Collector or Completionist

Much like all things shared on the Internet, often times what one reader, member, user etc. shares is done so with them assuming that everyone reading or listening thinks like they do. And often times, they’re completely wrong and it quickly turns toxic.

The other day on one of the GI Joe Classified subReddits I follow and participate in, some member was going through some consternation about the fact that a Hasbro Kickstarter-style project (HasLab), a $300 pre-tax toy, will include a handful of exclusive figures that will be individually numbered. In typical form, there were folks criticizing him for his concern, then others complaining about Hasbro creating a “money grab” with this project and hurting their loyal fans who couldn’t afford the $300 toy. Here’s an example of how the GI Joe Classified figures are numbered:

An example of the figure numbering

What I didn’t get at first about the person’s complaint about the numbering was that because this relatively expensive and limited-production toy was beyond their monetary means, and that by numbering the exclusive figures included with the HasLab project, they wouldn’t be able to “complete” their collection because they wouldn’t have access to buying these figures individually, typically around $25 USD each. The person went on to sound as if they’d be okay if the figures weren’t numbered so they wouldn’t be, figuratively speaking, “missing out” on something part of the official collection. As I read it, at least in their mind, a complete collection is governed by a complete series of numbered items.

Now, I’m not criticizing anyone’s way of collecting versus mine, but it did give me pause. Outside of comic books, where you actually need to get every issue so you can understand an ongoing story or plot, I’ve never been one who felt they had to have one of everything in any toy series that I’ve been a fan of over the years. I only asked for or bought what I wanted, not the characters or accessories I didn’t.

So this got me thinking about how many toy collectors out there who feel like they need to have it all because a collection wouldn’t be complete without every piece or part of the series or wave. I’ve seen this type of collector being labelled as a “completionist”. This isn’t new with toy lines. Mattel’s Hot Wheels has been numbering the individual vehicles in a series for decades. Then again, we’re talking about little cars or vehicles that go for $2-ish each, so if you’re actually lucky enough to find all of the cars in a series, it’s a lot less of a pain to the bank account compared to 6-inch action figures which run around twenty-five bucks each.

Again, I’m not here to criticize how anyone chooses to enjoy their hobbies. After all, we as consumers of this stuff have no obligation to “collect ’em all” as the toy companies tried to program into our heads in the 1980s and 1990s. That being said, perhaps there are those collectors out there who actually do think they need to have every piece, and that for reasons of their own, to not “have ’em all” means that their collections–or worse, they themselves as fans of this stuff–aren’t worthy, complete, or whole as collectors.

I’m definitely someone who only buys what I like; a collector of things that bring me joy. I neither have the need, the financial means, nor the physical space for things that don’t fit that criteria. So how about you? Are you a collector or a completionist?

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