Many years ago, I decided I was not a collector.
Of all the ways to celebrate Sherlock Holmes, collecting was one I had decided did not truly suit my personality. But it was too late, and today I've been dealing with some of that, as I prepare to move some sizeable chunks of what I've collected over the years on to greener pastures. That's been happening a lot this year, but now I'm getting down to the evidence of true collecting madness.
Back in those days before eBay, when old bookstores and antique shops were the best way to find reasonably priced Sherlockiana, we scoured such places on a regular basis. Any Sherlockian finding a new small town old bookstore that no other Sherlockians had been in could have a field day. It was like panning for gold -- often tedious and uneventful, but there was always that possibility of striking gold. Once, for example, I bought a first American edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for a dollar in a small town garage with a hand-painted "Books" sign out sitting by the road. That was a good day.
But then there were the no-so-good days that one tried to make good. A shop would have no old Sherlock Holmes books by Conan Doyle, but it would have an edition of Conan Doyle's The White Company that I hadn't seen before. So now I have fifteen assorted copies of The White Company, a book I'm not really that fond of. A shop would have no old issues of The Baker Street Journal, but it would have a few odd books by Christopher Morley, the founder of the Baker Street Irregulars . . . close enough, in a dry collecting spell. So now I had a small Morley collection.
Eventually, you start looking around and going, "I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, yes, but what am I doing with all this other stuff?" Stuff that has to be stored and moved and lifted and carried and . . . oh, my aching back.
Collecting is a past-time that must be approached with all the wariness of binge drinking. It may not have as obviously harmful effects, but it can sneak up on you just the same. Sometimes it's even like collecting dust, something that just naturally happens if you don't clean up every now and then.
So today, I'm cleaning and not collecting. And if I could go back in time and have a little talk with my self of decades ago . . . boy, would we have a talk.