COLLECTIONS & COLLECTORS

COLLECTIONS & COLLECTORS
Luigi Fabbri

What is born first, the collection or the collector? Probably the collection, by a casualty, often from few pieces collected here and there, in different moments in our life. We can discover a couple of clasp knives in one drawer, coming from who knows where; by searching in the web, we learn that these are models for hunting of many years ago. In the same pages, we find many other types of knives: one is too nice. A click, and it is ours. Surely, others will follow. The recurring visit to virtual markets or to the more fascinating flea ones is pleasant; the search of something special becomes a treasure hunt. And before we realize it, we became knife collectors. Or of regulators, professional diving helmets, underwater spear guns, old diving camera housings. The initial input can be other than this but what does not change is the next step the search of the unavoidable multiply of things in our row.

            Being collectors is a true hobby or a foolish loss of time? It is something for a misanthropic person or for exhibitionists? It is a serious maniacal form as such or a serious historic-technical-cultural engagement? Let’s leave it out. There are tens of definitions in which crude intellectuals talked about, together with grouchy wives. Being collectors is simply a passion that must be followed as such, warm or hot.

But, what is a collection? The dictionary says, “an accumulation of objects gathered for study, comparison, or exhibition or as a hobby” (Merriam-Webster) however, it is logic to differentiate it, not only for the number of collected pieces, nor from their value but for the criteria with which the collection is carried on. The “ideal” collection should have, as target, the completion of a series, of a cycle, of a time period, goals sometimes impossible to reach; fully references to follow are mandatory; for example, one can try to put together all regulators manufactured from one historical producer or, all professional diving knives made in USA or, professional diving helmets made in Italy or, military diving or, oxygen rebreathers. A collection can  present in a much more variable way, not of a single-theme only but to include different years and types of products of the same sectors. In fact, several people dedicate to collect regulators, instruments and accessories from the pioneer to the most modern age or, they search anything referred to the professional deep divers, from their pumps to their helmets to their knives.

To form a serious collection, each part must be photographed and described in a form which contains its main data, among them but most important, its manufacturing date, at least approximate. Without this information, this part is impossible to be considered in the correct time frame, to insert it in the historical moment where it belongs.

If someone is too lazy for such a classification, we talk about “butch or grouping”, instead of collection. These meanings seem similar however, the words give less importance to the first ones, where it is intended a smaller effort, demanded in the second one. This is a common choice, as you can see searching all different websites and blogs. Some people show endless series of regulators, helmets, spear guns or instruments, with rare, precious and most envied pieces that, surely, we will never have.

So, how can we get the desired information? Surely, the web represents the simplest way and our expanding website was born with the goal to give the maximum support and knowledge regarding the diving sector and the autonomous diving. The hundreds of high definition pictures, the technical forms, the files with years are, without any doubt, of big help to know or recognize any special gear.

In case time and patience spent with the computer do not bring satisfactory results, it is needed to search in historical books and catalogues, specialized magazine, user manuals, advertising. The way to find them brings you, again to the flea markets. But, are we sure about the reliability of the information found? Having on hands price lists or catalogues of different following years of a manufacture and crossing the data we can remove any doubt, but we must not trust blindly a certain advertising, or a date or a specific technique written in a book or in an article, above all in internet. Mistakes are current for everybody and people have the tendency to copy each other thus, expanding these mistakes like wildfire.

If we are sorry for the missing circulation of technical-historical information in the web, we are perplexed to see the insufficient care given to the pieces proudly shown, quite often dirty, in a state of neglect since years and left in their original condition. We refer to the lack of a simple cleaning, that can be made in few minutes with soap and water, a small brush, vinegar or any specific preparation for limestone, a cloth with fuel for grease residues. We are not talking about restauration, they are two different things and this matter would take us far away. We must be careful regarding fake or phony items in which, a large crust, oxidation or a dirt stockpile difficult to eliminate, can be specifically made to hide something. Also, some stickers should be regarded with suspicion; they may hide a gash or something worse.

            All these problems, common to collectors or gatherers seem to interest another third category, people who “pile up". These are serious people dedicated to get everything and more, apparently without a goal. They have bunches of objects of diverse types, sometimes double, triple, quadruple and they continue to get more. They don’t make sub categories for sectors, they do not fill any form nor lists; probably, they don’t even have the idea of the pieces they own. They pile up for their own satisfaction, for fun to search and find. At the end, it is this fun that gives the input also to the most serious collectors.

Someone sometimes sells a piece but, selling for him/her, it is not its/her final target. Salespeople are other people. As it is obvious since it is their job, they buy at the lowest price to resell quickly at the maximum price possible. Well prepared, often they are careful collectors so, their engagement is shared between collection passion and profit. They are not too well considered by other people because they mix sacred with profane however, they can be precious to give out complicated things to sell or to procure a special part, difficult to find; also, they are interested to let people know that they are reliable and this avoids any sort of unpleasant surprise, always present when you purchase from strangers.

            When you buy from salespeople you do not save mush, although it is not easy to estimate which is the “right” price. You must be careful not to take as reference the prices shown in the offers; they can be too high, because of the seller optimism or exaggerated, for someone who want to distort the market. There is a very old, simple system: you offer something two or three times at a very high price, let’s say, for example 1.000, then you repeat the offer with different names and pictures, another time at 900, then at 1.100. None buys but you give a value. After a while, with another visible difference, the same object is offered at 600. A big saving, it seems a good bargain; after few days, the unprepared buyer discovers that the item’s good price was 300. So, in the evaluations, one should consider only sales really made, by making an accurate average of the prices really paid. This result will give a reliable indication of the real market value  of that specific object, with the percentage variations of its conditions and to the presence or not of accesories.  

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