Collecting: What made you want to do that?

By Kyle La Forge

Have you ever found a material object in your life that you thought would be difficult to live without? It is common practice to collect items that have high monetary or emotional value. Everyone has some form of collection, whether it is cd’s or DVDs, but what compels the collectors of some of the more unconventional, bizarre items?

Some would say that culture plays a large deciding factor in what comes across as a strange collection. What may be normal to collect in Central Asia may seem extreme in the suburbs of eastern Long Island, and vice versa. Taking to the streets of Suffolk County, I was able to find three collectors of various items, and ask them, “What made you want to do that?”

In the West Hampton Library on a relaxed Wednesday, I met with an old co-worker who had spoken on a daily basis about building up his collection. Mark Gallows, 22, is a collector of deceased and dried insects of all kinds.

Mark looks just like any other person you might come across in the quaint West Hampton Town Library, but if you were to visit his home, you would not be able to eat a regular meal for quite a while.

Gallows has an eclectic collection of over 50 species of insects, dried and pinned into viewing cases on his wall. Most are tanned brown, with glazed eyes, although some maintain an array of colors, mostly on insect parts such as butterflies’ wings. Each item is taken great care of, as the wrong conditions would surely mean decay for these items. When asked about the cost of this collection, surprisingly, Gallows stated, “A pretty penny”; though a good portion of his collection was found locally on Long Island, many species are just not indigenous to our area.

Gallows’ collection began at the early age of six, and started just out of his sheer interest in the structures of insects. As he got older, he had more access to the internet, and of course, the money to purchase what it was he was looking for. With his parting words, he stated, “It should just come naturally; you collect things you enjoy!”

The next collector I spoke to was an old classmate from hunter business School named Toni Clemens, age 20. She has been collecting The Doors memorabilia since she first developed a taste for music at the age of 12. Although she is interested in the entire, band, her efforts are concentrated on the more popularly known Jim Morrison, lead singer of the band.

When asked how much the items that she collected might be worth, she was unable to give an estimate on the spot, though she knows she has spent quite a bit of money, giving thanks to the internet, as did Gallows.

“T-shirts that were worn by the icon, cd’s, posters, action figures are the bulk of my collection,” Clemens states. For those interested in collecting, she advises, “Start with small items, of little or no cost, so you can feel as though your collection is beginning to take shape. If after two months you still feel inclined to collect more, you will, and you will do it happily.”

Returning to the West Hampton Library, I met Rebecca Perez, 19, in the common area, and right away I could see she is an avid collector of beach glass. She was wearing a necklace of thin metal wire, enthralled in a ball wrapped around a few pieces of red, purple, and white beach glass. She said that she has been collecting since she was nine years old, and what keeps her collecting is the memory of her father, who used to bring her to the North Shore of Long Island, where the rocky shore provides some of the best beach glass.

When asked about the value of her collection, almost taken aback, she exclaimed, “There is a value for beach glass; a lot of artists use it in their works, and the rare colors like purple and red are worth a good amount by themselves. But I would never sell it.”

Perez stated that the finding of her pieces and memories associated with them is what makes colleting worthwhile, and for any collector out there she recommends, “Do not force it; it will come naturally.”

It seems there is no written guideline to what makes a collection, nor the collector, although there are some common characteristics. Passion and interest seem to be the only necessity, but spending money seems to be a variable of the kind of collection you are keeping and the amount of items one has access to. With access to the worldwide web, what one wants to collect is truly unlimited. What would you collect?

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