Human beings have always set themselves apart from the natural world because of the way we interact with the environment around us. Where all other animals – apart from birds – are generally stuck to the region where they evolved, humans instead invented the means of getting around as fast as possible. Where the animal kingdom does not ever have the need to collect and use items, humans around the world have created collections of items for countless millennia.

Here we will delve into the science behind the human desire to build collections of various items, and why it’s so important to so many people from around the world.

Anxiety and Helplessness

It’s generally agreed upon by most people that life is totally unpredictable, and anything can happen at any time. While this might be a comforting thought to some, many others feel an intense anxiety for not being able to control the world around them. Anxiety has become more common than ever, and for many, finding ways to manage and control that anxiety is vitally important to maintaining mental health. Psychologists have postulated that we tend to create collections of our favourite items as a way of stemming the amount of anxiety that we feel.

With our collections, we are able to build our own worlds within our homes, a world that we can control and organise, helping us shrug off the uncertainty of the real world. This isn’t a concept that can be applied to every collector in the world, but it does help explain why many feel a great sense of comfort by owning a specific collection that means something to them.

The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is an extremely potent experience that our brains can sometimes treat in the same way as taking a drug, just without the harmful side effects. Nostalgia is usually created from something that we experienced as children, which can often be in the form of a powerful memory that ultimately shaped who we are. For a car collector, for example, they may have driven in a very nice car when they were much younger, and it was an experience that shaped their feelings toward cars and driven them to collect them later on in life. It’s a way of retaining and strengthening that feeling we had when we were young and keeping it fresh in our minds.

Monetary Gains

For many others, building a sizeable and rare collection is often done for the monetary rewards that are associated with it, similar to how gaming for money has become a popular means of making an income. Collections tend to be based on more valuable items, such as vintage baseball cards of vehicles, meaning that when the collector has finished putting together their favourite collection of their chosen item, they can then sell it as a whole and make a tidy profit. Money has long been a motivator for many of our modern actions, and building impressive collections is often an easy and straightforward way of making an investment without getting the bank involved.