‘It's like a drug’: confessions of expert collectors
Take a look behind the scenes at the relatively closed world of collecting – with first hand tales from the collectors involved.
“Collecting is like a drug, because it can become a consuming passion that overtakes you if you’re not careful. You can get to a point where your collection becomes so specific and detailed that it can be impossible to achieve an overall objective and instead you become lost in a search for minutiae. You run the risk of becoming a nerd when you know all the calibres of every brand of Swiss watch movements or the bathroom timetable of all of Fabergé’s apprentices.”
Some may call collecting a hobby, some may call it an obsession, but for the auctioneers of the online auction house Catawiki, amassing collections of specialised objects has provided them with an extensive understanding and knowledge in each of their individual fields. This in turn has given them the luxury of pursuing a career founded on doing what they love.
In conversations with jewellery auctioneer Jonathan Cox (as quoted above), Jeroen Zoetmulder, auctioneer of archaeological finds and Mark Harrison, book auctioneer, all working for Catawiki, unearthing each of their individual journeys provides truly unique and fascinating accounts. How does one manage to build up such expertise in these niche markets?
Housing such collections is undoubtedly a challenge in itself
For Jonathan Cox, his jewellery collecting stems from a passion for design. Originating in an enduring love for classic cars, in particular art deco models such as the 1920s Talbot Teardrop by Figoni et Falaschi, he performed a u-turn and directed his collecting efforts firstly towards gemstones and then fine jewellery. Following the changing tides of jewellery design over time has captivated Jonathan throughout his career, as he has followed the ebb and flow of different styles and movements as they fall in and out of fashion.
Jeroen Zoetmulder made the decision to become a collector after using a metal detector to search for coins for a museum – and stumbling instead upon a beautiful onion bottle with rainbow-coloured glass. This pivotal point pushed him towards following his passion for archaeology, which began at the age of 12, when he embarked on his first archaeological excavation.
Collecting often comes hand in hand with obsession, leading its followers down the slippery slope of excessive spending in order to fulfil the never-ending desire for one more unnecessary item. As Jonathan Cox describes it, some enthusiasts “frequent car boot sales at stupid o’clock in the morning, desperate to go through people’s mouldy shoe boxes of costume jewellery”, all in the hope of uncovering that one hidden gem.
Collecting is like a drug, because it can become a consuming passion that overtakes you if you’re not carefulJonathan Cox
Admit it, at one point or another, whether it be accompanying your grandmother to a musty old antique shop at her request, or visiting a charity shop where you secretly hope to discover an old Chanel handbag, the itching feeling to be the next David Dickinson has at some point fleeted across your mind.
Mark Harrison, bookseller and fanatic originally from Buckinghamshire, speaks about having to reign himself in after he once spent €50 on a book in Polish, which he cannot read, just because it had a two-page introduction by TS Eliot, all in the service of enhancing his extensive Eliot collection.
After sourcing a first edition book of Eliot poems in a small bookshop in Dublin, Mark Harrison’s fascination took flight. His collection has since expanded to number around 5,500 books, with a definite focus on Eliot at the heart of it all. “I have virtually everything I will ever be able to afford (with regard to Eliot’s work), as I am not sure I could justify acquiring the €20,000 first edition of The Wasteland, so I tend to purchase signed letters and other ephemera.” Quite impressive for a collector of one of the world’s most celebrated poets.
The itching feeling to be the next David Dickinson has at some point fleeted across your mind
Housing such collections is undoubtedly a challenge in itself and, in certain cases, hiding your treasured items away from the rest of the world could be seen as a crime. With Jeroen Zoetmulder’s collection of artifacts spanning some 2,000 years from 200 BC to 1800 AD, it is not surprising that museums and antiques dealers have been knocking on his door in the hope of getting their hands on such a vast range of objects.
Whether it be a satisfying private hobby or a selfless stab at improving the cultural world through your collection, it is no secret that, by nature, collectors are experts in numerous disciplines. By utilising the expertise of the auctioneers at Catawiki, you yourself can discover that initial item that sparks the start of your collection, right through to finding that final elusive treasure to complete it.
To find a globally-curated mix of vintage fashion, jewellery, furniture, art, classic cars and rarities including old vinyl records, coins and comics, visit catawiki.com