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Gifts and Personalized Purses

I don't know when "the switch" happened precisely, but I realized one day that I did not pick out my perfectly coiffed outfit then select a matchy-match, oh so perfectly accessorizing bag. It was actually the other way around.

I had actually wanted to use my recently acquired tote from Rediscover Handbags that shows my heart-throb, Han Solo on one side with the Millennium Falcon on the other. The famous "Once upon a time, from a galaxy far, far away" was on the bottom portion. I was going to a friend to watch a trilogy of Star Wars movies and wanted to show off my "I love those movies more than you do" mojo and accompanying swag. Wait. What? Isn't that supposed to go the other way around? Hasn't the social convention been that you pick out what you're going to wear first then choose your purse and the jewelry? Maybe, but purses, hand bags, satchel if you're in the UK, or even totes or sacks, have evolved in their utility, importance and placement in our lives.

I still remember my very first purse. I received it as a present on my 10th birthday from my best friend's mom, Wendy. It was a small pink leather purse, ever so feminine, probably 5 x 7-ish with a zipper across the top and another one on one side. I remember feeling oh so very grown up. I imagined myself to be a young woman that should be taken seriously because I had a purse like all the women. I kept that thing forever, finally throwing it out after the strap broke for the 17th time and would not stay together. The many ink stains and water marks made it useless anyway, I told myself as I threw it the garbage, feeling slightly like a piece of my childhood was being disposed of as well. When I was a teenager, I wanted to have a purse that everyone else in the "cool group" had, but maybe ever so slightly different, I didn't want to "copy them".  And now, the evolution of its place in my life has changed again.

It got me thinking; what is it about purses that make them so desirable? So uber important? Is it their capacity to carry our things around? Could it be it is because they are the perfect accessory to our carefully selected outfits? Or as it was in my case that day, is it the art of it, the absolute communication of "this is who I am!"? Or maybe it's not that simple, maybe the answer is E; All of the above. Certainly, the need to shop comes into play, we don't always have the energy to wiggle into a pair of pants or have the time to think about whether this particular shirt will go with enough of our closet holdings to justify the cost. Purses are tempting because you don't have to "try it on", you just throw it on your shoulder, make sure the zippers work and figure out a way to justify the cost. I mean, we need purses, right? How else would we carry our stuff around? Might as well use something that tells people about our style and who we are, right?

I do know that purses have been a part of women's lives since the beginning of life itself. Since the dawn of time when we were still living in caves and gathering food, the women wove fibers together to take with them when they collected food and herbs. We then started using animal hides to wrap and carry items from cave to cave. That was pretty much it that we know of until late into the 1700s. By that time, almost everyone, even men, had little bags that held coins, often attached to a belt or tucked into a pocket. At that point they still were almost completely utilitarian, and had nothing to do with status or expression. Then of course Marie Antoinette and those at the French Court had to up the ante and started using velvet drawstring bags with embroidery to hold their gambling winnings or alms for the poor. That is probably the first instance of the "showing off" purpose of purses coming into being. It was a way to show culture and status.

In more modern times, also in Europe, Giuliana Camerino of Venetian Fashion House Fame, produced her own "status bag". In the mid-1940s, she started using hardware made by artisans and high-quality fabrics that usually were used only for clothing. In the 50's, Coco Chanel made a twist on the design of the clutch purse by putting a chain strap on it and made the purse look like the padding of jockey's jackets. Ms. Chanel was apparently a huge fan of horses and was routinely seen at the races. These iconic purses are still considered a staple item in the closets of a large swath of celebrities to this day.

For me, I think it's all of that. And it's also none of that. Obviously, purses are personal, we carry around intimate belongings inside. And yet they are also an advertisement of who we are, where we fit in the world. For me, purses present the perfect marriage of practicality and image. It is a form of self-expression, it is a piece of art. For me, each one possesses and holds certain private memories and yet also communicates to others my sense of self. We can one day use a purse to show how unique we are. The next we can communicate to which "group" we associate with our choice of designers.

In my view, I want to show off my uniqueness with my purse purchases. That is why I am so glad I found Rediscover Handbags Etc. They have selections that are all of these things. You can transmit to the world the expression of yourself. Those with sophisticated taste typically don't desire your run-of-the mill, everyone has the purse this season, type of bag. Rather, Rediscover Handbags exude a certain image of originality, urbanity, polish and sophistication.

