Well, at this point I've absorbed quite a bit about collecting through osmosis. You can't be involved in putting together web sites like the CCG companies have without starting to really "get it". But I haven't been bit by the collecting bug... yet.
I have to admit, though, that I've felt the pull on occasion. I bought a Roman coin, I own a Dave Sim graphic novel... little tiny tastes of collecting. But while I have yet to take on the collecting addiction directly, the experience has left me thinking about the basic sub-culture traits shared by all of the flavors of hobbies - from collecting to every other pursuit.
I'm a tech geek myself. Gadgets, software, gaming, computers - that's my thing. I'm sitting here right now trying to write this article while staring at a FedEx box dropped off on my desk that I just KNOW has my new BlackBerry cell phone in it! MUST OPEN NOW! (grin)
I've also poked around the 4x4 off roading sub-culture, even taking my brand new Xterra out on the trail... until I ripped off a side view mirror on a tree anyway. Oops. And I've got friends who are into the fast-car sub-culture, restoring old muscle cars, working over the engines and exhaust system to squeeze every last horse out them. One friend of mine has a car that I swear... stomping on the gas is like flushing a toilet of gasoline into the engine. He must get 2mpg.
Anyway, there have been a few things that have struck me as pretty universal about these activities.
1. The desire to build
2. The pursuit of knowledge
3. The excitement of sharing
At their heart, all of these pursuits seem to me to be about these three things.
If your thing is computers, you get excited about souping up your computer to the heights of performance. The desire to build something faster, better, and that just plain looks good is there. Throwing that next piece of hardware into your machine, or installing a bit of software that cranks up your system - these are the moments that are hobby-exciting. It's a process of building something, and the reward is that feeling of standing back and looking at what you've wrought and loving it. Is it really so different than plugging the next key date coin, or key issue comic into your collection?
Or perhaps you get engrossed in understanding the nuances of memory performance, processor cycles, the latest video cards, and you take a certain pride and joy in the process of accumulating knowledge. There's a piece of yourself invested in the things you've come to learn. There's a prestige in knowing that you know your stuff COLD. Is there really such a difference between knowing exactly how to performance tune an engine, knowing what memory timings work best in a computer, and for instance understanding how to identify monster natural toning? Or really know that a price variant on a comic is a rare and beautiful thing?
And once you've done all of that - once you've built your car, or assembled your computer, or completed your set, and pulled together a run of comics... you know what the next thing you want to do is.
You want to show it off! You want to find other people that can feel a bit of the same excitement you felt learning everything it took to build what you've built! You want to share that silly grin that fishermen share when telling stories about the one that got away or the awed look that art collectors get as they view each other's newest pieces.
You want to discuss the intricacies of your hobby like two golfers do who share tips on the latest and greatest drivers, or the best way to eliminate a slice.
Build. Learn. Share.
It's what it's all about, and it crosses hobbies and sub-cultures and really cuts to the core of human nature. It cuts to the soul of the social, building, learning beings that we all are. I've got to say. I'm pretty proud to have been involved in helping to build the registries, the Collectors' Society, the CS message boards... Knowing that the "collecting" bug is really just a universal urge for us all to get together on a few things really makes it feel... in a small way... like something noble.
Too corny for ya? Sorry. I didn't mean to wax corny.