Why do people collect things

Collecting: Hobby or Cultural Technique?

Almost everyone does it or has done it before: collecting things. Whether it's postage stamps, stickers, stones and minerals or just beautiful seashells from the beach. Apparently we can't help but keep objects that fascinate us, put them together and maybe even sort and catalog them.

Origins are much deeper

We humans start collecting much earlier than we are perhaps aware of. Even as a toddler, we tend to collect similar things or simply collect items that interest us and that initially have no clear connection.

Basically, this is a technique to make our surroundings and the world around us more understandable. In the first months and years of life we ​​develop at a rapid pace and make completely new experiences and discoveries every day. By collecting things, putting them together, placing them in context or arranging them, we simultaneously develop our very own image of the world.

Collecting therefore helps to make the world more understandable for us and to develop concepts and structures for it. This makes it easier for us to classify things and make connections.
At the same time, collecting is also an aesthetic experience. As you get older, you no longer pick up any chestnut when you go for a walk, but rather only those that appear particularly beautiful to the children. By collecting, we also learn to compare things with each other, to evaluate them and to develop certain criteria for the assessment.

Typical collecting areas

While children first collect everything they can get their hands on - after all, everything is new at first - certain preferences often quickly become apparent. Depending on where the personal interests lie, possible collecting areas open up. It is quite natural that the interests of children and adolescents in particular can often change.

A passion for collecting often develops from collecting any objects into a hobby. Books are collected very often, for example, car and technology fools concentrate on true-to-scale models of vehicles or other technical things. Coins, stamps and watches are also at the top of the list of the most popular collectibles.

Many women are said to have a particular passion for shoes. In fact, women seem to have a tendency to collect shoes more often. A survey showed that on average women have significantly more shoes than men. There is also a psychological explanation for this passion. Shoes are an object on which personal desires and longings can be projected very well.

Whether elegant, sporty or sexy, whoever buys a pair always buys very specific emotions. The shoes have long since developed from the mere protection of the feet to an emotionally charged accessory and cultural asset that reflects the most varied of moods and styles. The manufacturers and retailers fuel this passion for shoes with constantly new trends, shapes and colors, matching the respective fashion trends.

In order to put yourself in a certain mood, the right shoes can then represent the fastest way. Even if many pairs are not (often) worn at all, the collection in the shoe cabinet gives the owner a good feeling.

Owning and dominating

In a certain way, collecting also contributes to the satisfaction of other needs. By accumulating things, we often also accumulate certain material possessions. Among like-minded people, you can also improve your personal reputation with an extensive collection or particularly rare pieces.

For people who otherwise have a hard time making contacts or asserting themselves, engaging in such a hobby can create a suitable balance. In a limited area, through the passion for collecting, expert knowledge in a certain area can be acquired. In this way, recognition can be gained among other collectors.

Even if the collectibles in many cases have an ideal and emotional value, a collection can also be very valuable. Rare old-timers, valuable watches or particularly high-quality instruments and individual items can also serve as investments.

Economic importance of collecting

Not only the shoe industry, but also other branches of the economy benefit from people's obsession with collecting or fuel it. Passionate collectors regularly roam the flea markets around the globe in order to track down undiscovered treasures that are still missing from their very personal collection. Even the children are encouraged to buy surprise eggs with collectible figures or at the next football event to collect the stickers of their sporting idols.

The scrapbooks for football pictures, for example, also have a visual effect. The systematic structure with the free fields for each individual collector's picture makes it very clear where there are gaps and individual pieces are missing. In this way the collecting instinct is strengthened.

Knick-knacks and souvenirs are also things that many people like to collect. Brought back from trips or vacations, they represent an important reminder of the good time or a special place. The numerous souvenir shops have become an indispensable part of tourist areas and contribute a large part to the local economy.

Scientific importance of collecting

In addition, collecting also has an important meaning for science. Above all, natural scientists eager to collect have contributed to the systematic categorization of the most diverse areas with their very personal collections. The collections have resulted in extensive inventories, each relating to a specific discipline. This makes it possible to document certain things and possibly also to preserve them for later times. Collections such as those of plants in botanical gardens can thus help conserve rare species.

Scientific collections are still used today as the basis for further research activities. In museums they serve to impart knowledge to the general population. Collected from the most diverse places on earth, we can look at and get to know exotic things from other cultures and thus expand our worldview.

Collecting as a mirror of the current time

Many areas and objects were popular and coveted centuries ago and have not lost any of their appeal to this day. Weapons, pieces of jewelry, watches or special things from nature such as stones or pearls are examples of this.

Nevertheless, people's passion for collecting always reflects the special interests of entire generations. While butterflies used to be popular collector's items, today only a few can get excited about the filigree butterflies in this way. Today, collecting also takes place in virtual form. The augmented reality game Pokémon Go relies on our collecting instinct, among other things, and thus encourages us to play.

The extensive record collection has long been a must and a typical pastime among die-hard vinyl fans. After the record was gradually displaced by other sound carriers and, most recently, by digital storage formats, it is currently experiencing a real revival. Old collections with special rarities are now in demand again - as are limited reprints of current albums.


Collecting is both a hobby and cultural technique. The collecting instinct is deeply rooted in people and helps them to understand the complex world. At the same time, collecting is just fun and satisfies our desires for possessions, makes us feel good and is a way to expand our knowledge.

Many popular collectibles have changed again and again over the course of history and show the respective zeitgeist in a special way. Others, however, have still not lost any of their fascination.