Collecting in Popular Culture

Films, books, and music containing collectors in some degree are not as scarce as one might think. After all, collecting has played a rather significant part in society, both as a hobby and to some extent as a profession. This fact is reflected in the popular media.

Whenever we read a book or watch a movie, we pay attention when collectors occur. This has so far not lead to anything but a shortlist with the potential to grow. When we have a wider choice of titles, we will try to analyze them somehow, maybe try to identify how the fictional collectors are portrayed compared to the real world.

For now, we’re pretty happy just adding one fictional collector after another. To make sense of the list, here are some helpful definitions.


What Media?

​Book (B)

Film (F)

Music (M)

Other media (O)


What Categories?

1. Collector (C)

Someone says or does something that identifies that character as a collector. It can be something the character tells or shows (e.g., a collection of collectibles) and mentioned by others.

2. Collection, Collectible (Co, Col)

Something referred to as a collection or a collectible is described or shown.


0-9

39 Clues (F, C)

Dan Cahill is a boy who collects a lot of stuff, among them baseball cards.

40-year-old Virgin (F, C, Co)

The protagonist collects action figures.

A

Adventure of the Three Garridebs by Arthur Conan Doyle (B, F, C, Co)

John Watson meets his old professor, Dr. Nathan Garrideb, a collector of natural history and curiosities in general.

Adventure of the Illustrious Client by Arthur Conan Doyle ​(B, F, C, Co)

The sadistic character, Austrian Baron Adelbert Gruner, is a collector of Chinese pottery.

B

​Batman (F, C, Co)

The Dark Knight shows his private collection of historical memorabilia to a lady.

C

Collector by John Fowles (B, F, C, Co)​​

The novel and the film give a less than positive image of a butterfly collector.

G

​Ghostbusters (F, C)

One of the main characters, Dr. Egon Spangler, states that he collects spores and fungi.

Guardians of the Galaxy (F, C, Co)

An Elder named Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector, is a character in this movie. The Collector collects artifacts and living things across the universe to repopulate and educate the universe if annihilation should occur.

H

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (B, C, Co)

Kostova’s novel has many references to collecting, among them a walk through a repository of antiquities.

Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (B, F, C, Co)

One of the characters, Jack Stapleton, collects butterflies and even shows his collection to Dr. Watson.

J

Journey to the Center of the Earth (B, C, Co)​

Professor Lidenbrock has an extensive collection of minerals.

L

Living Daylights by Ian Flemming (B, F, C, Co)

The American arms dealer, Brad Whitaker, shows his extensive collection of militaria.

M

Man with the Golden Gun (F, Co)

Mr. Scaramanga has natural curiosities on display in his house (shells, insects, etc.).

Manhattan Murder Mystery (F, C, Co)

One of the main characters, Mr. Paul Robert House, is a stamp collector.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (B, F, C, Co)

The film and novel by John Berendt portray Jim Williams, a dealer in antiques who also collects art and historical artifacts.

Murder Rooms: The Kingdom of Bones (F, Co)

Reuben Proctor is the curator of a museum of natural history and antiquities.

Murder Rooms: The Patient’s Eyes (F, C, Co)

Mr. Turnavine is a collector of natural history. He is financially independent and spends his days tending his private museum of natural history.

N

National Treasure (F, Co)

Ben Gates gives Abigail Chase an election button to add to her collection.

Ninth Gate (F, C, Co)

Several book collectors with evil intentions have libraries to die for.

O

On Her majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Flemming (B, F, C, Co)

James Bond visits M, who is busy arranging his collection of butterflies.

S

Sahara (B, F, C)

The sidekick, Al Giordino, claims that his father collects coins.

Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (B, F, Co)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson visit the estate of late colonel Sholto. One of Sholto’s sons informs Holmes that his father was stationed in India and had amassed the curiosities on display in the house.

The Simpsons (F, C, Co, Col)

The Comic Book Guy becomes the evil alter-ego The Collector in the episode Treehouse of Horror X. He collects celebrities and preserves them in ‘mint condition’ wrapped in Mylar.

T

Time Machine by H. G. Wells (B, F, Co)

Alexander Hartdegen’s laboratory is filled to the brim with things, among them a nice collection of pocket watches.

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams (B, C, Co)

Dr. Burrows is the curator of a local museum in London. The museum and its collections are described in the novel.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (B, F, C, Co)

Captain Nemo has an extensive collection of natural history specimens (especially shells) on-board the Nautilus.

U

Unbreakable (F, Co)

At the very beginning of the film, there’s a written reference to comic book collecting.