Gift giving to collectors

Many people have some sort of collection, and I’m one of them. The collection began after I moved into my house, many years ago, and found that the pond in my front yard attracted some very vocal frogs. Now I look forward to the time each year when their croaking fills my nights.

Along the way, I began to acquire some art and décor pieces with a frog theme — along with a couple sweatshirts. I now have about a dozen frog-related items in the house. But that doesn’t mean I want gifts of even more frogs. I’m not totally opposed to additional frogs, but I don’t want the house to be overwhelmed with them, either. And I’m fussy about my frogs.

My brother, sister-in-law, and I were recently in Florida for my dad’s birthday, and one morning we did some window-shopping in an area filled with interesting stores. My sister-in-law kept pointing out the frog-themed items — fortunately, she was just teasing me.

So take this as a reminder that not everyone with a collection will want gifts that add to that collection. Some will appreciate well-chosen additions, but others prefer to do the collecting themselves, and some are looking only for very particular items. Erin, for example, limits her collection of Mold-A-Rama animals by only buying them herself.

To avoid unwanted gifts, some people with collections just don’t tell anyone about that collection. (That works well for collections that are not on public display in the home.) I’ve been told that one organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area told people she collected warthogs because that discouraged collection-minded gift-givers. But that was before the time when you could find almost anything for sale on the Internet!

But for the right person, an addition to the collection can be a welcome gift. Someone who collects Christmas ornaments, for example, might be glad to get a special one you’ve made yourself, found on a trip or at a craft fair, etc. Joyce Walder wrote in The New York Times about Bonnie Mackay and her 3,000 ornaments. (Each year, she places as many as she can on her very large tree.)

That Raggedy Andy on the tree is the first ornament a friend gave her; she had lost tracks of the friend, but the ornament kept his memory alive, and a few years ago, using the Internet, she was able to find him in Hawaii. It’s interesting, she says: no friend has ever given her an ornament she has not loved.

I had a neighbor who collected stamps and I frequently bought him additions to his collection. Not all stamp collectors would appreciate my random choices, but he did!

If you are at all in doubt, just ask your friends or relatives with collections how they feel about gifts that add to those collections. That way you’ll be able to give a gift that will be welcome, rather than one that’s just clutter.

7 Comments for “Gift giving to collectors”

  1. posted by Leslie on

    When I had first moved out on my own, I had a bit of a cow theme going with some of my DIY house projects and I was having fun with it. Unfortunately, some of my relatives latched onto it as a source of gift options and I was suddenly being overwhelmed with everything from dishes to figurines to stuffed animals. I transitioned away and boxed all those items up (sold them years later). Not long after, someone figured out that another collection had a decided “pear” type theme. From there, it went to something else. If I happened to have more than one particular item on display, folks assumed I was collecting. With my very small square footage, I have my collection pieces currently put away and they’ve been in boxes so long, I’m now looking to sell them as they no longer have the meaning they once did. Because of this, if I happen to ask about potential gift options for someone and they tell me what they collect, I’m careful to ask for more info before I venture into buying anything.

  2. posted by Cathie on

    I also have a collection of frogs, and I am pretty picky about them as well. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by well-meaning gift givers!

  3. posted by Catherine Paull on

    This video by SmartPak’s Sarah Mann is hilarious about gifts to people who have “special” interests. Fun to have this go along with the posting today!!

  4. posted by Abby on

    How true it is about the let me add to your collection as a gift. I think it comes from the idea that people don’t always know what else you might like so this is an easy one to take off the list. And some people can be difficult to gift to. My mother’s idea of make up was a tube of lipstick and her idea of perfume was herbal scented hand lotion. I had to learn to be very creative as her preferences eliminated huge swaths of options.

  5. posted by laura m. on

    For mature and elderly folks, a food basket is best, knowing what they like like herb teas, chocolates, cheese, etc, otherwise a grocery store gift card is appreciated. I have a collection of frogs like Cathie, and am picky if I add to them, the cheaper looking ones I moved into the flower bed. So if you have any frogs, cats, rabbits, etc. items or too many, park them in the flower bed.

  6. posted by Mercury on

    @Leslie, lol that’s too funny, my mom had that exact same problem but with owls. She had two owl things of some sort in her house, and then all of a sudden everyone is giving her tons of owl stuff for some reason. “Well, I guess I collect owls now?”

  7. posted by Cathy on

    I collect orchids….and people LOVE to give me their out-of-bloom, mistreated orchids. I’ve been frantically trying to offload some of them, but have only found one person willing to TAKE an (thriving, well-cared-for) orchid.

    I appreciate the thought, but I don’t want any more orchids unless they are a few more unusual varieties I’ve had my eye on….and even then, not until I pare down my current collection.

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