed grills and tailfins, and gas station attendants to fill up your tank. Idealized world, I'm sure. Afterall, I'm only viewing it in retrospect from ads and articles, books and stationary, illustrations and drawings. Nothing is ever like it seems when it is viewed through the distorted glass of time. Just thumb through our magazines today and try to convince me that you identify with the people and products being shown. It's an illusion.

But I digress. What I was going to say is that when I do sit down and go through my collection, I get creatively charged. It's invigorating to see tons of great illustrations done with style. And somehow I try to imagine incorporating that same high level of panache into my own creations. It's more along the lines of paying respect to your elders, I guess. They raised the bar and you are just trying to do your best to reach it.

Often times, when I come back down from the attic after browsing for an hour or two, I'll plop down next to Andrea and sigh, "You know, when I go through all my stuff, it just makes me so happy."

And that is the key to collecting.

I'd like to see your collections, whether it be old stuff or new. You name it, I'd like to see it. What makes you happy?


  1. Hey Ward! What a great collection...I'm sure it's a never ending source of inspiration. I think you have it right when you talked about how happy it made you feel to examine your treasures, why else would we collect. I also think it's super cool that you and Andrea have an attic to hang out in, I've never had one so it's a romaticized room for me.

  2. I'm not much of an organizer myself, so my LPs are just in boxes and milk crates. We still haven't unpacked lots of stuff since we moved across country last year, so nothing has a permanent home yet (we're renting until we find a house to buy).

    I don't get much opportunity to experience my collection in its natural state. Partly because we don't have space for me to do it, but mostly 'cause it's Christmas music and I don't like to listen to it outside of the holiday season.

    But I have so much stuff that I am continually rediscovering things. And I have at least 100 LPs that I have never heard.... Lots to look forward to.

  3. Well, ya hit the nail on the head, Chester...collect what makes you feel HAPPY. If you don't love it, ya got no business collecting it. Yours is the purest form of the art; you could give a damn whether or not those books have any monetary worth or ever will, because they mean something to you. I'll never understand those weirdoes who "slab" comic books in thick plastic and have them graded, and then hermetically sealed forever: do they even READ comics books? Do they LIKE them? Or are they hoping to retire with them? Keep on truckin', buddy.

  4. Disneyland is the passion, the history, the design, everything. With Dan Goodsell and his amazing collection of food related items as an inspiration, I have started a blog called Stuff From the Park to show my collection and share it.

  5. hm, okay, i am not that old, but i always tried not to start collecting things, because it only felt like drawing money from my pockets into shelves, boxes and cupboard - left there, unnoticed and not looked at. - i guess i neer experienced what you wrote in the last paragraph - browsing through, and bling, happy. btw, with such a wonderful collection of illustration from the 50's etc., i'd definitely be happy. ;)

    keep up this nice blog.

    cheers, a.

  6. Sigh...I love collecting, too, although it's very difficult in NYC. There's literally NO ROOM for collecting anything here. My apartment only allows for a small portion of my kitchy, weird toy collection. And as far as my cd collection goes (if you can call that a collection)...I'm considering throwing out all the jewel cases in favor of keeping just the discs, and what's uploaded into i-tunes. One nice thing about the South is having the space to collect stuff. But, I don't want to complain too much. It's still been an incredible move, totally worth it.

  7. Sigh, where do I begin? vintage matchbooks, vintage soda bottles, vintage cocktail sets and accessories, vintage signs/sign letters, vintage ugly dolls, and vintage paper ephemera of all sorts.

    And, if you want to get technical about it, black mary janes. :)

  8. I'm just drooling looking at all that stuff Ward. Wow, and I thought I was a horder! I collect snowdomes, so imagine the real estate those take up.

    Share! Spend your spring break scanning to Flickr! Heh...

  9. nice collection.. mine is old camera's more specifically old video cameras... take up less room than books, but they get dustier...

    love your site.. dig your work..

  10. yeah I noticed you had the fireside cookbook which I think is incredible Provenson work. I can't imagine a cook book like that being published now as some of the images of the animals would be probably considered in "poor taste". And its written by a top chef like Beard even. My wife recently co wrote a blender drink mix book that I was trying to get in on doing spots for but they didn't have the budget. Ah well, Helping out with the "research" was fun on that and I got to name some drinks like
    the "fizzmopolitan".

  11. Ward, Now if You would just let me in your attic for an hour or so........I can just imagine the great cook books I would find and could tuck under my arm and bring home. O! but your safe I live in australia so just a bit too far to come for a look see at all your great books. I collect vintage china, kitchenalia, yep! and old cook books, and lots of other "take my fancy" pieces. love the photos thanks for showing them.

  12. For organizing, try
    Organizing for the Creative Person, by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping. ISBN: 0517881640

    It's got some great tips in it for people who make stacks and piles.

  13. It's great to see ephemera like this in the spotlight. The items I feature on my blog dovetail nicely with this post. Just wanted to say I enjoyed seeing this featured on your blog. Very interesting. Nice work.