THE THIN ARCHIVAL LINE
A cultivated museum connoisseur sees a roomful of weapons in the Tower of London and marvels at the minor diversity of each piece.
A hoarder sees the same room and thinks of the screw collection in their kitchen drawer.
A philatelist breaks out tweezers and a magnifying glass to plumb the depths of her new stamp collection.
The hoarder hears the word stamps and goes off while they walk the canyons of Sunset Magazines stacked in their living room.
“Stamps are stupid,” they say. “Don’t they know it’s just a stamp, not some cultural insight? Sunset Magazine is about life. So is National Geographic and newspapers. If it’s stamps they want, they can have them.”
The difference between collecting and hoarding is often a question of public and private.
A collector takes pride showing their treasure, unless it’s Nazi loot or pot-hunter grave robbing; a hoarder lives in quiet shame once they reach the point of an intervention.
Unique collections get showcased on the Discovery Channel. Hoarders find themselves on Oprah or A&E.