Difference between collector and scavenger is negotiable

There is a world of difference between a collector and a scavenger. Or so I’ve been told. The husband says he is the former, not the latter, which is a matter we will likely continue to debate for another 30 years.

This collector penchant explains why we have one of the coolest toys ever that we constantly trip over in the garage. It is a pliable 3-inch square casing about 6-feet long.

When I asked where it came from, as he dragged it from his car one day, he was vague. When I asked exactly what it was, as he washed it off with the hose, he was vague. Collectors often are.

The point is, he immediately knew, and I never would have guessed, that this casing would make a great straightaway for Matchbox cars. Kids can drag the long floppy thing into the house (“Watch out for the clock! Don’t knock dishes off the table! Her head! Watch your sister’s head!”), prop it up on the arm of a sofa and send small cars through it. The higher you prop one end of the tubing, the faster the cars go, the more dramatic their exit, and the wilder the laughter and screaming.

To a collector, every single thing has a thousand potential uses. My collector refuses to acknowledge that even small scraps of wood are trash. To him they are the makings of a teeny, tiny fence or a teeny, tiny house or a teeny, tiny chair. I don’t know who the teeny, tiny people are, but apparently they will be coming to live with us.

Collectors and non-collectors see things through different lenses, including television programs. My collector enjoys “Antiques Roadshow,” a program where people bring treasures they inherited or had tucked away somewhere to an appraiser who puts a price on them.

“You say this shot glass was hidden in the pie safe of your great-great-great-grandmother? Well, it is obviously hand-blown glass. The markings tell us it is from the mid-1700s, similar to shot glasses used by Ben Franklin, which means it is worth $3 million.” The owner of the shot glass staggers in disbelief. My collector cheers and I, the non-collector, say, “Goodwill couldn’t sell that thing for fifty cents. It’s only worth what someone is willing to pay.”

On the other hand, I enjoy, and my collector does not, “American Pickers” where two guys in a van drop in on hoarders—I mean collectors—rummage through their stuff and buy it from them.

“Look at them ripping that guy off!” my collector fumes. “He could get so much more for it. Don’t sell!”

Meanwhile, I’m cheering, “Sell! Sell it all! Clean out that entire barn and you could have a really great party room.”

Despite fundamental differences, it is possible for a collector and a non-collector to make peace and live in harmony, albeit amid substantial clutter.

A collector will continue to acquire oddities, while the non-collector will quietly set said oddities beside the trash on garbage day and hope they will disappear. They do. Another collector has picked them up and the great collecting cycle continues.

Whatever it is I may have managed to set out, keep it. Please. I insist. From a non-collector to a collector, it is my gift to you. Except for that long hollow tube thing; we’re keeping that.