When the Village of Ashcroft recently acquired a scale model of a portion of the town that was created for an episode of The Twilight Zone, I noted that it joins two other models the village owns: one of a mine, which is on display at the Ashcroft Museum, and one of the downtown, which I have never seen but which was created in the 1990s by the Revite Committee, and is currently in storage.
I said — only half-jokingly — that when you own one of something … well, you own one of something. When you have two of something, you have a matched pair. When you own three of something, however, congratulations: you now have a collection.
The other day I came across a news story about a Florida physician who recently passed away and left behind a collection of sports cards that is valued at around $20 million. When Thomas Newman’s collection goes to auction next month, one item — a 1933 Babe Ruth card in near-mint condition — could break the $5.2 million world record price for any single sports card.
Newman’s widow, Nancy, says that her husband “loved his paper babies. He got such joy out of it.” Newman pursued his passion over 40 years, driven by the love of it, not by thoughts that the collection would one day be worth millions, and it’s apparent that his family knew of his hobby (if one can use so mundane a word here), and appreciated the happiness it gave Newman for four decades.
The same cannot be said for another family, that of a British man who collected silver. His son brought several of the items to Antiques Roadshow after his father died, and while the exchange was certainly interesting, it was also undeniably sad.
During the course of talking with the silver expert — who was almost apoplectic with excitement over the quality and rarity of the pieces — the son revealed that while the family knew about his father’s habit of going to estate sales and secondhand shops all the time, and vaguely knew that he sometimes picked up a piece of silver, no one had any idea what he bought, or why, or what happened to the pieces. After the father died, the pieces were found, wrapped, under his bed, and it was only then that the true extent of his collection was revealed (when the silver expert found out that the pieces the son had brought in were only the tip of the iceberg, I thought he was going to faint).
I’ve been a fairly serious Sherlockian for many years, and as the Sherlockian world tends to attract collectors, I’ve met a fair few in my time. Almost without exception, their collections have been proudly displayed, and they have been more than happy to share their passion with others. And while it’s wonderful to see and learn about some beautiful pieces of Sherlockiana, it’s almost more fun to hear the story about how and where the pieces were acquired, and share the joy of the collector.
That is what makes the silver man’s story so sad: that he never shared his passion with anyone else, preferring instead to keep it a secret and stash the pieces under his bed, out of sight. I expect the family sold them, and made a tidy sum, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they would have preferred it if Dad had bought fewer pieces and shared a bit more about them while he had the chance.
Which is what makes Thomas Newman’s story such a happy one: he had the joy of collecting, and his family had the pleasure of sharing that with him. If this story has a moral, then it is a simple one: if you’re a collector, share your collection with others while you have a chance. If you know a collector, feel free to ask them about their collection. And most importantly: never, ever throw away those sports cards. Your family might thank you one day.