Who we are . . . or who we plan to be

By David Chesanow

Welcome to Northwest Collector, an online magazine/blog about collectibles – for collectors and historians in all fields.

Sound like a tall order – a website for collectors and historians too? Not so. Because a basic premise of Northwest Collector is that collecting, if you’re doing it right, is an adventure with a quest: historical knowledge. It’s not just about amassing “stuff,” even if it forms a set or is related in some other tangible way. Sure, collecting, say, Lincoln cents to fill up one of those blue Whitman coin folders (sold in every stationery store and hobby shop when I was a kid) is fun – and it certainly got many of us started on collecting at a tender age as we picked over Dad’s pocket change. (I love the fact that some of those kids grew up to be multimillionaires and, decades later, are still passionate coin collectors.)

But collecting is more than that: It’s having the desire to know all you can about what you collect, from the composition of those Lincoln cents (which, as any ten-year-old who collects them knows, changed substantially since they were first issued in 1909, and were actually made of zinc-plated steel in 1943 in order to spare copper for the war effort), to the design, to the places and eras they were produced.

There’s a lot of history in those coins that no one really wants to receive in change.

I know some people will disagree with my notions about collectors and collecting, and that’s fine: Your comments are welcome as long as you keep them civil. (My next post, “The Zen of Collecting,” which expands on this theme, was originally published in slightly different form elsewhere online, and elicited some snarky comments.) I actual try to be liberal in my definition of “collecting” and agree it can take different forms. There are series, like the aforementioned Lincoln cents, or high-end lithographs, or baseball cards. (Most boys I knew who collected and traded them back in elementary school were not only diehard baseball fans but knew what players they were missing and memorized the statistics on the backs – true collectors!) Or maybe you collect the first editions or signed copies of your favorite author’s books. Or maybe you can’t afford the object of your desire – say, a Bugatti or an ocean liner – or have only one – like a Harley or an Indian motorcycle – but you collect advertising, books, advertising, paperweights, cigarette lighters, etc., etc., relating to Bugattis or ocean liners or Harleys or Indians, and actually know something about them and enjoy expanding your knowledge of them.

In my book, you are definitely a collector.

But even if you don’t consider yourself a collector per se, I hope you will find this site entertaining and informative. I have three big circus posters from the 1930s, only because I always wanted an old circus poster since I was a teen. I also have some great magicians’ posters from the 1910s and 1920s, and some noir film posters. I got them because they look cool. Yet I don’t call myself a poster collector, let alone a circus poster collector.

If you just want to buy a gift for a collector, or are an interior decorator, or you’re just looking for some centerpiece for your man cave (or whatever the female equivalent is), I hope we will have a story that offers some guidance – or shoot us a question and we’ll try to find out! Hopefully we’ll help you make a more informed choice and even save some bucks . . .

. . . which leads me to another guiding principle of this site: that most of us are not trust fund babies who, for example, can walk through the New York Antiquarian Book Fair and just point to whatever we want – price no object! – while our personal accountant in tow writes checks for our purchases. (A certain New York socialite who had a famous collection of 20th-century first editions used to do this, I’m told.) Most of us have to work for a living, or are retired and on a limited income, and have to save or trade or sell off stuff – or go into debt – to get something we want.

So another goal of Northwest Collector is to provide ideas for collecting wisely – especially when you are just starting a collection, when it’s easy to overspend or buy items you’ll regret later. Again, your experiences and insights are always welcome . . .

In fact, interviews with experts on collecting will be a regular feature on this site – as well as the occasional celebrity collector. You may find you have something in common!

A final note: While the name of this site is Northwest Collector, it is not by any means limited to the Pacific Northwest, where we are based. Northwest Collector is actually the new incarnation (reincarnation?) of a site called AmeriCollector.com. We may have a special interest in collector events in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, but most of our stories will not be directed exclusively to Northwest residents, any more than the Christian Science Monitor is just for Christian Scientists or the New Yorker is just for . . . well, New Yorkers. We fully intend to cover subjects, events and people around the globe.

Wherever you are and whatever you collect, we hope to have something for you. And again, if you have a question, or an experience that will benefit your fellow collectors, let us know. We hope to hear from you!