Collections

Mostly they collect dust.

Mostly they collect dust.

When the game company Wizards of the Coast released the CCG Magic: the Gathering in 1993, they had no idea that what they were actually printing was big fat check to themselves. Magic was a gold mine, and all because of the first “C” in the abbreviation: “Collectible”.

If it’s true that possession is 9/10 of the law, then the law has nothing on geeks, who value possession above all else. CSI and Grey’s Anatomy have legions of fans, but there are far fewer action figures those shows’ characters than there are of Doctor Who‘s. That’s because normal people are able to enjoy a television show without having to wear the shirt, own the toys, and read the comic book. (While it’s true there were a few CSI comics released, they didn’t sell that well because the average CSI viewer wouldn’t think to walk into a comic book shop.) Geeks don’t feel they’ve properly demonstrated their appreciation until they’ve spent money. And once they start spending, they don’t stop.

A geek never owns some action figures, dice, or DVDs. He has a collection of them. And while the average person would consider the term “collection” to properly describe a group of similar items, for the geek the word is literal. His movie soundtrack collection is just that to him: a painstakingly assembled amassment that can be stacked against others’ collections.

Of course, although geeks use the word “collection” as coin or stamp collectors might, there really is no similarity. True collectors seek out specific items and carefully add them to an organized and catalogued grouping. Geeks merely grab whatever’s at arm’s reach and throw it in the pile. As has been said before here, for geeks it’s all about quantity, never quality.

To get back to the subject of Magic, the cards were released in limited sets, consisting of dozens (and sometimes a couple hundred) cards in each set. The sets were not sold complete; one had to assemble a set from a number of “booster packs” that had only about a dozen cards randomly packed into them. But there was never any question about whether or not a Magic player would assemble the entire set; they are physically unable to not do so. In fact, the number one complaint about the game is that players are “forced” to buy new cards as they’re released.

Similarly, this is how comic book stores stay in business. Readers may spit boiling venom at the current Incredible Hulk storyline, but they’ll never just not buy it; that would leave a hole in their “collection”. Despite the secondary market for comics — especially modern ones — all but drying up, comic readers still bag, board, and “slab” them for a market that no longer exists. This is because they’re the only monthly periodicals in the world that are “collected”.

If you notice, whenever a newspaper has space to fill and decides to talk to the local comic book geek about his weirdo habit, they always want to report on what the most valuable item in his collection is. This is because newspapers, which are run by relatively normal people, assume that a collection has an item that is really the star of the show. They’re not used to the equivalent of a coin collector being asked to show his collection and then pulling out whatever nickels and quarters happen to be in his pockets at the moment.

Calling a big pile of crap a “collection” is more than just a way for the geek to make all his junk seem fancier. It’s not just a way to justify buying it in the first place (“Even though this astromech droid is just a repainted R2-D2, I collect droids.”), it’s an excuse for buying more junk. It’s also an excuse for buying the same junk again, which is a bonus thing geeks love doing. Hasbro has made a fortune selling Star Wars action figure “collectors” the same characters over and over again. Some toy collectors love generic soldier figures because then they can buy the exact same toy several times to make an army for their “collection”.

Since buying and owning stuff is a central tenet of geekdom, and this provides a means to both justify and propel doing so, geeks LOVE collections!

4 Responses

  1. Guilty as charged, Your Honor.

  2. that…sounds like me and my rubber duckies. >.>

    and my stuffed penguins. <.<

  3. I’m digging the blog. Any chance we’ll see an entry on self-diagnosed Aspergers?

  4. [...] a new one and it’s there, so I have to get it. Completion is the alchemical marriage of Collections and Accuracy, and is essential to the [...]

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