Gift Giving for the Collector in Your Life

There is something special about gifts that lead to the gifter and giftie spending time and doing something together. And if this something benefits the giftie's hobby or collection, we have a wonderful and memorable gift. (And if it tidies up the clutter, so much the better for all concerned.)                       

Do families still make gifts for one another -or glue things to other things for Christmas decorations?  Some of my favorite childhood memories involve baking and gluing and painting and generally making for the holidays.  The following takes this tradition and does it for the collector in your life.

Perhaps the kindest thing you can do for the collector in your life is to validate his or her collection. This is to say, to be interested and supporting –or pretend to be interested and supporting as the case may be. The following is about how to give your collector a gift for his or her collection. If doing so tidies up a little of the clutter –so much the better.

Ponder this –a hypothetical collector has this compulsion to collect something or other –something he or she values a lot. He has undoubtedly taken some grief over this compulsion –teasing and what not. And pity the poor spouse or parent of our collector. Suppose our collector is 7 years old and collects live snakes and puts them in shoe boxes. Snakes that once in a great long while get out and go walk-about in the house. It takes no imagination to get a mental picture of Mom’s reaction –and that of the entire family for that matter. One hates to dampen a child’s enthusiasm –perhaps he has a terrific future in zoology, but come on –snakes all over the house? The solution is obvious. This child needs terrariums! Everyone wins. The collection is safely isolated. The collector has the where-with-all to further his or her collection. The snakes are happy. (Presumably a good thing.) But there is one more important issue here. Mom is not apt to be able to select the next snake to add to the collection –the kid is the expert after all and knows what he needs next. The really terrific thing here is that the terrarium gift says to the collector that Mom may not like the collection, but respects the collector. If the collector and collection is not a child and snakes, but a husband and his pocketknives or a wife and her figurines, makes no never-mind. No telling what knife or figurine to buy next, nor is the un-anointed gifter qualified to select the next reference book, but a nice terrarium to keep the knives or unicorns captive? Perhaps not a terrarium, but you get the idea. And if it gets a bunch of them off the coffee table and windowsill, everyone is happy

The least enjoyable part of any otherwise interesting project is the gathering up of tools and materials. (I can hardly bear to call it by it’s real name, ‘shopping’ but this may be a problem men have more then women.) So do the gathering up for the giftee, wrap it all up in a pretty box, and you are done.

Let me give you a f’rinstance: One Christmas years ago my sister and I had little money for a nice gift for our mom. Now Mom had a huge collection of old photographs leaking out of assorted paper sacks. Between us, my sister and I had a half dozen nice cardboard boxes –like the kind shoes used to come in –good- stout boxes with lids. (Boxes that were proud of the shoes they held –not the wimpy ones you find today.) We wrapped up these boxes into an admirable big package. I had all manner of paint in my shop so we poured a few ounces of latex out of the gallon cans that I had into food jars. We (my sister actually) knew Mom’s taste in color and so she selected the paints and even blended a few colors especially for Mom. I had brushes, (I buy them by the dozen), acrylic, rags, felt and glue for the bottom of the boxes, and even newspaper to put down on the table before the painting started. We wrapped this all up in another admirable package. After some initial confusion Mom was delighted with the gift and it got better!

In the Harvey family tradition, Christmas morning was a busy time of going to mass, breakfast, opening gifts and getting the Christmas goose into the oven. Then things quieted down and we would sort of knock around till dinner. That particular year, however, Mom, my sister and I spent a delightful couple of hours sitting around the kitchen table painting the cardboard boxes. My sister was into faux-finishing even before it got trendy, (and much longer before I got into it), so she supervised. While painting, we chatted and started the ‘taters, made cranberry Jell-O, & occasionally basted the goose etc. I must stress that it was fun and painless because we had done all the gathering-up before hand. There was absolutely nothing anyone had to run downstairs to get. Nothing that needed to be done outside, nothing that needed to wait till someone picked up something at the hardware store. The paint was even dry in plenty of time to clear it all away before dinner and then after dinner, the whole family got involved in reminiscing and sorting the photos into the boxes. The boxes were different sizes, but because they were finished the same way, they looked very nice indeed and would stay on one of the end tables in the living room for years. And every so often, when the family would gather, someone would pull out some pile of pictures or other and have a nice stroll down memory lane.

But I digress. The point I wanted to make was that this gift was inexpensive and very appropriate and one of Mom’s all-time favorites. What makes it different from the well-intentioned project-type gift that sort of gets pushed out onto a cluttered workbench in the garage, to be forgotten and eventually tossed or sold at a garage sale?  My sister and I did EVERYTHING that we could possibly do to make the project easy, and we did it ahead of time. So the whole thing took 2 hours –start to finish –and no one had to even leave the kitchen –or even get up from the kitchen table for that matter- ‘cept to throw out the newspaper and used-up paintbrushes. Now my family is the sort that is big on making and building and doing, but in one way or another, any collector can be gifted in such a way, and maybe even lead to some mutually enjoyable time spent indulging the collector and tidying up his or her collection.  This is particularly so with kids.  Have a look at my thoughts on Last Minute Gifts for the Kid Collector.

So if there is a collector in your life, give a little thought to helping him or her do something nice for their collection. There are so many MANY different collections, that I won’t even try to list them and tell you how to display or protect a specific collection, but I do have a lot to say about how to do so for generic collectibles. Read these articles and do the shopping and gathering up. No one likes to read instructions so you can also make a gift of this little chore. Here are some ideas that might lend themselves to gifting to a collector.  Be sure to check out all my How-To Articles.  Any of the following hold potential for a kick-ass gift for the collector in your life AND the potential for an enjoyable interlude of mutual quality time.

Have fun.

What do I need to say about knives as collectables? 

Take something -any-damn-something- and put it in a shadow box and it instantly becomes a treasure.

An absolutely elegant way to high-light valuable -and delicate- collectables.

Easy Home-made DISPLAY STANDS: 
Here is How-To quite literally put something on a pedestal.

Riker's are -hands-down- the easiest way to display and protect small collectables.


©  Bill Harvey  November 2005