Collecting And Your Kids
My father and I started doing train shows in 1977. I was 13 years old. I bring this up because while I was talking to someone outside a recent show, his 15 year old son came up, and asked if he could take a 25 dollar offer on a 30 dollar item. I never had to ask my father if I should take an offer. We were like partners and whatever I did was OK. I was EMPOWERED to make decisions.
It is really rare for fathers and sons to share an interest in collecting toy trains. Most of the time, fathers cannot get their sons interested. I believe this is a direct result of the father's behavior. My father and I have a great relationship because we share a passion for old toy trains. We are envied by a lot of other father's who cannot get their children to share their interest.
Some cannot even get their kids to talk to them.
I have seen many behaviors by well meaning dads destroy any possible shared interest. Here's some of the things I have seen parents do:
Refusing to empower their children. This is about trust. This is about sharing information and building a knowledge base high enough to allow your children to make decisions. You should empower your spouse also. Wheeling and dealing is a lot of fun, and can even be a bit addicting.
I read a book recently that claimed the two biggest areas of neglect in a child's education were in negotiating and in expressing feelings. I am not very good at expressing feelings, (I am learning though!) but I am a fantastic negotiator. Buying and selling antiques and collectibles is a great way to build negotiating skills.
Second guessing every deal. My dad is one of the least resentful people I know. Once a deal is done, it is done, and there is no carping or whining about the outcome. My father never berated me for selling something too cheaply. This was actually a rare occurrence because I knew what the items cost us. I do remember selling a set of trains in 1978 for a hundred dollars and later learning it was worth 15 times that. Rather than getting upset about it- my dad didn't know the value of the set either- we decided to spend more time researching unfamiliar items before pricing them. Rather than being upset about a 1400 dollar lost profit, we viewed it as a learning experience.
Using children as laborers, rather than partners. My father and I were always partners. I never felt I needed his permission to buy something for our collection. I might have asked him for advice about prices and availability, but the decision was mine.
This leads to sharing the profits. I see many parents sell something and then spend the money without allowing their kids to participate in the buying decisions. This won't make the children feel a part of the collecting process. I look at some of the items in our collection and remember buying them. My dad and I used to get together in the motel rooms after the show, and show off our purchases to each other. We still get together a few times a month and share new finds with each other.
At the show, my father bought an old German train station from about 1905. It is wonderful. The look on his face as he showed it to me was fantastic. I have almost no interest in European trains, but still share his sense of pride in his acquisitions.
Today our collecting interests are diverging. I am getting more interested in 1920s pressed steel toys, and he is collecting European trains. When I was young, he was always very encouraging about my purchases. The phrase "Look what I found" has become an introduction to sharing.
If you have children and want to build a relationship like ours, share your joy with them. Allow them to find the enjoyment in whatever items interest them. Empower them, and they will feel a part of your collection, and a part of your life.Happy Collecting, PS you can see pictures of our train collection on Train99.com PPS This was originally sent out in November 2002 as an issue of my free Antiques and eBay Newsletter. I had so many comments about this issue I decided to update it, and put it on the website. Most of my newsletter columns will never be put online, be sure to sign up so you do not miss an issue. Use the blue box at the top of this page.
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