Early Telephone MenHave you ever just stopped and taken stock of the whole collecting phenomenon? I’m particularly talking about collecting “old stuff”, be it early telephones, baseball cards, vintage pottery… whatever. Have you ever questioned the time and effort put into your hobby? Why do you study and collect vintage things, and is it a worthwhile pursuit? These questions must be answered by the individual, but I have a few thoughts on the subject that I’d like to share. (imagine that!)
As I see it, there are two primary motivators for any hobby that’s centered around antiques or vintage collectibles: nostalgia, and historical research. Those two factors can, and usually do, overlap to some degree. Often as not, nostalgia is what ropes you in, but it tends to be a poor foundation for a lasting relationship. If you’re a life-long enthusiast, that initial nostalgia likely morphed into something else: an appreciation for history.
In my school days I was never a history buff. It was probably my least favorite subject. But a few years ago I discovered mid-century lamps, “TV lamps” in particular. (remember those sleek panther lamps that were supposed to keep you from damaging your eyes while watching TV?) I was drawn to them because they were tacky… in a thoroughly entertaining way. I started acquiring the occasional lamp, and from this innocent beginning I found myself studying the lamp manufacturers, hoping to learn about the dozens of potteries that produced them. Before long I had two websites dedicated to the subject and had published a book chronicling the birth, life and ultimate demise of one of the major lamp companies. History! It was a revelation to discover that I genuinely loved historical study, at least when done on my terms. If I have any regret, it’s that I didn’t get on-board thirty years ago.
Telephone collecting draws in an extremely diverse group of enthusiasts, appealing to former telephone company employees, historians, and tinkerers. Collecting can be a casual pastime, an investment, or a starting point for serious historical research. Regardless of your motivation, telephony warrants all the attention you care to apply to it. The enthusiasm of amateurs is what fuels historical discovery and preservation, and that is why collecting matters.