Richard Riccelli was born in 1954. That same year, Richard’s father, Carmen, did something legendary. He started a tradition that lasted through future family generations and strengthened his friendship with Richard. It opened doors of adventure, exploration, treasure hunting and hours of fascinating stories. What can do all that? A collection.
Carmen Riccelli worked for the United States Postal Service as the chief clerk for commemorative stamp sales. From the day Richard was born to the day Carmen retired in 1980, Carmen and Richard’s collection included every new commemorative stamp issued over the twenty-six year span. “It includes wonderful issues and plate blocks and first-day covers. Some famous. Some valuable. Some that were even flown to the moon and back,” Richard recounts in his blog, www.ideasincirculation.com. More than that, the collection holds the memories of their anticipation and acquisition of each unique piece in their collection.
Whether you collect rocks, video games, stamps, embroidered patches or bottle caps, your collection says something about you. But when your collection is shared with your parent or grandparent, it says something about an experience and a relationship through a common goal. It’s a hobby and an heirloom all rolled up in one.
Choosing a Collection
If your father didn’t start a collection on the day you were born, don’t sweat it. It’s never too late. But chances are your dad already has a couple treasures, like maybe a Civil War bullet or ticket stubs from a Beatles concert that would make for a great start. Or perhaps you and your dad love baseball. You’re always checking stats and watching games together. Sports offer endless possibilities for collecting cards, balls, pucks, tickets, jerseys, pennants and autographs.
Another approach is to think of what you want to get out of it. Collections typically fall into three categories: entertainment, legacy or investment. Your collection can have elements of all three categories, but one will be the driving force. For example, if you are obsessed with the Titanic, you may collect Titanic pens, Titanic models, Titanic books. This is basically for entertainment. You and your dad may be runners and you save your race bibs. These keepsakes tell the story of every race you participated in. They become a legacy. Or maybe you live for the hunt. Your thrill comes from earning, searching and bartering for rare artifacts that may one day be wildly valuable. Investment collections are a huge hit among fathers and sons because Dad’s got the cash and Son has the time to do the research. Win, win.
Not every collection means dollars. When my son found my husband’s old stamp book, we dig through his grandparents’ closets to find old letters and postcards. He had a blast, and now their keepsakes are missing the upper right corner ; )
Starting a Collection
Experts in the business of collecting will advise taking your time. Buying the deluxe album and the 12,000-piece stamp set is just going to lead to anxiety, and frankly boredom. The whole point in collecting is the experience that goes with it; the story of conquest. There is a bond of partnership with your dad, and pride when you score your first contribution. It’s about early morning flea markets, tradeshows, challenges of knowledge, negotiation and endurance.
Collections can also be epic. Eric Cohen and his father, Richard, have been collecting Three Stooges memorabilia for twenty years. Over the years they collected 19 sets of the 1959 Fleer Stooges cards, driving up the value from $200 to $3,000. They’ve even nabbed personal items like Larry’s violin and social security card.
Once the collection bug takes root, you never know what new experience, bit of history, or one-of-a-kind treasure could come into your life. And like life itself, generational collections continue on and on, long after you.