Collector Psychology: Why We Love To Collect Things

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a good chance that you have some sort of collection. Whether it be coins, baseball cards, stamps or anything in between, it’s estimated that 40 percent of Americans have a collection of a particular item. Why do we do this, though? Since no two people are the same, there are varying reasons why people become collectors so frequently, and here are a few of those reasons.


In the United States, we seem to always be ready to make a quick buck, but there are plenty of people that want to play the long game. Because of this, collecting has been seen as a form of investment, especially when it comes to trading cards and coins. For every T206 Honus Wagner trading card, there are thousands of Beanie Babies collecting dust. 

32 percent of collectors said that they have gone into collecting in hopes of making money, with 83 percent of those people thinking that they will strike it rich as a result. Among those that are the most hopeful are the coin collectors. Surprisingly, it’s the younger people from Generation Z that are the most avid collectors these days, hoping that rare coins and even Pokemon cards will appreciate in value when they get older.


Outside of investors, there are people that love to collect without any intention of selling what they’ve amassed. That’s because of the nostalgia factor, where seeing a collection can take someone back to their “happy place” and remind them of better times. These items tend to be more personal, such as autographs addressed directly to the collector.

While it may represent what’s perceived to be a good time in someone’s life, collecting for nostalgic reasons can also be a warning sign. Studies have shown that people experience nostalgia more in times of depression than happiness, using it as an escape. Collecting out of nostalgia can be a hint that someone is attempting to have a tangible escape from their current state of mental health.

Other Factors

Not everyone with a collection is trying to make money or get a break from reality. There are other factors that come into play. This includes spirituality, with people collecting items that are tied to their religion or other beliefs. Others can simply be very passionate about a particular subject (think of an array of sports memorabilia in a ‘man cave’). There are some cases when collecting can get to be too much, however.

The Line Between Collecting and Hoarding

In recent years, people have become more aware of hoarding due to mainstream exposure, particularly in reality television. Hoarding is classified as a mental disorder in which people compulsively hold onto items for various reasons, but has been linked to substance abuse, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.

The reason that collecting and hoarding are different is due to the fact that hoarding doesn’t narrow in on one particular item. There is hardly ever monetary value, separating it from the investment side of things. There’s also little organization, leading to a home filled with clutter. Hoarding is also more rare than collecting, affecting only about 3.5 percent of people compared to the 40 percent of the public that collects.

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