Personal Finance And Nostalgia

My wife has an enormous collection of Breyer horses, most of which are still in their original packaging. She began collecting them when she was seven and was still adding new ones to her collection as late as her college years.

Currently, this Breyer horse collection resides in several large storage containers that have largely sat untouched for years. Every once in a while, we’ve discussed selling the collection (it does have some significant value), but when we go down there to take a full inventory and some photographs, she pulls out a few of her favorite horses and is taken to a land of nostalgia. Before long, she puts them back away, having convinced herself again that she shouldn’t sell them.

I’ll confess to a similar feeling when it comes to my vintage baseball cards, particularly my almost-complete 1965 Topps set and some of my pre World War II cards. I know they have cash value, but whenever I look at them, a pure wave of good feelings and nostalgia hits me and I end up putting them away again. At this point, I’m actually considering some display options for my office for a few of them.

After telling these stories, you might think that I would chide myself for hanging on to these things. They’re not good investments – they don’t appreciate much (the vintage baseball cards are holding value, but the Breyer horses are slowly sliding) and they take up space in our home.

However, my belief is that if an item provides significant emotional value to you, you should keep it. I’m not planning on liquidating that baseball card collection anytime soon and I’m even slowly looking at finishing that 1965 Topps set.

Doesn’t this fly in the face of any sort of personal finance advice? I don’t think so, and here’s why: items that provide emotional value are providing value. I get a lot of happiness from looking at many of my old cards, just as my wife feels happy when she looks at the Breyer horses. The objects have a value that’s not quantifiable, but it does exist.

If you have a collection of some value in the basement that makes you feel happier every time you look at it, don’t sell it unless you have no other choice. You might have money that will make a better “investment,” but a mutual fund won’t put that funny, happy feeling in your stomach.

What about growing that collection? That’s up to you, but as a general rule of thumb, collecting things usually winds up costing far more than you’ll ever get out of it. Thus, only collect things if they bring significant emotional happiness to you and also honestly ask yourself whether the feelings for the things you do have are nostalgic and whether adding new ones would improve that feeling or not.

As for me and my baseball cards, I’m looking at framing and hanging some of my 1930s Goudy cards – I think they’d look gorgeous in my office and every time I look at them, I think of my grandfather and some wonderful memories.

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