Community Relations

Why Utahns Like to Collect Things?

Utahns collect things. Lots of things. Sports cards. Timepieces. Figurines. Olympic pins. If you can name it, someone has a collection of it. But what prompts a person to become a collector? Is it a collecting “gene”? An obsessive personality? A brain disorder? It could be all these things and more.


There are many answers to this question of why people collect, but mostly, it’s lots of fun.

Salt Lake has active collectors in two popular areas ― numismatics and philately ― fancy names for coin and stamp collecting. 

Bruce Wayne Briggs and a sample of his coin collection. Photo by John Taylor.

“I’m a huge nerd with a passion for history,” says Bruce Wayne Griggs. Bruce has been collecting since childhood and is an active member of the National Utah Token Society (N.U.T.S.) and Utah Numismatic Club

Both coins and tokens provide Bruce with an emotional connection to past events. In pioneer times, hard currency was difficult to obtain. Stores and trading posts issued their own tokens to facilitate commerce. 

Bruce has taken this interest to an artistic level by designing nine medals focusing on aspects of Utah history. The most recent was struck to remember the Topaz internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WW2.

For Bruce, shiny discs of metal are only part of the story, but there is a social aspect as well. “Being part of a club allows you to find others to share your nerdhood,” he says. His advice to young people seeking to start coin collecting? Get a 50 cent roll of pennies and a coin book in which to place the unique dates. There is a certain dopamine rush when a missing coin appears.

Stamp collecting also has its allure. Anyone complaining about the high cost of postage can take heart that an American airmail stamp from 1918 ― the Inverted Jenny ― recently sold at auction for two million dollars. Utah collectors may salivate at such an addition to their holdings ― a dopamine rush indeed, but are happy to expand in other directions.

Stamps provide myriad ways to satisfy the collecting urge. There are topical collectors focusing on art, sports, dinosaurs, music, etc., country collectors, collectors by era, and first-day-of-issue collectors to name several. 

Steve Baldridge, president of the Utah Philatelic Society, examines one of the stamps in his collection. Photo by John Taylor.

“Stamp collecting can go any way you want it to,” says avid collector Dave Blackhurst. Take Steve Baldridge, for example, who is president of the Utah Philatelic Society. He has collected since age nine and currently has 50 albums and is still expanding his collection.

“It is as addictive as heroin but more expensive,” he laughs. Rick Leimbach echoes this sentiment. “It’s not about what you have, but what you don’t have.” Rick chose a second path of the hobby ― beginning young and then letting it go dormant only to regain interest later in life.

As it is with numismatics, the friendship involved with philately is also rewarding. “You can learn art, history and culture. The stamp club is enormously helpful in discovering the scope of the hobby,” Steve says.

Take a look at the upper right corner of the next letter you receive. The stamp there may not be worth $2 million, but it could be the start of something equally as rewarding.

Feature Image: Stamps from Steve Baldridge’s collection showing stamps that have a Utah connection. Photo by John Taylor.


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