Why do People Collect and/or Restore Old Things?

Many people have a fascination with objects from the past. Whether it’s an old car, toy, book, or coin, people may decide to start a collection. The biggest question however, is why. Why do some people like to collect old things? There are many reasons behind this fascination with old objects, and this paper will cover some of them.

The first, and most obvious, is that items from the past become rarer as time goes on. Things get crashed, trashed, and bashed, intentionally or by accident, and the amount of working or intact items decreases. People also have a tendency to want rare things as well, and in the minds of many, including myself, there are “ooooh!”s and “ahhh!”s when something rare and interesting is seen. Another thing is that if something is rare, people will place it at more value than something common, probably because they want it, and there is short supply. A good example of this is the 1909 VDB S (Victor David Brenner Penny, San Francisco Mint) Penny, of which only 480,000 were made. When these new pennies were rolled out, people didn’t like seeing the designer’s initials, VDB, and Abraham Lincoln’s image on the same coin. So in the San Francisco Mint after the government stopped production of these pennies, only 480,000 were made, compared to the millions made in the Philadelphia mint. In good condition, a VDB S Penny from 1909 fetches $700 to $1,000. In mint condition, such pennies can fetch over $3,000. Even banged up ones can still fetch $300. A regular VDB Penny fro 1909, however, doesn’t fetch nearly as much. The rarer something is, the higher the perceived value of the item is.

Another reason why people may want old things is to have a piece of history, especially if the object is in that person’s category of interest. This goes along with the fact that if something isn’t being made anymore, people will want to acquire it, in similarity to the rarity factor mentioned in the previous paragraph. Sometimes though, people just think having something old is cool.

These two reasons lead into this next reason, bragging rights. People may feel that they can show off and brag about if they have something old (just like a rich person gloating about their wealth in front of others), in order to make them feel special. Or people will just want to mildly show off their old, rare items. Maybe someone wants to show a bunch of people an old car that person just restored, so that person signs up to be part of a car show and lets people look at that person’s precious automobile. Perhaps someone would just want to feel a bit special inside too.

There are also a few more reasons here which will be mentioned in this paragraph. The first of these is nostalgia. If someone fondly remembers something from their past and misses it (say they had to get rid of the item or it got destroyed), people may want to buy another one to feel the same way as before, or at least as close to it as possible. Another reason is to make money. Let’s say someone buys an old automobile that’s in bad condition for a low price. They put the hard work in to restoring the automobile, and then sell it at a much higher price (this would work with anything else that could be restored). A last reason is just to see how people viewed a certain topic during that time. I personally collect old textbooks for this reason (besides the fact that they interest me). Depending on the values and stereotypes found in a certain time period, an author’s views may be different.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why people like to collect old things. Rarity, to own a “piece of history”, bragging rights/showing off, nostalgia, and to make a profit are all reasons why people collect old items. However, perhaps the most common reason is that people collect old items just because they like them. The reasoning couldn’t be simpler than that. It’s like trying to ask why someone likes a certain hobby or food, and the simple answer is that they just do, and it should be left at that.


Typo: In the sentence “A regular VDB Penny fro 1909….”, fro should be changed to “from”. However since my time ran out before I caught that mistake, I am leaving it as is. Feel free to tell me about any more typos!


P.S. – This was inspired by my trip to Ocean City, MD for Cruise Weekend (its getting smaller every year) from 10/7 to 10/11. It wasn’t my thing and it wasn’t the best vacation either, but I tried to make the most of it.