You can telegraph intimate parts of what makes you, you. Their selections represent the ultimate in manifestations of "you-ness". Individuality is underscored as they can custom-make a purse just for you. They can turn a cherished item or idea into a memorable yet practical bag that will evoke a memory or feeling for a long time to come.

I first came across Rediscover Handbags when I was searching for Marissa's 19th birthday gift. Marissa is my step-daughter and oh so ever the fashionista. I have to admit, her sense of style was and is away sharper than mine and probably always will be. One thing Marissa is not, she is not a "fashion follower" she is a "fashion setter" so buying her a designer tote that a lot of other people had was not appealing to me. I wanted to get her something no one else would, something that said that I got her, something unique, one of a kind like she is.

So, I decided to turn her love of Marilyn Monroe into a tote when I stumbled onto the Rediscover Handbags website. It didn't take much convincing, I figured even if she didn't like it as a tote, she could use it as decoration in her room. In this way I could avoid the fear that the gift would be a "flop".  I could always tell as during previous events, if she didn't like what I got her, she would politely thank me for it, then promptly bury in her closet the second the event was over. Not this time!

Well she loved it. Like, she really really loved it! She not only used it all the time, she was the envy of her friends. My gift was "the hit" of the day and the focus of discussion of her birthday party. She still uses it today, but has been reserving it for special occasions as she is worried it might be wearing out.

There is something so satisfying about finding that perfect gift, that perfect tote, for someone else and of course for yourself...Obviously, I had bought one for myself as well and noticed how many comments I got on my Beatles Abbey Road tote. It got me thinking further and now Rediscover Handbags is now my first stop when I have to buy something for an occasion. Talk about personalized gifts galore! It has made me famous among my circle of friends when ideas are needed. Certainly, the Rediscover Handbags website offers many already made, unique bags to choose from, but they can also custom make a purse or tote using virtually any record album cover or theater program.

Like when my friend Dave wanted to get something special for his 10-year wedding anniversary. He gave his wife a purse from Rediscover Handbags that had photos from their special day, and the lyrics to their wedding song on the bottom, as well as a copy of their vows along one side. He said her reaction was even better than he expected and it definitely had the desired effect. She was surprised, impressed, and was so happy with "his" thoughtfulness. He recently bought her a purse with playbills from Rent, the Broadway show as the theme because that's when they first realized they loved each other. He presented it to her for Valentine's Day and was immensely rewarded for his romantic notions. He said she usually was disappointed in the always to-be-expected flowers and chocolate that he normally (reflexively and obligingly) brought home to her. I still remember his eyebrows wiggling up and down as he told me how very happy, she had been.

I regularly buy purses and totes as gifts now and have shared this secret with my friends. One got put on the "cool mom" list because she got her teenager a tote with her favorite rock band on it. My friend Makena said it was the one time she enjoyed hearing Sienna's squeals of delight. Her daughter's friends were enamored and wanted similar totes with Lady Gaga and favorite singers. She said she fielded several calls from their moms as to the origins of this find.

Another friend bought her sister a tote bag with her favorite books the "Iliad & Odyssey" as the motif. My friend was tired of seeing her drag her books around in precariously-close-to-ripping plastic bags to her book club meetings. She knew the totes were stylish but also very sturdy. And yes, her sister loved it and is the envy of her various book/reading clubs. This same friend, fresh from success with her sister’s gift, got another one made for her mother who had lost her cat recently. "She loved the tote so much, she wouldn't stop crying," my friend reported, "honestly, I think she might even sleep with it".

The most often heard comment with these gifts is a sense of being touched, the feeling that you "get them", that you recognize and value their uniqueness. And it's nice to know that each item is lovingly made by hand to ensure that it is as unique as the person who receives it. It's the customization, the sense of exclusivity. For real, there is psychology behind this phenomenon. We as women use our accessories to show off how we value ourselves, and want to communicate that to others. That's probably part of the reason why purses and totes can mean so much to us. At least, that is my justification for now having four purses and two totes from Rediscover Handbags.

So, after all this thinking, I am feeling better about my choosing my bag first and then picking my outfit around it. I mean, I am practical, and it makes sense that I would first figure out how I am going to transport my belongings to my friend's film fest, right? And maybe I am indulging that little teensy-weensy part of me that knows that other people are going to be jealous and wish they had one too. And that, well that's ok, I am merely expressing myself.

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Motivation and Cultural Shifts Affecting the Procurement of Collectibles

The act of collecting appears to be part of the human condition as evidenced by its longstanding presence in our lives throughout generations. It has been estimated that there are close to 73 million people in the US, almost 35% of the population, that engage in act of collecting. It is estimated that the total market growth is about 3% when taking into account the new collectors that enter into and out of the market, as well as considering the appreciation of the actual collectibles themselves.

