Collectors and Hobbyists 

Who spends what on their hobby? Do men or women spend more? How old are they when they do this spending? What hobbies? Find some of the answers here. And what I don't know, I make up.

A while ago I wrote on The Psychology of Collecting:  It's kind of a mental thing –running the gamut from a mild quirk to a full blown mental illness.  I stress that we all have this quirk to one degree or another.  (My own quirk, fr'instance, runs to books, tools and empty barbque sauce bottles.)  But what was interesting was the number of people who seemed to find my ruminations on the topic interesting and wrote back.  With this in mind, I offer another take on the world of people who are truly committed to their hobby, but this time with numbers.  Not particularly valid numbers, but interesting numbers none-the-less.

SLICE #1   --the Most Popular Hobbies:

This is from Yahoo's GROUPS....    I'm not sure what the noun would be ....   'portal' perhaps.  It's a list of bulletin-boards started by various hobbyists.  Other hobbyists then surf along and post stuff –opinions, questions & answers, pictures of stuff they have made / collected / found / whatever.  Pretty neat actually.  People helping people and all. 

With any statistical abstraction, it's important to ask yourself what does it really say.  Seems to me that the following is not so much a picture of how many folks are involved in a given hobby, but rather how many people are involved in a given hobby AND are internet savvy. My own interest in woodworking –for instance- comes in a little lower then I might have suspected, but are the good-old-boys (and girls) who are into making saw-dust also computer geeks?  Some are certainly, but not as many as electronic hobbyists for example.  Computers operate –as I understand them- with electricity to one degree or another.  Notice the popularity of ham-radio as a hobby. Comes in higher then wood-working, and these people can talk to one another on their radios for-goodness-sake.  Why would they be attracted to posting things on the internet?  Beats me, but numbers don't lie.  Except -of course- when they do. 

I begin with what Yahoo calls simply "Groups".  Here are the number of bulletin-boards for each of Yahoo's groups -smallest to largest:


Katrina 448

Government & Politics 95376

Hobbies & Crafts 96986

Health & Wellness 139550

Games 152085 Science 158060

Religion & Beliefs 204690

Romance & Relationships 234660

Computers & Internet 251322

Recreation & Sports 252405

Regional 255427

Family & Home 277112

Music 281020

Business & Finance 293101

Cultures & Community 313565

Entertainment & Arts 462565

Schools & Education 767769

Notice that Hobbies and Crafts really is not that big a category.  More important -or more interesting then Government by a few percent, but bupkis compared to things like Entertainment and the Arts or Education.  Let's have a look at just how Hobbies and Crafts breaks out.


Hobbies and Crafts:

Home Repair and Remodeling 1084

Models 8610

Other 17826

Collecting 18853

Hobbies 25113

Crafts 26446

Beginning with the smallest category, Models, (Home Repair etc doesn't have sub-categories), we have the opportunity to draw some totally unsubstantiated -yet interesting- conclusions about men & women and their hobbies.



Science Fiction 171

Military 209

Boats and Yachts 253

Rockets 370

Scale Modeling 536

Radio-Controlled 545

Aircraft 767

Horses 769

Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles 1345

WarHammer 1423

Trains and Railroads 2187




From Models, we move on to Collecting. ("Other" doesn't have sub-categories either.) The list of Collectables is way too big to put on a bar-graph, so I offer the above just to give you a feeling of the relative popularity of a few selected collectables.  The entire list –with numbers- follows:

Thimbles 8

Spoons 10

Food 11

Pencil Sharpeners 11

Snowglobes 11

Tazos 11

Salt and Pepper Shakers 16

Matchbooks 18

Corkscrews 18

License Plates 20

Cans 22

Buttons 26

Lighters 24

Magnets 25

Jewelry 33

Medical 34

Housewares 35

Marbles 35

Ephemera 39

Telephones 39

Phonographs 52

Lawn Mowers 65

Arrowheads 70

Baskets 71

Christmas Ornaments 72

Engines 79

Bottles 94

Pins 96

Fans 98

Radios 106

Stickers 115

Appliances 121

Glassware 121

Knives and Swords 135

Cameras 147

China and Pottery 155

Breweriana 209

Candles 224

Furniture 230

Militaria 266

Writing Instruments 271

Beanie Babies 271

Miniatures and Figurines 292

Autographs 395

Rocks, Gems, and Minerals 415

Patches 517

Tractors 525

Music 579

Animals 590

Cards 646

Coins and Currency 739

Stamps 914

Antiques 981

Computers 1459

Collectibles 1494

Timepieces 2629


From collecting as a hobby, we move on to hobbies as a hobby(!!??!).  One would suspect that collecting ought to be listed as a hobby, but t'aint so. To some degree, if only semantically, collecting is a hobby, but if you scroll up and compare the number of groups dedicated to collecting to those dedicated to hobbies, you find about 19 to 25 thousand.  We might just say that collecting is so ubiquitous a hobby as to be something besides a hobby and have done-with-it. None-the-less, here are the numbers for HOBBIES:


