Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Collecting in the electronic age

Nice post on the difference between collecting and hoarding, Ralph.

One thing about collecting that struck me recently is how much the on-line auction has changed collecting. As a teenager, I collected beer cans. This involved a lot of leg work -- scouring flea markets, searching back roads, buying cans from different regions when on vacation, etc.

30 years later, when I decided to unload the cans on eBay, the market was swamped. Cans that had been hard to find were now easily available -- all you need is a PayPal account, and money was the only limiting factor. And, as a corollary, cans that had once had some value were selling for pennies on the dollar. The grunt work was gone.

Sure, there are still gems to be found in collecting the old-fashioned way, and there'll always be people doing that. But collecting can be almost a whim now. Decide that you want a collection of vintage movie posters and you'll probably start your search on-line. In fact you may never have to go any further.

A labor of love becomes a business transaction. Instant communication and an interconnected universal marketplace has brought us much, but something else has been lost.


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