The Collectors and Their Collections. Part Three.

When Did People Start Collecting?

Whilst it is difficult to say when people started to collect things simply as a hobby, it is possible to verify the practice of collecting coins and books for whatever reason, back over thousands of years.

It seems likely however that it is only in the last one hundred and fifty years though that large numbers of people started to collect and one can perhaps relate this to the numerous social changes that occurred during that time. The industrial revolution which brought forth mass production, higher incomes, increased leisure time and a relatively new consumer culture being perhaps the most obvious causes.

The 1880s

In 1886 in London, Pears Soap co-opted the John Everett Millais' painting Bubbles for use in their advertising campaigns and due to the popularity of Cox's Brownies one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak “Brownie” and  henceforth the line between advertisements and art became blurred and greatly spurred the collection of collectibles.
Another important milestone occurred in 1892 when the United States Mint issued its first commemorative coins. The coins marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and they were amongst the earliest items manufactured specifically for the purpose of being saved rather than used.

In the 1930s radio shows such as ‘Little Orphan Annie’ (1930-1942), ‘The Lone Ranger’ (1933-1955), and ‘Captain Midnight (1938-1949) started giving away decoder rings, badges, cups and pins to promote their products and the chocolate malt drink Ovaltine promoted its product by way of ‘gifts’. All of these give-aways were extremely popular and greatly spurred the collection of collectibles as a hobby.

Post-World War II To The ‘70s

The second half of the 2oth century saw the introduction of baseball cards and there was a major increase in the number of people collecting stamps and coins.

In response to this growing interest in collecting a number of publications came into existence with probably the first amongst them being the coin-collecting newspaper entitled ‘Numismatic News’ which was quickly followed by magazines supporting the collection of comic books, toys and stamps and many other things.

The 60’s saw the introduction of numerous flea markets where people bought, sold and exchanged parts of their collections and networking amongst collectors was born. The space race increased interest in science fiction books and space toys and as a result space and robot toys became highly popular collectibles.

The 1970s saw a huge revival in the collection of baseball cards which in turn spawned the collection of tobacco, football, basketball and hockey cards.

The 1980s and 1990s

The 1980s saw an explosion in the collection of fast-food toys which were given away free by MacDonald’s and other chains and included characters from various hit films like E.T.

The 1990s were dominated by the ‘Beanie Babies’ and Pokémon. The ‘Beanie Babies’ benefited from both unprecedented demand and cleverly planned limited distribution and Pokémon became so popular that it was banned from countless schools because many students were more interested in it than they were in their studies.

The 21st century

Collecting as previously noted is now in full swing with thousands of items being promoted by internet sites, magazines and T.V. shows like P.B.S.’s ‘Antique Show’ and there is no end to growth in sight.

If you are already a collector or are just thinking of becoming one then you have a vast choice of things to collect and ways to locate them.

Have fun, make new friends and may your collections grow !!

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