I consider myself a collector of an assortment of things. Horder? No. But, then again, if I were a hoarder, I would be in denial, right? According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), you might be a hoarder if you experience the following symptoms and behaviors:
- Inability to throw away possessions
- Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
- Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions
- Indecision about what to keep or where to put things
- Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions
- Suspicion of other people touching items
- Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects
- Functional impairments, including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards
I experience none of the above. Well, maybe except a little of the ‘inability to throw away possessions.’ Some of the stuff I collect are really cool things and valuable. Ok, that sounds like something a hoarder would say.
My “serious” collecting started way back when I was 18 years-old in my freshman year at Fordham University. Since I was a kid, I collected smaller things: VHS movies, baseball cards, basketball cards, comic books, collector trading cards (Nightmare on Elm Street, Garbage Pail Kids, Marvel trading cards, etc.) During college, I worked a part-time job nearby the university doing clerical work for a healthcare collections agency earning a measly $8.00 and hour. I suppose it was not measly at the time (1998) and it was a pretty decent wage being an already broke college student with little bills to pay and a girlfriend. Then, I discovered the almighty, and powerful, credit card.
“You mean to tell me that there’s money available to me, upfront, and all I have to do is pay back what I spent?” A naive young me asked.
“Yes, with a small interest charge,” replied the sly individual behind the vendor table outside the University.
It was a classic case of hook, line, and sinker; the free squeeze bottles were the bait, I was the prey. I asked questions, many of which were answered to my satisfaction. It made a lot of sense and thought it would be smart to start building my credit. And so, I signed up. It was also the same day I signed up and registered for a relatively new auction website known as eBay. It was like magic at my fingertips! The first thing I searched was for a Star Wars lightsaber. Of course, I knew they didn’t exist, but I wanted to indulge myself and see what kind of results they would yield. There were all sorts of lightsabers from Luke’s A New Hope hilt to Vader’s Return of the Jedi saber. I was dazzled, and I could already feel my forthcoming credit card burning a hole in my pocket. I was lead down a rabbit hole and discovered the wonderful world of prop replicas and, thus, began my collection with my first purchase of Luke’s Return of the Jedi (ROTJ) replica prop lightsaber.
To say that my collection was vast would be a falsity. To a seasoned collector, modest would have probably been the word used to describe my meager collection. It grew from Luke’s ROTJ saber to his A New Hope saber (not a Graflex, but a replica of one), Vader’s Empire Strikes Back (ESB) saber, Darth Maul saber, Count Dooku, a Han Solo blaster, a beautifully crafted Millennium Falcon light-up display and so much more! Just thinking about the stuff I had brings a tear to my eye (more on why I no longer have them in my possession later). I did not limit myself to Star Wars memorabilia but, being the horror fan that I am, my collection also consisted of horror masks and other horror-related paraphernalia (sounds like a such a dirty word).
The first mask in my soon to be latex arsenal was that of Michael Myers (see Halloween). I owned an array of these, always on the prowl for the one! You know the one that looks identical to the one used in the first film or, an original Captain James T. Kirk mask to convert it into a Michael Myers mask. I’ve owned masks from the likes of Mask Maker Productions, Nightowl, Ruby’s Myers rendition, Cinema Secrets, Cemetery Gates Studios, Nickolas Art Studios’ NAG, White Mask Productions and a plethora of other unofficial fan-made masks. My mission was to have a mask from each of all Halloween films (this was pre-Rob Zombie remake) – and I did!
Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Hellraiser’s Pinhead and Chatterer as well as Linda Blair’s Possessed Reagan bust adorned my wanna-be goth room; Blair Witch configured bundles of sticks hung from my ceiling as a cardboard cutout of Darth Maul stood guard at my bedroom window. Posters covered every corner of my room from the Star Wars trilogy to Friday the 13th. It was a movie/horror fan’s haven and every child’s nightmare.
My room was a reflection of what my man cave is today and where some kids like to be out and about and away from home – I adored it! I loved laying on my twin-sized bed, looking up at the Blair Witch stick bundles twirling and basking in the glory that was my bedroom. It was a personal museum. On one wall, I hung up my collection of Ouija Boards which totaled anywhere from 30-40 different variations from different time periods. Everything was organized and labeled in an orderly fashion. It may sound like a lot for a relatively small bedroom but, rest assured, I made sure that everything was neat and tidy for the viewing pleasure. This, however, was short-lived.
Fast forward a couple of years later when I met a young woman who captured my heart and would later marry in the near future. After initially being weirded/creeped out by my interest in horror, especially the Ouija boards, and Star Wars “toys,” she succumbed to my ways and, eventually, we opted to move in together. It’s here where our stories differ with regards to what exactly “happened” to my collection as most of it was gone. Reluctantly, all was sold by a broken-hearted me. She swears, to this day, that she had nothing to do with my selling my collection. But, in reality, she hinted, on more than one occasion, that she would not be content having all my “stuff” in our new place. She stated, and I quote, “All this stuff is not coming to the new apartment, right?” What other choice did I have? Love or my geeky collection? I guess I could have packed them all up in a box and kept it stored in my parent’s garage. I could have done that. Instead, my lightsaber collection (a lot of, now rare and valuable, Master Replicas), masks, busts, prop replicas, Ouija board collection, horror memorabilia were all gone into the hands of other collectors. I was glad (not really) that they went into good hands. But, let’s be honest, it was time for me to grow up and I knew what I had to do and so, my stuff had to go – a decision, of course, I would later regret.
I vowed never to collect again as the heartbreak was too much for me to have to bear again. But, there was just so many cool things out there to pass up. I don’t collect with the fervor I once had, only biting on a few things here and there. I finally got that Man Cave I always wanted and had the personal space to incorporate my wants and interests. My wife does not mind anymore. In fact, my “toys” are now “cool,” and she appreciates them a lot more than she once did. Now, have a few Star Wars figures, some helmets, including that of Darth Vader (this one is not as cool nor good as one I once had), and three lightsabers. I was now content with something that was just good enough” to the eyes and did not have to be a 100% accurate depiction of said movie prop. I have other things and am somewhat rebuilding my collection again. But, I like it this way as I aim for simplicity and affordability as I have a family and a mortgage. In addition to my “toys,” I’ve added a vinyl record collection as well. What can I say, I’m attracted to cool things, a trait I hope gets passed on to my daughter because God knows, my tastes and interests surpass my wife’s by a long shot. But, shhh, don’t tell her that. My daughter seems to enjoy my cave. Whenever I add something new to my office, my daughter responds with an enthusiastic, “That’s so cool daddy!” I must be doing something right.