According to Steven W. Anderson, a neurologist who studies hoarding behavior, the need to collect stems from a basic drive to find and gather basic supplies such as food. Collecting can involve expensive items such as artwork, signed editions and rare antiques, or inexpensive or "free" objects such as bird feathers, sea shells or stamps.
Not only do I enjoy the thrill of finding valuable items for mere dollars at thrift stores, but I also love to beachcomb. Often as I hunt for sea shells, I'm struck by how primitive man probably did the same exact thing for survival, searching for edibles, usable materials and even pretty stones and shells to make trinkets and jewelry with.
One of my particular passions is soft sculpture, especially artist-made teddy bears hand-sewn from mohair and alpaca, as well as vintage Steiff stuffed animals (also made from mohair) that are toys, antiques and works of art. (Steiff is a German manufacturer of dolls and stuffed animals and has been in business since the early 1900s.)
Four years ago, much to my absolute delight, I discovered the Steiff poodle pictured above at Center of Hope thrift store in Oxford, Alabama. It was just one of many donated stuffed animals crammed onto a shelf. As soon as I touched it, I knew it was mohair. Mohair is made from the wool of the Angora goat and has a slightly oily feel to it that man-made plush doesn't have. A Google search quickly confirmed that what I had was a genuine Steiff made during the 1950s-1960s, and I later validated that by identifying the poodle in the Steiff Sortiment (a catalog of everything Steiff has ever made).
I paid a buck for the Steiff poodle. It's estimated value is over $250. Not a bad find.
The tigers in the photo above are also vintage Steiff from the 1950s and were found on eBay for a great price, too.
One of my goals this year is to write an eBook on the ins and out of thrift-store shopping and bargain hunting. Not only are these past-times green (recycling used possessions), but they're also fun and relatively inexpensive. Plus you never know just what you might find on an excursion to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Check out the gallery below for more pix of some of my vintage Steiff finds!