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Collectors, Collections, and Too Much Stuff

Monday 01 October 2018 at 5:31 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger frst appeared in IMAGES for September 27, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Recently when I took the boxes of “things” from my church office out to my backyard studio, to either store or assimilate them into the overflowing accumulations of books, paintings, frames, art supplies, etc., I re-discovered my huge collection of baseball cards in the loft. Many years of collection baseball cards, now piled high in the loft, made me shake my head in disbelief.

            Of course, the collection was really small compared to the shelves of books in the studio and in the house that I’ve accumulated over the years. Like most people, I enjoyed collecting things, -- such as stamps and model airplanes when I was a kid and art prints when in college. Van Gogh used to collect Japanese art prints and would buy them even when he was broke and barely had enough money to buy food. In college, I did the same thing, only it was prints of Van Gogh’s paintings that I bought.

            My mother was too frugal to collect things, but one of my aunts collected salt and pepper shakers, and my wife’s aunt collected silver ice tongs which she never used. But, then, most people don’t collect things to use them.

            Why do people collect old stamps and rare coins, for example? Prestige? Probably just for fun. Sometimes it starts out as a hobby and ends up as an obsession, but even as an obsession, it can be a very pleasant, albeit expensive, pastime.

            My grandmother collected things for more noble reasons. She collected tinfoil to help in the War effort; she collected string, rubber bands, and paper bags, to be reused and to avoid being wasteful; and she collected feathers for the purpose of making pillows and feather comforters.

            As a collector, I can affirm the fact that collecting is not much fun if the sought-after items are too easy to obtain. Most collectors like the challenge of a certain amount of difficulty in adding to the collection. One challenge I never met with baseball cards was obtaining a rookie card for each of the best pitchers in both the National and the American leagues.

            When I was called to serve as pastor at St. Paul’s 29 years ago, I moved into an office with one wall cross (which may have been a remnant from the old church). The next couple years, I added a couple more crosses of my own to the wall. Church members would come into my office and say, “Oh, I see you collect crosses,” and then they’d give me a wall cross or a crucifix for Christmas. This came to be a tradition among some members, and I was delighted to mount each new cross on the wall. Even the VBS students would make me a cross, and on the wall it went!

            To make a long story short, when I retired from St. Paul’s a year ago, I had run out of wall space! The walls were literally covered with crosses and crucifixes and I cherished every one of them. Needless to say, now that the collection has been brought home, I have not been able to mount all those crosses and crucifixes onto my studio walls. And I left only one cross (actually a crucifix) at the church, the one already hanging on the wall when I officially began my ministry in 1989. I lovingly placed it in the archive case in the Narthex.

            As a collector, of all the various collections I acquired over the years, I enjoyed the wall cross collection the most. Next would probably be my collection of family photographs, which capture many happy and memorable moments in my life.

            Even without trying, a person collects a lot of “stuff” in 84 years, much of it having very little monetary worth, but, in the case of the wall crosses and photos, an enormous amount of sentimental value. From now on, I don’t plan to collect any more “things,” but I do want to hold on to the ones I have, -- so many of them are teeming with memories.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.

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