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Do you have collections within collections?

Updated on January 12, 2017
JanTUB profile image

All my life, (71) I've been collecting odds and ends, starting with my tiny sewing machine. My new husband Bob collects too. Two bowerbirds!

If you're a bower bird, you are bound to have several different collections.

You begin collecting every item you see for your collection of [thing]s, then you start to become more discerning.

You weed out what's not good enough, you swap your extras and you look into the history of your [thing].

Refining your sets of favourite things is so enjoyable, letting you focus on what's missing to make the collection complete.

A collector is:

(from the dictionary)

accumulator, antiquarian, antiquary, authority, compiler, connoisseur, expert, fancier, finder, gatherer, hobbyist, and pack rat (my favourite!)

Collecting things of a certain genre

makes more exciting collecting

If you collect china plates, for example, you can buy them in almost any antique, thrift or second-hand store.

But if you collect china plates that are only side plates, then the search gets a bit more involved, and you'll perhaps get more enjoyment.

What if you decide to only collect china dinner plates from England and only those from the first half of the 20th century?

Now that's a much more exciting quest!

Collecting Clarice Cliff ware is very specialised, as is Dutch Delftware, whereas Art Deco pottery is a wider collecting niche, and blue and white china or pottery is also.

You can narrow your pursuit to a very small section to make the chase more titillating, or to a not so small sample, so that you can have more to choose from when you are on the hunt.

Clarice Cliff Ravel design. Image from Wikipedia Commons

Detailed Clarice Cliff Ware - book on Amazon

The Complete Clarice Cliff: A Collector's Handbook
The Complete Clarice Cliff: A Collector's Handbook
Find help with dating the pieces in your collection, or identifying the names, and the period

Collecting plates is one of my passions

I don't discriminate

I collect what appeals to me, be it old, not so old, or even new. I buy for the aesthetic appeal, not for the intrinsic value.

But, I could narrow my focus to, maybe, blue and white plates. I have several of these because my favourite colour is blue, and my dining room has dark blue walls.

Or I could centre my attention on English china, or even more tightly focussed, on Shakespeare plates.

My children have given me gifts of blue and white plates from time to time, like the hand-painted rooster side plate which Rachel gave to me.

Of course, I have a Willow pattern plate. Who doesn't?

Antique blue and white plate - from my collection

The backmark - from the plate above

Blue and White book - on Amazon

Miller's Collecting Blue & White Pottery
Miller's Collecting Blue & White Pottery
Find out which blue and white pottery is the easiest to collect. Hone your collection.

I collect ducks, too!

Not live ones...

The full story is on this lens, but the basic picture is that I owned the national patchwork magazine in Australia for a time.

It is called Down Under Quilts, so everyone calls it duQ (duck) for short.

My late second husband, Paul, started this wonderful collection.

There is no honing-in for this one, it's any duck at all.

Some presents from others were a bit of a stretch, they were really geese, but what the heck!

That's my duck egg cup. Ducky isn't it?

Bob collects Tonkas

trucks, dozers, all sorts

As his collection grew, he started to home in on special items.

My husband doesn't like the 21st century much, so it's no surprise that Bob won't have any of "that plastic rubbish".

Latter-day Tonkas are Chucky® and friends. Cute round-bellied trucks and helicopters in bright colours.

Little kids of today love them, but not Bob.

He only likes the tough Tonka® trucks and cranes that little kids had last century. The older and the more delapidated they are, the better he likes it.

Bob grew up in an orphanage, so he didn't have any toys to speak of, certainly no Tonka® trucks!

This is more Bob's style!

Beginning the collection

Buy, buy, buy

Bob started out like all we collectors do, full of enthusiasm, and buying almost any old toy metal tractor, bulldozer or truck.

He haunted what he calls "junky shops" in the hope of finding that one old toy truck hiding in a dingy corner. He went to recycle stations at the all the dumps around us, dragging me along while going out visiting.

It's amazing how many junk shops and dumps are near all our family's and friends' homes.

Who knew?

Bob's first buy

for his toy truck collection

Bob bought a very old rusty tractor which was in such bad condition, I wondered if he could restore it at all.

His skills in that area were minimal, and at the time he wasn't good at taking suggestions from anyone, least of all me.

He spent hours using a brass wire brush on his drill to get the surface cleaned up, and still it was not a really great job. He was having fun, though.

I suggested that he might like to use my Dremel®, but because he'd never heard of one, he refused to even look at what it was.

"I'm know what I'm doing!", he'd say.

Angela and I asked if wet and dry sandpaper would be helpful, but no.

He knew what he was doing!

He used canned spray paint and no primer and the end result was not so good, but he was having fun.


... he bought another old metal toy

Bob spent hours and hours and used many, many sanding disks to do the job.

We asked why he didn't use paint stripper, and his answer was:

You guessed it!

"I know what I'm doing!"

We persisted and he tried it. The rest is history.

Here's the tractor before and after — an extreme makeover.

Old tractor - for restoration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This how it lookedA sad little pile of bits and piecesFreshly painted spare partsThe finished tractor. Wow!
This how it looked
This how it looked
A sad little pile of bits and pieces
A sad little pile of bits and pieces
Freshly painted spare parts
Freshly painted spare parts
The finished tractor. Wow!
The finished tractor. Wow!

Many hours and wire brushes later

He asked me what was a Dremel

I opened the Dremel® case and he still couldn't see how tiny little sanding disks were going to be useful.

But he did try it, and wondered why I didn't show him earlier!

(Bob is ADHD and he's very difficult to shift! Read about that side of him on this lens.)

He even uses primer for bare metal now, AND I bought him a spray gun.

(That's another story!)

eBay: A collector's delight!

Online stores

During the restoration of this one, I taught Bob to use eBay.

Silly me!

A collector's delight, and he found that he could search for exactly what he was looking for without leaving the house.

After the tractor was finished he had decided that he would only buy Tonka® brand vehicles and really that he only likes the old ones.

He was beginning to refine his collection.

Online purchases can be problematic

What is sold is not always what is described

We discovered to our cost that the word 'tonka' has become a generic term for any metal truck or tractor that is black and yellow.

Bob got so excited when he won his first eBay auction. A box of Tonka® trucks of various sizes. The pictures on the auction looked good and the description said they were Tonka® trucks, but...

They were not.

Only one of the six was, while the rest were various other yellow and black metal trucks that were masquerading as the real thing.

I thought that he could do them up too, but by now he was collecting only Tonka® brand toys.

This one's an old Boomaroo truck - from a mid-20th century Aussie toy company

It was old and battered, but Bob couldn't resist this one.

Everything old is - new again!

Copyright notice

Unless otherwise specified

All the images on this lens are my own.

© Jan T Baillie 2009-2020


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