Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Childhood craze collection - Pokemon etc

There's something a little different about childhood crazes when thinking of collecting. In many ways the collection urge is as strong if not stronger than the most dedicated adult "serious" collection, yet often we don't know why we collect these things - the very conscious decision to become a collector of something is almost superceded by an instinctive need. Now we could say it was peer pressure or simply wanted to join in, but I think it is more than just that. I was struck when talking to my dad about his childhood collections in the 1950s how completely surreal some of them were - paper cut offs from the printer's for example - he had no idea why he collected them, but that was the craze amongst him and his friends, so he did it. I'm fascinated about when something as rational as collecting can become irrational.

I can strongly remember the crazes when I was little. There were the usual marble collections. And then there was a craze for yoyos, flower seed packets (?), friendship bracelets, and then there was the toys. Cabbage Patch Kids (no way according to my mum - but I remember the scenes of hysteria in the shops), trolls (likewise), my sister was obsessed with Beanie Babies, but I don't think there was anything like the current craze for Moshi Monsters, or that late '90s wonder that was Pokemon. Now I have a soft spot for Pokemon - Bulbasaur was my favourite as he was like a plant tortoise dinosaur - what's not to like - but even in the cartoon's catchphrase "gotta catch them all" there was a new marketing savvy insight into the different between a collection and a craze and the potential of combining the two. Kids I spoke to at the time who thought it was funny that I knew about Pokemon (this was their vs the grown up world's), didn't just want to complete their collection, they felt something was lacking if they were missing certain Pokemon. They felt they would be happier if they had them. I don't remember this strength of feeling when I was younger - I would have like more of the toys I liked but I didn't feel I was missing something vital - there was no craving - collecting wasn't an addiction. And whilst collecting can be like that for an adult collector, there it is a conscious thing, but with some of the kids I don't think they understood why they wanted these toys. Do you really love Pokemon was almost a confusing question. Why do you want all of them, even more so. I'd presumed kids wanted them because they liked the characters, that they were creating a fantasy world where they were powerful and could battle and win, that there were some they would want because they liked them best, but not others, that they essentially functioned like any child collection of the past - that they offered imagination expansion and escape, or at least complex games with their pals. But this seemed more like Dad and his paper cut offs - they didn't know why they collected them, and it seemed more about competition with their friends than competing in imaginary creature battles. It was almost collective collecting, yet rather than sharing, each wanted to have the most.

Now of course this is not the case for everyone - I'm certain there were thousands of children who genuinely loved the Pokemon world and played amazing games, and in many cases I may be over thinking this. And I'm not anti such collections even if I was being cynical of marketing forces etc. I also understand that both children and adults can have serious Pokemon collections, and I think that's as great as any other collection. There's no hierarchy of what's collected here on museeme! But I do think it's interesting to think of where collection meets craze, and whether the true collector (that can be of Pokemon!) thinks differently. I guess this could be answered by how craze collections tend to get moved on from and forgotten about when the next craze comes along, whereas with true collectors it can be a lifelong passion. Again I'm not putting a value judgement on that. I just find it interesting - things like how these crazes arise, where the next one will come from, how much they'll influence the childhood memories of the next generation - are we all partly formed by the crazes we live through? I don't know - but for now here's some photos of rather good Pokemon collections. Gotta catch 'em all, after all...

From Dabid Robinson

From Emakura

From Kayleigh 29

And my personal fave

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