As an agent-buying philatelic material at auction for others I feel it is best that I do not collect nor deal in order to maintain a proper neutrality and so best represent the interests of my clients.
Every so often, and recent Bermuda and Pinkus sales would be examples, the room fills up with members of the relevant collecting societies and the atmosphere is so hot with erudite discussion and the sheer joy of collecting that I feel left out in much the same way as when I have to own up to not liking football.
Collecting is a strong urge in many men - I don't know many who don't collect one thing or another. My neighbour likes to collect my unwanted auction catalogues and fills his evening with unfulfilled lust being able only to look while his disposable income goes into his delightful daughters' school fees. Another neighbour has an extraordinary number of bicycles - all bespoke and finely tuned to whatever whim the cycling conditions dictate.
A good specialised sale makes me realise how very devoted is the collector and how hard he works at developing his knowledge. I have denied myself that satisfaction and pleasure but I am not without a few collections of my own. Many though are formed from the same instinct that prevents us throwing bits of wood or odd length screws away - the belief that one day these will be useful. That explains the dozen or so mobile phones, the seven computers, the plastic bags and the old suits. And of course a cellar full of timber offcuts and a tin of screws that must weigh 20 lbs. Finding that one screw I need can take a whole morning - much more fun than going to a DIY store to get it, and always results in sort of Eureka moment when the perfect screw with the right length, the right thred, the right head, and in the right material is found
But of deliberate collections I am nearly ashamed to admit I have formed a collection of china poodles. This obviously needs explaining (and quickly). Look, I don't like dogs and I especially dislike poodles, but there at an antique fair was a poodle cruet set. A what? My thoughts exactly. It seemed only fair that I rid the world of this abomination so I hatched a plan to collect some more and ritualistically dispatch them with an air rifle. Believe me there is no indignity that the ceramic artist will not inflict on a poodle icon. I have teapots, vases, brooches, bookends, hot water bottles, bedside lights, 'bondage' poodles (don't ask!), cigarette lighters and many more objects where whatever its function its form is canine. Hideous, pathetic, ghastly and with no merit of any kind. I love them all.
So believe me I know just where you're coming from when that mucky brown envelope, or that smudge of a postmark catches your eye.