The grouping of similar objects can be an exhilarating experience for visual people. In fact, a common denominator of any connoisseurship is the contrasting and comparison of similar objects. As a boy, I collected coins, among many other things. As I built my penny collection, I was constantly looking to improve it by replacing a coin of lesser condition with a better one. My fellow collectors and I graded coins by two key attributes: condition and rarity. Of course, the more rare the coin, the more forgiving you could be as to its condition. For example, just to own a 1909 S-VDB penny in any condition — as long as the date of the coin was legible — made your collection extremely special. With only 484,000 VDB pennies released to the public in 1909, the VDB was the holy grail of the first wave of wheat penny collectors. As for my collection, I never found one, and never knew anyone who owned one.
Today, collecting a group of similar objects, like my penny collection, can be as simple as grouping just the photographs of similar things. I am reminded of the popular poster I have seen of “Doors of Ireland,” where a photographer grouped and contrasted similar front doors. The many shapes and colors were an instant hit in decorator shops. Putting similar objects side-by-side allow you to see the beautiful and often subtle differences.
This week I share the taxonomies of many things, from groupings of actual objects to photographic comparisons, like Wisconsin deer stands. Quirky collections are the most fun. I have a friend who collects fallen cat whiskers from the floor of her home (they have 10 cats). The whiskers are displayed on the windowsill of her kitchen, in a small bottle. The whiskers sit large end down and emerge from the top. Looking like a small shaving brush, its mystery and reason for being collected at all defy the rational. I think it’s great.