What I Need

I’ve bought quite a few things in my lifetime: from action figures to board games, to tools, to art supplies, to the things I carry every day. But did I really need any of that stuff? Probably not. I could probably argue that my EDC (every-day carry) stuff is pretty necessary in my day-to-day life based on how much I use it, but I don’t think it would qualify in anybody’s bare-bone definition of “need”.

What everyone needs is obviously food, water, (in theory) shelter, and the ability to obtain those items. All of the things I “needed” to complete those collections, fill out my EDC, or upgrade my toolset probably weren’t that necessary. But I think I did “need” some of them. Not in the “food and water equals life” sense, but in the “helps me obtain life necessities” sense (the tools), and in the “I have enough resources to get something extra that doesn’t interfere with basic survival” sense.

They might not be things I need, but I can afford them without taking away from mine (or anyone else’s) means of living. In many cases I’m either supporting the company that makes them directly, or the endeavors of the local charity shops. And since I take good care of my stuff I end up with a lot of it, and with a lot of it comes the constant need to justify what I “need”. Do I “need” all of this stuff? If not, why do I have it? Well, I like it, it lets me have fun, and in several cases it gives me an activity to do with friends. It helps me learn new skills to both simply be a more educated person and help friends and family who might be in need.

Now most of it is me just asking myself, but sometimes it’s other people asking “do you really need all of this?” or “What are you gonna do with that thing?” And really, I admit to not being the best person ever, but: I’ve given to people who needed it, donated to charities, recycled and reused many of my disposable items, not stolen from anyone, gotten my basic needs taken care of, and not created a giant pile of stuff that will fall over and kill me or breed disease like a cesspool. I think I can decide I’m at a point where what I “need” isn’t all that needs to be considered when I intend to purchase something.

Now that’s not to say I buy things at random, or that I should “over buy”. Or that I’m too high and mighty to consider what I really need. But I think that I (or you) after basic needs are taken care of (food, water, shelter, safety, backups, etc) have been taken care of, shouldn’t have to justify absolutely every purchase in my mind or to others with “needing” it. It overcomplicates things and puts too much emotional influence on the object. It’s just a thing, and I like things, but I don’t need them.

Why I Collect

To outsiders, it might appear as if I collect everything under the sun. I might disagree, because though I would like to I hardly have the room. But I do collect a vast array of things of many different genres. I collect action figures, board games, video games, statues, books, knives, lighters, display ships, old computers and computer equipment, containers, notebooks, pens, tools, stamps (the rubber not the letter kind), and a host of other things that happen to interest me when I find them.

I don’t know what it is about me that makes me a collector.  Wanting to preserve history is one of the things. I’ve seen what other people do with items I would consider significant and it’s not pretty. However I do know that I am markedly less interested in preserving some things than others. That is all my preference, and I do hope that those items are being bought and saved by someone who cares, though as I often know with the things I miss, they are not. Still, I buy a lot of things new, and buying things new is not how one preserves history, at least generally, I also open things.  Some people would cringe at the Lego sets I’ve bought on EBay and opened a decade after their release. Or an Atari 2600 game I did something similar with. I don’t believe that things exist to be sealed in boxes and never touched (though some things I created I’ve done that for) but I do think things should be cared for and used appropriately. I have a huge collection of green plastic army men, not because I think my parents bought me more than others, but because I never blew mine up with fire crackers.  Even something as simple and cheap as those plastic men I couldn’t just destroy (side note: why are their tanks still M-60s and Centurions? Shouldn’t they update those to Abrams and Challengers or something?)

I don’t think those people are wrong.  While I might dislike the way the treat their things, they are theirs, and I’d never tell them to not do that unless it was hurting something else. I just have a different mind, a mind suited for collecting things. It’s not that I don’t use things either; I use all of my pens and play all of my games, and have a fun time doing so. And when something wears out I put it aside. I keep it to remind me to get another, to fix it, or to just have it around and maybe recycle. I hate throwing things away. Which makes collecting things so hard. I know of many people who can cycle through collections, either disposing of or selling things that they want less than the things they are about to get. I wish I could do that, but I find that picking up something I haven’t in a while and messing with it is almost as enjoyable as getting something new, and much more cost effective (I still spend way too much on stuff though). Nor can I be like my brother and live with almost no things. I like things too much.  Things are great; I love learning about things, how they work, their history and using them. And I believe that I could meet almost anyone and have something which we could discuss, that is to say my hobbies overlap with the hobbies of most other people in some way (I even go outside sometimes).

I like having a wide array of things to talk about, study, and collect. Part of it likely has to do with the expense, getting into many things is cheap, maintaining interest is sometimes expensive. And so I get into a lot of things. I also enjoy the smaller communities found from a wide variety of things. I don’t interact with them much, and wouldn’t really consider myself a part of them, but I do appreciate them. So I like collecting a lot of things, and just have a colleting-based mind I guess. It’s fun, and though I wish I was more focused at times, I would never have found some things I really love if I hadn’t branched out in my hobbies and collections so much. I hope I can find just as many interesting things in the future.

A Few Interesting Things Part 1 – Cobra Puzzle, Pirate Ship, and Wooden Village

I collect lots of things, for all kinds of reasons. And while some things I have are massive collections, others are single pieces, or fit into smaller groups. And right now I would like to share a few of those things that I have been messing with recently and quite enjoying.

