Sunday, July 14, 2013

Collector to cleaner.

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.


  1. Collecting of old, (I unwittingly started at age 12) was a treasure-hunt. Now, with eBay (which I don't use)is like outrunning an avalanche. It will find you. Too easy, less fun - not to mention (which I am) the amount of space you fill in your residence. Even the days of the mailed sales-lists was an adventure. By the time you got your list, depending on where you lived, many of the items were already gone. No such problem today. I have tons of stuff. Any suggestions on how to sell some off? I still like the accidental find, at a rummage or old bookstore, but really show a bit more restraint. The other day in an antique shop I found a pair of plates with H & W, 20$ apiece, and walked on by! Hmmm, they should have sold it as a set, poor Watson may get left behind. I could still save him! No, no, hold me back!

  2. I love my collection. I love looking at it, pulling a book out of it to read, rearranging it, walking down memory lane to the time I found an item in it. I love knowing the history of a collectible book. I love knowing something about that Sherlockian who wrote it. I love that rare piece that my wife spent hours trying to find for me.

    I love the story of the Norwegian Explorer's "Exploring Sherlock Holmes" I found in a strip mall swap-a-book store in Chantilly, Virginia, for $5, the first edition "Valley of Fear" I found in some random West Virginia town for $2, or the first edition "Observations by Mr. Dooley" I finally found on an internet site earlier this year. I especially love the Whitman Classics "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" that might get a dime at a yard sale or no bids on eBay that my mother gave me when I was 13 years old, starting me off on my lifelong hobby.

    In Atlanta, we shared a great enthusiasm for the new direction of Sherlock fandom. I think it's great. But I don't think anything new and digital can or needs to replace the traditional and literary.

    I once thought I would never get rid of anything unless I had duplications (which I almost always just give away) or do an upgrade, but recently I have decided that some stuff is just junk and exploitive (as you mentioned in a very recent post). I am dumping the print-on-demand pastiches because they devalue my collection as a whole and cheapen "the game," which I still respect and enjoy immensely.

    So I am certainly in favor of ridding any collection of tangential or inferior stuff. And I am no completest, and in fact think completism in Sherlockiana is a fast road to the hoo-ha house. But collecting is too much pleasure, too much fun, even with the internet. I will continue to collect, and my collection is going nowhere for now. I'll wait for true geezerdom to reevaluate its status.