The Joys and Perils of Collecting “Harry Potter” Merchandise
Do you remember your first piece of Harry Potter merchandise? Whether it was an action figure, game, decor item, article of clothing, or something else entirely, that item is likely still precious to you.
My first piece of HP merch was the PC game Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which was released by Electronic Arts in 2001. When I bought the game with my allowance money in 2002, I was 14 years old, obsessed with Harry Potter and video games, and impatiently awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Despite the game’s somewhat rudimentary graphics, I relished the opportunity to see and interact with my favorite fictional world through the eyes of Harry Potter himself. I haven’t played the game for many years, but I still own it and will never forget the wonder I felt while playing it.
In the years since that initial purchase, I have amassed a large Harry Potter collection. Although I am proud of my collection and enjoy displaying it nicely, I realized about two years ago that my desire to collect as many items as possible was undermining my love for the story itself. The act of collecting was becoming more frantic than fun, and each new item meant less to me than the last.
I believe that this kind of collector burnout stems primarily from a desire to prove to ourselves and others that we are superior Harry Potter fans. Each new item can begin to symbolize a notch in our belts rather than a treasured keepsake. We share photos of our latest finds, briefly savor the likes and comments, and then immediately feel the need to prove ourselves again by acquiring more items. This furtive cycle can become very isolating, which is a sad irony for members of one of the most inclusive and supportive fandoms in existence. When I started feeling isolated, I decided to change my approach to collecting, and I now feel reconnected with my favorite fandom.
If you’re experiencing collector burnout, I would recommend asking yourself the following questions before purchasing additional items:
1. Will I use this item or at least display it with care?
2. Will the experience of buying this item be meaningful and enjoyable?
3. Can I afford this item without it causing me undue financial strain?
If a potential collecting venture will produce a negative answer to one of these questions, proceed with caution. If it will produce two or three negative answers, I would strongly advise foregoing that particular venture.
In hindsight, many of the items I have collected over the years have entailed a negative answer to at least one of these questions, namely the second. After happening upon a veritable cache of early-2000s Harry Potter merchandise (my absolute favorite era of merchandise) a few years ago at a local thrift store, I started going to many different thrift stores almost daily, hoping to find more of these rare treasures. I also began scouring the Internet for items. I sporadically found great items, but the amount of time and energy I spent hunting started to take its toll. The joy I had always associated with Harry Potter was nowhere to be found in these feverish searches.
Although I curtailed these too-frequent expeditions, I haven’t stopped collecting HP merch entirely. Over the past year or so, I have attended a few comic conventions and two local Harry Potter events, each of which yielded at least one incredible find. At one of the HP events, I found my favorite item to date: an Enesco Hermione Granger bookend! For the most part, the items I purchased at these events meant more to me than the items I found at thrift stores because the experience of buying them was so much more pleasant and memorable. I now feel like Harry shopping in Diagon Alley rather than Draco Malfoy skulking ’round Knockturn Alley! I hope your collecting ventures more closely resemble the former experience as well.
Please tell us about your first piece of Harry Potter merchandise, your favorite piece of merchandise, or your experiences as a collector in the comments!