When I look through my collection of knives, coins, arrowheads, and antique juicers (thanks mom), I’m reminded of the many items that weren’t always deemed “collectible.” While it’s true that many collectibles were created to be just that; a collectible (think collectible card games), many more got their start for more practical reasons. For example, let’s take a look at a few items that have made the transition from a tool to a collectible.
So what constitutes a tool? Several definitions in the dictionary define the word as “something used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession” or “a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task”.
A stone arrowhead wasn’t created to simply be collected and exchanged. It was first created to perform the task of hunting game for food. Antique juicers were not made to line the top of my mother’s kitchen cabinets. They were made to be used on a regular basis to make juice from fruit.
How an object transforms from a “device used to accomplish a task” to a collectible differs from object to object. I believe for the most part objects become a collectible because they have become obsolete as a daily tool; yet still retain some value, be it historical, sentimental or as a “backup” tool. For example, handmade Native American stone arrowheads have historical and aesthetic value but were replaced as a daily tool by other materials such as copper and steel. Even mom’s juicer has been replaced by new electronic versions (although they can still squeeze the heck out of a lemon should the power go out).
Maps Becoming Collectible
During the last half of my interview with Ray Hunt; a collector of historic maps of Florida (among other things), he shared several old plat books with me. Ray had been given these books, which featured the area of Miami Beach, Florida, several years ago by a longtime friend and fellow real estate appraiser.
These plat books started their life as a tool. The books were (and sometimes still are) used as an aid by real estate appraisers and others in the real estate industry.
Plat books are simply a collection of plat maps drawn to scale to show property boundaries and are used for all sorts of purposes from outlining streets to splitting up sections into individual lots. At one point, your residence was formed from a block of land outlined in a plat map. Maps like these (only digital) are used by government employees and real estate professionals to first identify property boundaries and then outline what becomes the actual legal description of your property.
In just the past 20 years, modern versions of these maps, and the data they contain, have been migrated from the printed page to solely online. Like so many tools which came before them, these printed versions have became obsolete. For people like Ray who have a great interest in the history of a region, these maps became a welcome addition to their collection. These maps are now used to see “how things were” back then and how much has changed. In a way they have come full circle. First as a tool, then just a collectible, and now a tool once again. Only this time their purpose is for historical research and sentiment rather than current research and application.