Collecting: Hobby or Money Pit?

I used to collect unicorns as a kid. No, not REAL unicorns, but anything with a unicorn on it.

I didn’t want a normal real-live animal to collect likenesses of. No no. I wanted a UNICORN.

Especially if it was purple.

I had a unicorn covered bedspreads, pillows, statues, posters, stickers, clothes…. you name it.

I also knew an old lady who spent her savings and life, collecting these supposedly valuable collector’s plates. She had rooms and rooms full of these plates, and unfortunately most of them lost their value by the time it was shipped to her.


Collections have a purpose in life, unlike these empty pop and cleaning bottles shown above. (Not my parent’s home! It’s an exhibition in New York City.)

They make you happy, they have sentimental value or they have a monetary value.

But sometimes, they’re just junk collections waiting to be tossed by people you love.

(Mom? Do you hear this? I’m coming for those old and ratty running shoes in that box)

Here are a couple of questions I always ask before I throw anything out that looks like a collection, or before I de-clutter.

Is it valuable?

Er.. not likely. I mean, collections with real value are items like fine art paintings, or rare, rare stamps and coins.

Things that people actually want to collect that aren’t manufactured en masse.

So things like “Collector’s Plates”? RUN when you see the word “Collector’s”.. because it’s most likely a scam.

And even if they did increase in value over the years, like the original unopened boxes of Star Wars VHS tapes, or the toys.. it may be an increase due to inflation more than due to an actual increase in value.

Does it have a place of honour in your home?

If not, what are you doing collecting it?

If you want to keep it for sentimental reasons, then why are you sticking it in a box in a dusty basement?

My friend collects these little action figurines. He bought a huge glass case for it, and arranged them neatly in there with little labels.

He knows they aren’t worth much as a collection, but he loves them and displays them accordingly.

If you aren’t doing anything with them, then what kind of benefit are you getting out of them?

Is this a guilt-ridden item?

You know, that set of china Aunt Mae gave to you in her will because she felt like you best embodied the person who would take care of her babies?

You wouldn’t be getting rid of Aunt Mae if you got rid of them, but if it’s junk to you, then give them to another relative who WOULD cherish them, or sell them off.

Is it an impromptu collection?

I remember looking into my room and seeing stacks and stacks of these Pogs (does anyone remember these things? Little cardboard circles that had pictures on them)…

Anyway, I donated all of it, because I couldn’t stand looking at them clutter up my room any more.

People donated most of their Pogs to me, thinking that I wanted to expand my collection, but then it got out of control!

It’s like knowing someone loves collecting frogs, and people go out buying every frog they can see to give to them as a gift.


The worst are my parents’ VHS tapes. We don’t even own a VHS player any more, only a DVD recorder or player, and they still have STACKS of VHS tapes piled up in a box in a corner that they can’t bear to get rid of.

I suggest (in those cases), to take the VHS to a video specialist and have the video transferred onto a DVD or video file to keep so that you have the video and sentimentality without the bulk.

My favourite tip of all?


Take pictures of what you want to remember before donating, passing on, recycling or getting rid of them.

Or alternatively, scan it all in!

I also scan in all of my photos in my albums and only keep the VERY sentimental ones from years ago that don’t have negatives any longer because they were taken with very old cameras.

The rest of the photos?

I tossed duplicates, scanned in most of the ones I wanted to keep and got rid of a WHOLE BOX of bulky, heavy photos.

So, what did you used to (or still) collect?

My new collection is money. Just kidding. Sort of.



About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.