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Becoming an Astute Collector – Coopers Corner January 2020

The magnetism that collecting arrowheads and other artifacts is difficult to resist. Once you have found or acquired your first relic, it is difficult to own just one. We have a need for more, a want for more, a desire for more, a quest for more and a drive for more. In essence, collecting, whose definition is “to bring or gather together” gets into our system and occupies our mind for hours and hours. I’ve heard collectors refer to it as “the fever.”

Luckily others have this strange affliction, so we need not feel alone or crazy. In fact, collecting is part of human nature. It actually may run throughout the animal kingdom, as our pets collect their toys, crows make collections of odd things and most certainly other animals have similar behavior. However, just random collecting really leads nowhere, while astute and educated collecting can lead to a collection that is of interest to others and can bring financial gain. It also can elevate one’s standing with one’s peers, as an interesting collection attracts attention; in essence a magnet for others to ogle over and admire. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is only when one comes to grip with the motivations behind the collecting urge that a collector can start to truly enjoy the hobby.

Astute doesn’t necessarily imply the collector with the most money. Money helps build a collection, but someone can collect affordable or even odd “inexpensive” relics and gain just as must notoriety as the collector who spends thousands. This is because what it really comes down to is knowledge. There is nothing more valuable than knowledge of the relics you collect. What is it? Where did it come from? Who owned it before you? How was it made? Who were those who made it? And on and on and on. There is really is no delineation between the field hunter and the top shelf relic buyer except for the knowledge they have of what they collect.

It is impossible to collect and know everything. You cannot do it! Even the biggest collectors of all time became overwhelmed trying to horde it all, and most likely would have failed the knowledge test. A room full of things you know nothing about isn’t a collection, it is a mess! Thus, you need to start small and slowly over time build a collection. Along the way study what you add and after a few years you will be surprised at how much you know.

Knowledge is not just found in books. It is found with your fellow collectors. In fact, they can impart years of experience in just a few minutes that a lifetime of reading might not gain you. So becoming an astute collector means you must talk with and share ideas with your fellow collectors. You will learn from their observations, and they from yours.

Sharing your knowledge by writing is one of the ways you can reach many of your fellow collector. These days, you do not have to get published in a magazine. You can easily share ideas and thoughts on the forums of this website or in various Facebook groups. This practice does come with some risk, as sometimes the feedback is erroneous, mean spirited or wrongly directed. But it can also be very enlightening to you and others. The sharing of knowledge is always a plus!

In addition, showing your artifacts on the forums and Facebook will further enhance becoming an astute collector, as others will see what you have collected. They will respect you and your collection (even better is taking your collection to a show and creating a fine display as the most mundane of arrowheads can be displayed in a way to attract attention).

Sometimes showing your collection will bring a different sort of knowledge – heartbreak. It takes an astute collector to admit they made a mistake and bought a bogus artifact. Or maybe they typed it wrong, finding out it isn’t a treasured Clovis point. Maybe you paid too much. Maybe the papers that came with it are bogus. These are lessons that will in the end be positive for your collecting experience. If you take these lessons to heart you so will not make the same mistakes again. I see a lot of collections that no one has ever shared. Sadly, many of these collections are full of bogus and fraudulent artifacts. Had these people shared some of these things when they acquired them, they would have either been able to return them and/or not made the same mistake again. I just watched on Facebook a long video of a “big” collection. 75% of it was truly old, but the other 25% were obvious no-brainer modern bogus pieces. The sad thing is that the bogus pieces bring down the truly ancient relics. I believe that sharing your collecting from the start will protect your investment, reputation and increase your knowledge.

Becoming an astute collector should be your aspiration. Others will respect you and your opinion. Your collection will gain fame. Collectors will approach you first when they part with something that fits your collecting direction. You will feel good about yourself and not try and fight “the fever!” So start on the road today to becoming an astute collector. You will never regret the decision.