There are many types of collectibles, the more common categories including antiques, toys, coins, comic books, posters and stamps. Antique collectibles are typically used to describe items that are older. A curio is typically a smaller item that is considered strange or unusual. Then there are the mass-produced manufactured collectibles that are designed specifically to be collected.

Any object can potentially hold an intrinsic value to the collector. Conversely, what is collected may not have anything to do with its monetary worth. Understanding the factors affecting the collector and the collectible amassed can help guide industry decisions. Truly, industry should pay attention as people who amass collectibles take a lot of time to collect them, and spend a lot of money to help preserve their items like buying individual plastic sleeves for comics and by and using storage facilities with climate control. Truly, collectors are very loyal to the art of collecting, often going to great pains and expense to ensure the authenticity of their purchases.  

What a collector chooses to accumulate is dependent on several factors. The act of collecting seems to feed a human need and thus collectors tend to be motivated by three main reasons.  They may collect for financial reasons, emotional ones, or because of popular cultural shifts and past experiences. People may collect certain items for the financial aspect, another item for emotional, self-soothing reasons, and another item because of a childhood experience.

Of course, one item can feed more than one motivation and be influenced by the individual’s past experiences. The value of the collectible item is dependent on what the item is and other factors such as the rarity or uniqueness of the item, the condition of the item, the demand, and history of the item. For certain collectibles, such as coins, the actual value of the metal has an impact. 

Many collectors point to financial reasons as their main motivator. Indeed, by definition, when discussing a “collectible” it is typically in reference to or defined as an item that may have been purchased at one price point and then is sold for a different, appreciated amount. This is a sentiment echoed by many stating their collections are or referring to them as their retirement. Many people will say that their collection is a means to an end, stating that their “treasures” will someday be worth a lot. And indeed, many collectors sell their collections just upon retiring or passing it along to their children or grandchildren. In this realm, there are influencing factors.

Stamp collection used to be popular from 1930s-1970's. At that time, culturally it was important to pass something down to your children or grandchildren. Many stamp collectors, tending to be 60 years old or older, either sold their collections to fund their retirement or willed it to their children or grandchildren. This industry reached its peak in the 1980’s. With the advent of personal computers and the practice of emailing people rather handwriting letters, stamps declined in their collectability.

Further, the generations that followed tended to be more into sports cards, coins, comic books and video games. Sadly, those children did not appreciate their inherited stamp collection as much, and tended to sell them. It will be worth observing if this trend continues or if it is likely to repeat itself with coin collections, which seemed to replace the procurement of stamps. As of today’s writing, coin collectors tend to be 50 years old or older. 

Another cultural shift, the digital revolution that began in the 1980’s, also affected the collectible industry as in comic book collections and other “hard to find” items. These collections saw their values drop with the advent of on-line sales. No longer did one have to go to comic book conventions around the country or even around the world. Today, collectors can simply log on to places like e-bay or other on-line forums and find a dizzying array of the desired item. Therefore, rarity has taken on a different meaning. We are no longer limited by borders or oceans, distance or time.

Admittedly, collectors can grow attached to their financial investments but an initiating emotional need can also drive the collector. Psychologists suggest that many people collect things as a way to maintain control or as an escape. Searching for desired items may provide a distraction from whatever else is going on in their lives.  Collections can allow people to hang on to memories that remind them of a time that evokes a strong feeling. For example, many women hang on to their Nancy Drew Book collection as it reminds them of a time of wonder, or of their happy childhood. Every time they go to the basement and see their collection, it makes them think about that nice time in their lives. The time they spend searching for more books, they are reminded of this chapter in their lives.

Some psychologists suggest that often collecting an item can fill an empty spot for some, acting as a salve for some perceived insecurity. Industrious companies understand this and take advantage that often times, it is not the monetary value of the item, but the emotional connection that drives people to buy items. People collect things that help them relive a certain time in their life or a special event such as a wedding. In this way, they can stay connected to that part of themselves or to ensure that emotional experience from the past extends into the future.

Many stores also use this nostalgia in their products to help people recapture those magical memories. Companies such as Rediscover Handbags Etc. for example will use a book cover or theatre bill in creation of a tote or handbag.

