About Collecting from the 1939 issue of The Numismatist

The December 1939 issue of The Numismatist included "The Collecting Instinct," by George A. Pipes, long-term contributor to the journal. He suggested that collectors are born, not made, and "if the germ is in the blood, it will break out sooner or later." The writer went on to say:

"The passion for collecting presents an interesting study for the psychologist. Neither from self-examination nor from observance of others have I found a satisfactory answer to the question, ‘Why do we collect?’ I have noted, however, certain inherent tendencies present in varying degrees in all collectors. These I shall attempt to describe.

"The most universal characteristic is a love of order. It is a labor of love to arrange and to compare and to classify. This affords the collector the greatest satisfaction, and proves one of the strong inducements for collecting. This love of order marks the essential difference between primitive and civilized man. Classification and comparison form the bases of all scientific knowledge and is accountable for all human progress. Without it, so exemplified in the collector, man would still be living in caves or in nudist colonies, and would be using clubs to kill his kind instead of bombs and poison gas.

"Akin to the love of order is a desire for completeness. We strive for complete sets of things, whether they be coins or stamps or books. This desire is shown in date collecting. It furnishes an explanation for the very popular hobby now sweeping the country of filling up cent boards. That provides amusement for people in every walk of life. The street urchin and the college professor vie with each other in their quest for elusive 1914-Ds. The passion for completeness affords a clue to the mysterious disappearance of two billions of Indian Head cents which no longer serve as a medium of exchange! . . . "

The love of ownership was mentioned as another characteristic of collecting, as were the gambling instinct and "the desire to be important."

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

[email protected]

Hong Kong Office • +852 2117 1191

[email protected]

Global locations

Additional representatives
available worldwide.

* Walk-ins welcome

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

There was an error signing you up to our newsletter.
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.