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Collections: Investments or Fun?

Beverley Paine

It starts out small… Children love to pick up interesting things and you put them in your pocket, take them home, look them up and display them for a week or two. Sometimes the item is too interesting to throw away, or your child finds another one. You find a shoe box or container and suddenly your child has a collection! Nostalgic parents and grandparents often fuel children’s passions for collecting with their fond memories of their own childhood collections. They know from experience that collecting has educational advantages.
Collecting is a great hobby that engages children’s interests and develops many skills. Saving up and spending money builds maths skills as well as learning how to budget and manage money. Some items help to develop reading and vocabulary skills. The organisational skills necessary for managing a collection translate into other areas of life.

True collectors appear at around age 7 or 8 – that’s when children can organise their collections beyond a single attribute such as colour, size, shape or type, and begin to use hierarchical classifications. Old children recognise that things can be classified in many different ways and are more flexible in their thinking. Organising, sorting and classifying collections naturally build cognitive skills. It’s at this age a budding bibliophile will reorganize his books into alphabetical, or category, order, rather than by size of book. A rock collector may focus on location or crystal type, or both. Dating, labeling and protecting items within the collection begin to become important.

Not all children will become avid or accomplished collectors. Some will move on, leaving their simple collections on the shelf, easily letting go of the need to collect which may be replaced by a variety of hobbies. Most children, however, will at some stage succumb to a less positive aspect of collecting.

Driven by the need to socialize and be accepted within their peer group they feel compelled to purchase and collect items popularized by merchandizing giants capitalizing on best-selling books, movies or television shows. It’s ‘cool’ to collect the latest fad. On the whole, homeschooled children seem less infected with this competitive reason to collect, but it can be the cause of anxiety for cash-strapped parents or disharmony within homeschooling groups. What begins as a sharing, fun activity can quickly turn to a form of class division between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ which, in turn, can give rise to disturbing anti-social behaviour, such as hoarding and stealing.

Parents need to be involved, but not to the extent that they take over by searching for items instead of the children finding or buying them. It is difficult to teach children about economics and the value of working for things when it is always given to them. Children need to be shown how to balance their desire for collecting with the areas of their lives, particularly when it comes to managing their money. This might involve helping them to set limits.
The resale or swap value of collectibles can have positive and negative consequences. While it teaches children about investment, some children will become more concerned about the monetary value and less about the fun involved in building, organising and managing the collection. Parents may need to step in and talk about the child’s motivations. A budding investor will use this experience to build valuable skills she’ll need later in life. Another child may be doing it to take advantage of others, or to be accepted among her peers.

Most children aren’t interested in investment, but if the collection merits it, encourage them to collect good quality items and keep them in top condition. Items can be kept in boxes and packaging or it can be stored for when the investment will be realised. Recording information on how the item was collected or where it came from – its history – may increase its eventual value. Most children collect stamps, postcards or coins and all will increase in value if kept in good condition over time. Mass production of commercial fads means these items will rarely increase in value, even if they are released as ‘limited editions’.

The bottom line is that whether you are an adult or a child, it is best to collect what you are most interested in rather than on the speculation that it will one day make you rich.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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