Women's History Month
Volume 59, Number 3, March 2021
Why? Just Why? HERE’S a question: why do you collect medals? Or indeed why do you collect anything? Not why do you collect the medals of your chosen “theme”—we all have different answers to that. Our readership comprises those who collect to their old regiment or police force, those who collect medals to recipients from their hometown, or current town, or a place they once visited and liked. We have those who collect to their surname, or their wife’s maiden name, those who collect only casualties or to those who fought in a particular battle. We have those eager to collect “one of everything” or just one of each of the clasps available for a particular medal. There are a thousand and one stories behind our themes, a myriad number of tales as to why we opted to collect what we do and most of us know straightaway what started us off down that road (I still haven’t decided by the way, I’m picking up medals to men from Exeter, always carefully adding the “medals to” portion of that sentence, but they are a distraction, I haven’t really got my teeth into a proper new theme yet), but often the question of why we collect in the first place isn’t something we can answer straightaway. Personally I know I’m a “collector”, I always have been; in the early days it was marbles, button and enamel badges and cigarette, tea and bubble gum cards; then I moved on to coins and stamps. In more recent years I’ve collected postcards (very specifically of one building and/or designed by one specific artist), books (anything at all I fancy), fridge magnets (specifically of places I visit), medals and whisky—my justification for the latter being that if the worst comes to the worst I can always drink it. In recent years the plethora of “limited editions” and commemorative bottles of Scotch and bourbon that are being produced have rather put me off the whole whisky thing; so now, fearful that either my wallet of my liver will simply give up, I only collect to a few brands and don’t try to buy every new bottling that comes out. This heavy commercialisation of the collecting market, whatever the product, is something I’ve always shied away from, which is why, although I’m still a coin collector, I tend not to buy every Royal Mint new issue that’s released (although I did collect the recent Queen’s Beasts collection in 2oz silver, they’re simply beautiful). It also means I have avoided the dangers of some of the collecting “bubbles” of the past like phone cards or beanie babies. But all that aside, knowing that I’m a collector at heart doesn’t explain why I like the physical act of collecting so much. What is it about having a full set of something, often things that are practically identical (think QSAs to one battalion, World War I trios or the 300+ postcards I have, all of Mol’s Coffee House in Exeter, all virtually the same but all that little bit different in their own way) that is so satisfying? Acquaintances (you note I do not use the word friends) of mine have likened my collecting to some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder—that need to have a complete run of something, that endless searching for an elusive missing item to make everything nice and neat, and they may be right. Certainly once I’ve started collecting it does become a little “OCD”. I have strict rules about what can and cannot go in the collection, strict parameters that I collect by and that cannot be broken (when I was collecting medals to chaplains they had to have Reverend or equivalent on a medal in the group. Unnamed medals didn’t make the cut, no matter what additional material was included, and neither did medals to those who may well have been ordained but who joined up as soldier/sailor/airman rather than a padre), but again that doesn’t explain why I started in the first place. Why do I put myself through those endless hours of searching? Why do I spend the large amount of money that often becomes necessary to secure those true rarities? Why do I put myself through the pain of missing out on a purchase because someone else just beat me to it or “sniped” me on-line? Why, if I’m going to stress when I can’t find or afford something, do I do it at all? To be honest I have no real answers I’m afraid—maybe it’s that the satisfaction when I do “complete a set” or find something that was hitherto almost impossible to locate, seems to far outweigh the hours of frustrated searching (or maybe I conveniently forget about them) or maybe, when it comes down to it, collecting is just a lot of fun—perhaps that’s all it needs to be.
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