Further, psychologists indicate that people can collect almost anything, the collection doesn’t even have to be an item. Napoleon Bonaparte was famously considered to be a collector of countries. Thought to be affected by “short man syndrome”, it has been postulated that he was aggressive and domineering to contradict his own perceived physical shortcomings. With each “collected” country, it has been mused that it acted as an affirmation of his power. 

A cultural shift has provided the genesis for a just such a new, non-item collecting trend. The collection of experiences has been driven mostly by the Millennial generation due to changes in the housing market. The so-called Baby Boomer generation is living longer and therefore living in their homes longer. The Millennial generation are coming into adulthood and wanting to build their lives, but because the Baby Boomer generation are not exiting their homes, there is a shortage of housing. As such, housing has become more expensive and in general the Millennials are acutely aware of resources getting scarcer. Alongside the housing issue, the impact of climate change and excessiveness has become more apparent to this cohort.

A simpler lifestyle known as Minimalism has been embraced by the Millennial generation. Minimalism has driven the so-called “Tiny House” trend and the rejection of material goods. So instead of collecting items, this large group of people have shifted to finding experiences more meaningful.

Many are choosing to collect vacation experiences. Many entities in the travel industry have taken notice and seized upon this opportunity in their marketing. For example, the state of Utah pushes the collection of their “Big Five” National Parks experiences in their advertisements by promoting the visitation of all five parks. In fact, the entire travel industry encourages the collection of travel experiences by detailing the number of continents and countries visited in their descriptions of tours. Many on-line websites and forums have tools to help keep track of all the countries visited, and all the experiences collected. This makes sense as we know experiences can influence and shape our lives.

Psychologists also discuss how personal life experience can be a factor in collecting behavior. They have long observed that people who grew up during the Depression are known to have strange collecting habits, often having a difficult time disposing of anything due to a fear that it will not be available later when they need it or want it. One man explains that his mother who grew up after the war when food was scarce, kept the garage full of canned goods, adding to the pile every week and having a difficult time throwing out the expired cans.  He remarks that she became incensed whenever her children did not finish what was on their plates at meal time.

Poverty can drive what and how people collect. One woman explains her collection of Barbie Dolls by saying that as a young girl, she had always wanted Barbie Dolls like all the other girls had but her mother did not have a lot of money. She did get one Barbie Doll from a relative as a Christmas gift and instead of replacing it with time, the woman and her mother just kept drawing the eyes back on, gluing on pieces here and there as they fell off. This woman was deeply impacted by the deprivation she felt as a child and it drove her amassing behavior in adulthood with her Barbie Doll collection. She felt successful with each Barbie doll she purchased, perhaps connecting herself to the little girl she once was, telling her that she was deserving of new dolls.  

It can be clearly seen that whether a person collects out of a financial motivation, for emotional reasons, or both, cultural events and life experiences can exert a strong impact on the collector and what is collected. This can be seen with evolution of poster collection.

While there were some limited posters in the 1800s, the emergence of the modern-day type posters as we’ve come to know them didn’t occur until the first and second World Wars. Their purpose was two-fold. One main purpose began with the job of advertisement or propaganda about the war. Another utility was to entice potential recruits to join the military and help their country.

This relatively cost-effective form of advertisement remains constant and many posters continue to be used in promotion of upcoming events. The entertainment industry, including the movie and music industry, use posters as an important tool in their advertising arsenal to this day.

Movie, Broadway and Theatre posters, especially vintage posters, tend to be highly collectible especially those of films that were released before the 1940s. Part of that is due to rarity as not many of these survived.   In the 1920s, as movies became more popular, the related posters served mainly as advertisements rather than a collectable item.

Often, they were used as a decorative piece as the movie or production moved from theatre to theatre. The major film studios would typically throw them away once their film left the theatre. Broadway type shows would often take the posters down and reuse them at the next venue but they became damaged in this process. This practice continued for decades but that all changed with the 1977 release of the iconic movie Star Wars. It was then that a strong interest in owning these portraits became apparent.

Very few people that experienced the Star Wars movies phenomenon cannot immediately visualize the poster with Princess Leia next to Luke Skywalker, holding up his Light Sabre against a backdrop of Darth Vader’s face. That one movie spawned a plethora of collectibles, but the collection of movie posters has been credited to this event by many.

Currently, the collection of all posters has remained stable. It has been postulated that the collection of Vintage posters hits all the motivations. Financially, they can increase in worth, they recall perhaps a happier time and because it remains an affordable way of collecting art. They do not require much space and are highly portable, fitting in with the new cultural norms emerging today.