Editor’s Note: A Rumination on Collections

An unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 has sold at auction for $1.56 million. That follows the sale of an unopened copy of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda, which sold for $870,000.

My brother will be very happy to hear that.

What we called the “top barn” back home in Massachusetts (he raised his kids in the house where we grew up, and he and my sister-in-law still live there) is full of unopened, unplayed-with games, toys, dolls, etc. If only one hard-to-get toy were available, my brother’s children lost out to the top-barn stash. 

He collects lots of things, as does my sister. I’m missing that gene. I buy quality and keep it forever – furniture and clothing – and I don’t add to it. If I bring in something new, then something old must leave. That’s true whether it’s a chair or a T-shirt. 

I do keep old photo albums and letters from my grandmothers, and I have way too many books. Beyond that, I don’t like the accumulation of “stuff,” and collections feel like too much stuff. That I’ve never rented a storage unit or devoted time, money or energy to maintaining a collection is probably un-American. But you can’t force emotional connections, and I don’t make them with “things.” When my sister hears me say that, she recoils in horror. 

My detachment from possessions makes me a go-to for friends and family members who have difficulty cleaning out clothing closets. Upon request, I go in with a ruthlessness that’s maybe a little conjured for the occasion, but merciless nevertheless. Arguments and tears are not uncommon.

The psychology of collecting can be dark, particularly Freudian perspectives (no surprise). Toilet-training issues generally lie at the root of most of Freud’s theories. I may be exaggerating, but I’m more of a Jung fan, admiring the many uses he finds for his archetypes. Collectors, he says, are probably tapping into the collective unconscious and view their collections as not dissimilar to the collection of nuts and berries once needed for survival.

That I eschew collections and collect nothing at all may be a pathology of its own. I’m no doubt missing out on a certain kind of joy and camaraderie. And although it probably means I sailed through toilet training, I would not have been an effective member of a gatherer tribe. 

If you’re waiting for this to go somewhere relevant, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. The sale of the games and the ensuing introspection about collections were brought about by an impending visit to my hometown and my brother’s home – where you can be sure I’ll be scanning the top barn’s shelves.