Knotting 41(not a typo -tying knots)

Taxidermy 66

Dumpster Diving 94

Pyrotechnics 98

Duct Tape 112

Handwriting Analysis 127

Potato Guns 139

Bell Ringing 146

Puppetry 147

Juggling 204

Kites 204

Cocktails 219

Spying 272

Treasure Hunting 298

Rockets 370

Rocks, Gems, and Minerals 415

Pottery 458

Fighting 513

Smoking and Tobacco 586

Secondhand Shopping 610

Aquariums 646

Beer 944

Wine 991

Electronics 1126

Snail-Mail Pen Pals 2125

Amateur and Ham Radio 6341


Finally, we come to what Yahoo simply calls "Crafts":


Macrame 38

Gourd Art 56

Rock Painting 56

Lacemaking 59

Rug Hooking 61

Leatherworking 67

Blacksmithing 82

Egg Art 94

Basketry 98

Origami 138

Needlecrafts 223

Furniture Design 233

Polymer Clay 242

Candle making 325

Handcrafted Dolls 350

Mail Art 359

Spinning and Weaving 404

Ceramics 458

Woodworking 548

Jewelry Making 624

Soapmaking 656

Beading 761

Crocheting 1038

Sewing 1419

Quilting 2006

Rubber Stamping 2285

Knitting 2532

Scrapbooks 5574



SLICE #2  -How Much People Spend on their Hobbies:

This (these?) data come from the  Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This is, by the way, a rare good use of our tax dollars and I'd urge you to check them out if you enjoy numbers, statistics, trends and what-not.  I wasn't able to slice the data quite as fine as I'd like for 'hobbyists' but rather used the category of 'entertainment.'  Here is what I found:

Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment for the years of...

2003: 5.0%

2004: 5.0%

2005 5.1%

2005 is the most recent year for which I was able to find data. I'm guessing these numbers tell us more about the economy and people's willingness to indulge themselves. Up just a tad in '05


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment for ranked annual income quintile:

Overall: 5.1%

Lowest 20%: 5.1%

2nd 20%: 4.7%

Middle : 7.2%

4th 20% 8.4%

Highest: 7.8%

I'd have expected these number to go up more then they did. Appears that the richest people are actually less entertaining then the next to richest. Might have something to do with keeping up with the Joneses.


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by age:

Under 25: 5.0%

Age 25 - 34: 5.5%

35 - 44: 4.8%

45 - 54: 4.4%

55 - 64: 6.0%

65 & over: 7.3%

Looks like the best time to have fun is after you retire. Not a surprise, but nice to see it quantified.


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by members of household:

Single person: 4.8%

2 people: 5.2%

3 people: 5.3%

4 people: 4.7%

5 or more: 4.9%


These next tables need a little explanation. The Department of Labor and it's sub department, the Bureau of Labor Statistics deals with the modern "mixed / blended / extended / whatever" family by using what they call a "unit." A unit is 2.5 persons, 0.6 children under 18, 0.3 people over 65, 1.3 earners, and 2 vehicles. Don' ask me why, but it seems as good a solution as any. In any event, I don't know what to make of the numbers above. Considering the table below, it appears that newlyweds have a lot of fun, not so much after baby-makes-three, but when the little dear has grown up a tad, fun ensues again -or the little dear needs lots of expensive toys & crap to keep himself out'a trouble.


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by family make-up:

Hubby & wife only: 5.4%

Hubby & wife and oldest kid under 6: 4.6%

Same with kid between 6 & 17: 6.0%

Oldest kid over 18: 4.4%

"Other husband & wife" (?): 4.3%

One parent & one or more kid: 5.1%

Single Person: 4.7%


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by unit & employment:

Single -unemployed: 4.0%

Single -employed: 5.2%

Unit -no earner: 5.0%

Unit -one earner: 5.0%

Unit - 2 earners: 5.3%

Unit -3 earners: 4.7%

Not at all sure what to make of the previous. Unemployment doesn't seem to have much effect on how much we spend on having fun, A little, but not so much.