First up is the “Mighty King Cobra” 3D puzzle. It’s a 3D jigsaw puzzle with thick wooden pieces. Mine (as with most of my stuff) is second hand and it looks like it was heavily used, meaning that the pieces don’t fit back together as well as I think they once did. I also must admit I haven’t taken it apart fully to assemble it, because I am terrible at puzzles and it might never be complete again if I do that. Even then it’s a great coffee table piece.


Next up is a pirate ship, again found second hand, and I believe, based on the paint job and the flags that this ship was customized. Whether it was from a store or a kit I can’t tell, but I’m leaning more toward a store bought thing. I do have a (surprisingly large) collection of ships on stands, but the two are separated at the moment. Once this ship meets up with the others there it will go, but for now it sits proudly on my interesting shelf, as evidence of the uniqueness one can find in many places.


And finally, something a little older, a wooden toy village that is German inspired, I don’t know where it came from or how it was made. But it reminds me of the toys I had when I was a kid (and still do). It’s like a more primitive version of Legos. I just spend however long organizing the houses and church and making sure the people and animals are in the right spots for what they’re doing. And that the trees are providing enough shade. It’s really fun and peaceful, and it looks so quaint.


Table Topics Chit Chat 12 #23-24


1. What do you most like about the state where you live?

2. What kid’s toys have you always wanted?

ANSWERS By: Austin Smith

1. In Texas there are a bunch of nice laws that just make living in general easy. No state income tax is nice.

2. Most of them, I still collect things people would refer to as “kid’s toys”. I like Legos a lot. (Not enough to say Lego Bricks)

Collecting Things that Have a Story

When you collect as many things as I do, you inevitably run into the side of at least one hobby where everyone values the things that are being collected much more than you do. And that isn’t a problem, and this won’t be about that being a problem. These people tend to want things to be pristine, some of them in the package, some of them out. For fountain pens and knives, they’re the people who don’t want anything with an engraving.  For video games and toys, they’re the people that want the item in box, in shrink wrap. And for various other hobbies that I may or may not be involved in, there are different things that are important to the collectors.

Now, obviously I don’t agree with that. I have a video (but I haven’t posted it anywhere) of me opening a brand new Atari 2600 game in the late 2000’s. That would give some people a heart attack. But I just feel that if it’s a video game console or a toy, it was meant to be played with, and if it’s a fountain pen, or knife, or anything else it was meant to be used.

I know I’m not that way with everything. Older notebooks and art supplies I have a hard time using sometimes, because I feel like using them destroys them in a way, and that at least one specimen should be preserved. This applies more to something like a unique pencil and less to something like old paint that just seems wasted if it isn’t used.

It’s hard to find the balance of what to preserve and what to use, especially if you do believe that vintage items were meant to be used. My heart does sink every time I see someone who has an older item and is using it because it’s “cool” to do so and is in the process destroying it. They are well within their rights to do so, but I think that they should be putting at least a little more care into it.

I’m well aware that nothing will last forever, but I do want as many examples as possible of anything to last for as long as possible. That is part of why I invest so much time and money into my collections. I want to see them last, I like them a lot, and keeping them nice is just as important to me as the collection itself.

But what does that say about personal engravings in pens, knives, lighters, jewelry, and tools? Are they ruined even before the collector sees them? I don’t think so. While it is true that I tend to buy items without engravings or personalization, this has more to do with either them being less recognizable (No one would look at a painted Xbox and think it was an Xbox at first glance, and they might think I’m weird for painting one afterwards) or because people would think I stole things. “Hey, why are you using Edward Clavares’ pen?” Not that many people even really look at the engraving, but it could be a concern.

But as for items I won’t carry around: that older knife or fountain pen that should’ve been several hundred dollars that I got for free (that really happened), I like the wear and personalizations. It gives the items a sense of history. It’s even better when I know part of the story. I have a multi-tool with my dad’s name on it, a knife with my brother’s, and I had a notebook with my grandfather’s, but I gave that back to my mother. For all of those items I know part of the story, maybe very little, and I can only imagine the parts before, but having that realistic grounding is nice. I really do love the engravings on such items.

I also go to garage sales and charity shops a lot. Inside there are all sorts of items which have all sorts of different possible stories associated with them. Especially handmade items, which I always feel bad passing up. I feel like I’m leaving a part of history behind, even if it is poorly constructed history.

That’s why it’s nice to have several pieces in a collection that are personalized to some extent. I feel like I’m both saving history and getting a well-constructed product. Though I won’t seek out a product that has been personalized, having a few shows that these items were used by actual people, not just some other collector who took perfect care of them. And there is something collectable about a thing that has a person’s name on it, especially if it’s an uncommon name. It might be the only one like it in the world.

Really though, I’m just not snobby either way. I know there are some people who would never collect a personalized or even a used item, and there are some people who would only collect those items. And I understand the urge to do both, so I try to meet somewhere in the middle. I like to keep my mind open, and I haven’t yet gotten to the point in my collecting where I only collect a thing here and there that I’m really searching for. I may never get to that point. If you have exactly what you want to collect figured out, I’m glad, and your life is probably a lot more organized than mine. We all see value in different things in any given hobby. Like I’ve said previously, I’m not into buying anything very expensive. And as personalized items usually go for less on the second-hand market, the fact that I like them is just a bonus.

If you asked me why I collect what I do, I’d probably tell you I like to collect things that interest me, and stories interest me. Whether it’s some fictional universe the product is based on, or my personal experiences, or the crazy collection of a guy I met a few times who was a great person and really into all of this stuff, or just some letters on the side of a pen that I can make up a journey around, I like collecting for the story.