Fragrance collection: One enthusiast’s story.
I’m frequently asked how many different perfumes I have in my fragrance collection, and my answer confounds people: It depends.
If I only count perfumes and fragrances where I have a full bottle, let’s just say it’s well over 80+ (I won’t provide the exact number). When I add in decants and small vials for sampling and testing, that number mushrooms to around 150-200. And I’m not the biggest collector.
Ordinarily, when I mention how many bottles I have, my friends and colleagues will look aghast, or ask “Why do you have so many?” My response: People have hobbies. Some collect stamps, coins or baseball cards, figurines or antiques,wines, clocks or even old radios and record albums. I’ve heard everything from coffee mugs to action figures (i.e. G.I. Joe) and a number of others in between. That’s the nature of their hobby, and it can often occupy an entire room of a house to contain their collection.
But when you tell someone that you collect fragrances, you often get a reaction of “How does that work”, “how did you become interested in that as a hobby” or “that’s a strange hobby”, or even a reaction of “do you go out and try to contain a smell in a bottle?” It’s been intersting. I won’t even try to comment on the people who collect bugs when I’m constantly trying to keep them out of my house, but I’ll offer them a fair trade.
People who collect perfumes are like anyone else, and collecting perfumes is much like any other hobby. Almost. I’ll liken this to a collector of trading cards.
A card collector will often amass a collection of cards he likes, swap cards for something they’d like to have, or perhaps hold on to a rare or hard-to-find card in order to later sell it for higher value. A perfume collector? No different. We collect the fragrances we want or like, often swap with other enthusiasts for things we might want, and sometimes we’ll get something rare or hard to find and hold on to it for later use or sale. There isn’t much difference other than the names of the players — the Babe Ruths or Willie Mays of the game — versus the producers of those scents — the Creeds, Guerlains and Mona Di Orios. It’s like any other hobby except for one important aspect. We can wear what we collect. It’s a little more difficult, not to mention odd, to be wearing baseball cards to the office.
I haven’t answered the “how” people become interested in the hobby, however, and my answer again is “it depends”. It’s how anyone else takes an interest in a hobby and decides to invest time in it. For example, as a kid I amassed a sizable collection of matchbook covers not because I was a pyromaniac but because it was interesting to see how many varieties there were from various parts of the world. Times changed, people stopped buying as many cigarettes, and businesses stopped giving away matchbooks as advertising.
I became interested in fragrance around 30 years ago by sampling different ones, mostly because I wanted to smell like something other than every English Leather gift set I was ever given at Christmas (and I still have nightmares about that). That interest grew as I discovered and sampled more and found myself slowly acquiring and using different scents. Over time, I’d tried a number of things until this blossomed as a full-fledged hobby. It’s been in the last few years when I’ve started running out of places to store bottles that the collecting hobby has taken a life of its own.
I highly doubt there is an addiction counselor for fragrance collectors, or a 12-Step program to help rid them (or ourselves) of this perfume hoarding habit we’ve adopted. Then most of us wouldn’t want one anyway, so that makes it difficult to overcome “Step #1″. We ‘fumers’ tend to like smelling new things and each of us has a strong opinion on what we like and dislike. We all agree that we enjoy a world that smells nice, and most of us agree that we enjoy our hobby more than baseball cards — or matchbook covers — because we can immerse ourselves more into the fruits of our collecting.