The price of nostalgia

Published February 26, 2021, 8:00 AM

by AA Patawaran

Nostalgia is a very expensive thing. We put such a premium on time, except we only see its real value in hindsight, when we can see it for all it’s worth.

There’s a Paul Anka song from 1975, “Times of Your Life.” It somehow captures how profitable our memories are, starting with its first line, “Good morning, yesterday,” as well as the whole point of collecting, which, as its urgent lyrics put it, “Gather moments while you may, collect the dream you dream today.”

In this week’s Panorama, we’re training the spotlight on (re)collections, whether it is the Magic: The Gathering trading card you bought for P2 in 1995 that now costs ₱4,000 or it’s a replication of the fairies and zephyrs dancing in the head of the Mad King, the Fairy Tale King, the Swan King, King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the window of Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo’s lifestyle and home furnishing store AC+632 in 2015.

While memories, indeed, are priceless, not all collectibles are investment-worthy, so if you are in it for the money, do it wisely—diamonds maybe or a piece of property on the cliff or a Patek Philippe or a Lamborghini? Or some kid artist who might be the next Elmer Borlongan or Ronald Ventura.

A great private collection is a material concentrate that continually stimulates, that overexcites. Not only because it can always be added to, but because it is already too much.

—Susan Sontag

Maybe that’s not a lot of fun, if you’re just in it for the money, unless money is what you truly want to collect. A friend of mine once told me that it was not enough to dream of Paris or a Chateau Lafite or the Grand Riad at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech if your dream were to be rich. Because you can have them all without having to be rich. That’s true. Rich friends are all you need. So how to dream of money? I asked my friend and she said, “Well, dream of money.” To this day, I have no idea how to dream of paper bills and gold coins and blank checks without getting bored.

I’m also not sure how it would be fun to collect something that eventually you want to get sold. I collect books and even the worst of them I cannot sell to save my life, but maybe because they aren’t also worth very much. Now, if I had a copy of the Codex Leicester, essentially Leonardo da Vinci’s science diary, which was purchased in 1994 for $30.8 million, or even the 1477 edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was sold in 1998 for $7.6 million, I probably would have something different to say.

I guess, the thing with collections is that you will need to enjoy them first. Sometimes, the fact that you have had them makes them more collectible, that is if you were Madonna or the Duke of Sussex or even, say, Manny Pacquiao. But have a little faith in yourself. Who knows who you might be five years from now?

Every piece in your collection is a record of the past and its message, with hope, even for those who might bid to acquire it in the future, is exactly what the Paul Anka song says about memories of which we are fond. They are “time that (we) borrow to spend when (we) get to tomorrow.”  

What are you collecting now?