Collecting Old School Outdoor Things

January 27, 2016 greg wagner

My wife thinks I am a hoarder. I believe I am a collector of things.

Everybody collects stuff, right? Some folks collect baseball cards and other sports memorabilia while still others everything from Mason canning jars to antique jewelry to knives.


Me, well, I collect outdoor things  –  vintage outdoor things. The world is rife with items to collect, whether homemade or manufactured, when it comes to hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, camping and boating.


I even have an old Nebraska Game and Parks Commission work patch I purchased at a rummage sale for $1.00.


To me, collecting means more than just “collecting.” It is a quest. It is a life-long journey that is never truly complete, and it’s fun.


Are the outdoors-related things I have collected worth anything?  Sure. I know the value of many of my collectibles (almost to the penny) , but never sell a thing.  I see my collection of old outdoor pieces as a combination of art, nature and history that cannot be let go. Every item or object has its own story.


Collecting, after all, is a pursuit that requires a fair amount of passion, purpose and persistence.  Okay, I’ll admit that the scale of my collections is a little overwhelming. They occupy a significant amount of space in the Wagner basement (outdoor cave), especially considering they don’t actually get used for anything other than to be occasionally picked up and examined.


I collect old, vintage outdoor items to remember and relive the past. My keepsakes stimulate memory and trigger fond memories of adventures.


But even if my memory cannot be relied upon faithfully reproduce a record of the past, it remains vital to my understanding of it. I have always felt that it is difficult for us as a society to determine where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been.

People have been collecting things for centuries. Research by anthropologists suggest that collecting is a basic human instinct; a survival advantage amplified by eons of natural selection. This research shows our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scarce, tangible, valuable objects may have been more prone to survive long enough to bear offspring.


But more relevant than the reason you happen to collect valuable items, is the connection to nostalgia and the treasured, historic past. Psychologists say that collecting, like most intensely personal activities, has the capacity to let the collector live in another world for a while.

This may explain why people collect old war memorabilia in an effort to recall the romantic aspects of war while not forgetting the true horror of such times.

Some folks have asked me: “What good is all that crap?” This stuff is pretty important to me and my fondest memories. I feel closer to my chosen pastimes of hunting and fishing. Anything that can bring the “good old days” back to life, if only for a few minutes, is worth it!


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