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by housing:

Home-owner w/ mortgage: 5.0%

Home-owner w/out mortgage: 9.3%

Renter: 4.2%

Urban: 45.2%

Suburban: 5.4%

Rural: 7.0%

Now this is interesting. Evidently a mortgage is a particularly onerous thing. Or does it tell us more about retired folks? The 4.2% for the poor renter surprises me a little. And look how much fun the rural folks are having. Is this because this is where all the retired people live, or is it too boring otherwise in the country?


Expenditures on entertainment by education, (in $1,000's):

  HS drop-out HS Diploma HS & some college Associates degree Bachellor's degree Master's & beyond
Total Expenditures (in $1000's) $27.4 $38.1 $43.9 $49.7 $61.4 $72.8
Entertainment Spendinmg: $1.2 $1.9 $2.4 $2.7 $3.2 $3.8
% of income spenton entertainment: 4.4% 4.9% 5.5% 5.2% 5.2% 5.2%


I decided to include the absolute numbers in this one. I have to -I'm a teacher and therefore a big fan of staying in school.


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by race:

White: 5.4%

Hispanic: 3.7%

Afro-American: 3.7%

Asian: 3.4%

I was thinking about not including the race stuff because I find it all a little overdone and distasteful. But then I had a closer look at the numbers. Here's the kicker -the Asian income is the highest in the bunch, yet their entertainment expenditures are the lowest. Are they are too busy learning and earning to be bothered with fun & games?


Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by region:

Northeast: 4.8%

Midwest: 5.3%

South: 4.9%

West: 5.6%

No surprises here -we have more fun out west then the rest of the country.  Apparently by a goodly amount too!



Portion of expenditures spent on entertainment by job type:

Managers & professionals: 5.2%

Technical, sales, and clerical: 5.2%

Service workers 4.3%

Construction Workers: 5.3%

Operators, fabricators, & Laborers 5.1%

Retired 4.2%

Now this surprises me.  I thought we had seen from above that retired folks spent more of their money on entertainment then us working stiffs.  But this slice puts them down there below the poor service workers.  Don't know what to make of this. I double checked and all, so I have to conclude there is something about their definitions or methods that I don't understand. Such is part of the fun of statistics.



SLICE #3 -Some Random Facts / Fact-lets:

According to Craft and Hobby Association, sewing is the largest hobby in America with related purchases of about $2 billion and and wood-working is second with sales of $1 billion.

Also, The U.S. craft and hobby industry was tracked in 2006 at $30.2 billion for annual retail sales. 57 percent of US households participated in crafts that year and the annual spending per crafting household averaged $476.

Sales to scrap-booking fans ran $2.55 billion in 2004. Scrap-Booking In America sez.... "Scrap-bookers are most likely to be females between the ages of 30 and 50. Eighty-two percent have a college education and nearly 50 percent are employed full time. 24.5% of US homes did some scrap-booking in 2004."


"The average value of scrapbook-related tools and supplies owned by scrapbook enthusiasts has increased by 80 percent to $1,853."

The combined sales for Hobby Lobby and Michaels, by the way, is about 5 1/2 billion dollars. You do a little math and this works out to $18 for every man, woman, and child in America. Do a little more math, (& make an assumption of who spends money in such places), and you find that every woman in America spends -on average- $54 in just these two stores. And I can hear it now -some woman somewhere is making the snotty comment about men, boys, toys and Home Depot. Admittedly, the per-capita sales for Home Depot, and Lowes -and just these two businesses- is $457. Now I don't know about the store in your neighborhood, the ones I go to have bigger and bigger aisles selling fru-fru appliances and the aisles selling tools, RPM, horse power, and such-like men's 'toys' are getting smaller and smaller. I suppose it'sjust a matter of time before lumber is gone to make room for a line of clothing. Norm Abrams and Al Borland each having thier own lines of flannel shirts perhaps?

Lest all of this seem unrelentingly silly, consider the history of crafts and hobbies -or as much of it as I'm old enough to remember. Remember giant resin grapes / balls in the early 60's? Stained glass in the late 60's candle-making in the early 70's, (according to one source, candle making peaked in the late 90's at just under $2 bullion in annual related sales). Macramé was in the late 70's, but in the early 80's we were all too busy with blow-driers and disco-dancing as I recall. Then along came computers and a hot economy and we were all entirely too busy to do hobbies till this scrap-booking thing came along.

I'd love to hear from you about what you might remember as the trendy hobbies from the past. E-mail me at