Last night I saw the documentary American Collectors.
Everyone collects something—for me it's U2 magazines, Beatles memorabelia, movie postcards and Coca-Cola branded items for the kitchen. When I was younger it was seashells, anything with dolphins on it, and Garbage Pail Kids cards. "It" was always important to me at the time.
The degree of which I collect these things is what would have excluded me from being a subject in this film. I don't have enough volume or enough passion for the merchandise to remotely qualify.
The folks here have an incurable compulsion to gather as many of—whatever—as their pocketbook will allow. They all have different reasons for doing it (toys bring back happy memories from childhood; loves the artistic aspect of antique handbags), but the common thread that you hear throughout the narrative is the thrill of the hunt. The joy of finding something you've never been able to find before or making an altogether new discovery.
I must confess, I was first drawn to this film because one of its stars is a personal pal of mine. One who happens to call himself "Durandy" because of his love of the band Duran Duran. I'm also fond of the fab five, and I'm somewhat of a groupie in other circles, so once our paths crossed we became fast friends. Over the past few years, I watched Andy (I usually call him by his real name) continue to build the most impressive collection of Duran Duran posters in the world. He takes meticulous care of them, organizing them into a climate controlled storage unit dedicated to their purpose. Because of his desire to share his treasures with others through public exhibits and showings, the passion has led him to personal encounters with the band, who applaud him for his dedication and spirit. Durandy maintains a full-time job, has a loving girlfriend, and a comfortable home, so his "collection" doesn't rule his life, it only enhances it.
In some of the other cases, the audience has to wonder if the collectors aren't sacrificing basic needs to satisfy their cravings. One gentleman cannot conduct the interview inside his trailer because the camera crew wouldn't fit inside—his collection takes up too much space. Another man has hundreds of musical instruments, yet he doesn't know how to play any of them.
What the film really ends up saying is that collecting is like any hobby. If it begins to interfere with the productivity of your life (putting food on the table, paying rent, having relationships), the obsession has gone too far. If not, you're just eccentric (and probably fascinating to talk to).
To learn more about American Collectors, click here.