An article in Smithsonian Magazine brought collecting to my attention. Most of us have collections. We often start them by accident, having begun by browsing garage sales, auctions and inheritance. I found my one-pound coffee can collection in the crawl space of a rental house. I have 15 of the metal cans, some from the 1940s; once, they were another person’s trash.

Cousin D’Esta collects tiny elephant figurines – a lot easier to display and store. Jack Moore had a collection of automobile promotional models, identical to the real thing but in miniature. Most were 1:24 scale, which means 1 inc...

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