Do you fancy yourself a collector and want to know if there’s a name for what you do? Well, look no further. Hundreds of weird and wonderful collections are out there, and each has an exciting name for the curator.
You call someone who collects things a collector. However, if you find this disappointing, there are plenty of more specific collections with far more exciting names. For example, a collector of records is called a discophile, and an oologist collects birds’ eggs.
The rest of this article will go over all of the best names for collectors. Who knows, you may even spot yourself on this list!
Collectors of All Kinds
The word collector comes from the word collect, which can refer to any gathering. Its etymology stems from the word “com,” meaning together, and “legere,” meaning to gather. If the noun to collect means to gather together, then a collector is the person that gathers together.
This word doesn’t just lend itself to the hobby of collecting, though. Throughout history, it has been widely used to refer to the collection of money. For example, before online self-assessment forms, you had tax collectors. If you don’t pay your taxes, you may face a debt collector.
While collecting is a practice as old as time itself, it really took off in the 16th century with the Cabinet of Curiosities. This was an extensive personal collection of strange items that had often been found or sourced on travels or purchased from other explorers.
Before this, a collector was often synonymous with a curator, as extensive collections were displayed for all to see. However, people began having their own “museums” for personal use. Thus the collector was born.
There are hundreds of names for specific types of collectors in the English language, and we’d be here all day if we explored them all. Instead, here are ten of the most interesting, unusual, and least known.
Conchologist: The Collector of Sea Shells
Technically, a conchologist is the collector and studier of sea shells. However, a conchologist sounds way cooler than a shell collector, so it deserves its place on the list.
You may recognize the etymology here. A conch is a well-known shell you can find on the beach if you’re lucky. However, the term conchologist covers a much broader array of shells. If a sea creature has lived in it, and you’ve collected it, you’re a conchologist.
If you’re a conchologist, you should be careful. Shells are a vital part of many delicate ecosystems, and many beaches worldwide legally forbid you from removing shells from the beach. Therefore, always check before you take anything home.
Furthermore, some beaches don’t even have shells! Check out my article on why that is here: Why Do Some Beaches Not Have Seashells?
Lepidopterist: The Collector of Butterflies and Moths
In etymology, Lepidoptera means “order of insects with scaly wings.” This means that a Lepidopterist is concerned with studying and collecting butterflies and moths.
A Lepidopterist can take many forms. Some will catch the live butterflies and keep them in their homes as if they were pets, studying them closely. Others preserve the dead insects to study their form or keep them as part of a collection.
Whichever you prefer, Lepidopterist is one of the most beautiful words to describe a collector, and it’s not hard to see how someone could become fascinated with these beautiful creatures.
Oologist: The Collector of Birds’ Eggs
This word may look a little strange, but it comes from the prefix “oo-,” meaning egg. The term is pronounced oh-o-logy, despite its exciting spelling.
The practice of oology is a dying hobby. Many people now believe that it’s unethical to raid bird nests to collect the young inside. However, it used to be one of the more popular hobbies, and a good oologist can tell the difference between a living egg and a dead one.
The practice is now more scientific than recreational — the study of bird eggs is far more common than their collection.
Vexillologist: The Collector of Flags
This collection is as fun to say as it is to engage in. The word Vexillologist was first used in 1959 and describes someone with a collection of passionate interest in flags. This can be flags of countries, states, unions, or even companies. If it has a flag, vexillologists are interested.
The etymology of this word is straightforward. It comes from the Latin word Vexillum, which means “a square flag of the Roman cavalry.” However, it has come to describe any and all flags, and thus the word Vexillologist was born.
Discophile: The Collector of Records or CDs
It doesn’t take much to figure out where this word originated. However, the fun comes in its pronunciation. It sounds as if this collector is a collector of discos.
The etymology here is simple. CDs and records are types of discs, so a collector of discs is a discophile. This is one of the most common collections a person can have, as it has both a practical and visual function. Hardcore discophiles might make sure they have every version of a specific release, while others will enjoy an extensive array of music.
Bibliophile: The Collector of Books
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Bibliophile as a “lover of books, especially for qualities of format” or “a collector of books.” The meaning behind this term is clear. The prefix “biblio-” means book in several languages, such as the French word Bibliotheque, meaning library, and the suffix “-phile” commonly means lover or collector of something.
Bibliophiles are among the most common collectors because books are in such popular demand. A bibliophile may have a small collection of books or own their own library, so it’s one of the most accessible and rewarding collections out there.
Not to mention, Bibliophiles don’t necessarily have to collect the same genre of books, so the collection can continue to grow over time. Or, even better, Bibliophiles may have many small book collections based on genre.
Deltiologist: The Collector of Postcards
A deltiologist takes part in the practice of deltiology — the study and collection of postcards. This is one of the most accessible and fun collections to have, as it often coincides with travel. It can be a casual hobby, such as picking up postcards wherever you travel, or a serious study of historical postcards.
The word deltiologist derives from the Greek word “Deltion,” meaning a small writing tablet. Over time this has come to be associated with postcards. Combined with the suffix “-ologist,” the phrase means someone who collects and studies postcards.
Tegestologist: The Collector of Beer Mats or Coasters
If you find yourself down the local pub often, you might have spotted an interesting-looking beer mat or coaster and decided to take it home with you. If this sounds like you, then you might be a tegestologist.
While this may sound like a boring hobby, it can be highly fulfilling for some. Beer brands have been providing coasters to pubs for decades, and the committed tegestologist will have collected many historical beer mats from a range of decades, brands, and countries. There are endless variations of beer mats and coasters out there, so there’s always room for the tegestologist to expand their collection.
Aerophilatelist: The Collector of Airmail Stamps
The study of aerophilately — the study of airmail stamps — seems so niche that it shouldn’t have a name. However, there are plenty of people out there who love collecting airmail stamps. So many that they have earned their own name.
The word is a combination of the prefix “aero-,” meaning “related to aviation or planes,” and “philately,” which means the collections of stamps. There are hundreds of varieties of airmail stamps varying in rarity and value, so it can be an exciting endeavor for anyone who loves to seek out rare collector items.
Copoclephilist: The Collector of Keyrings
A Copoclephilist is a collector of keyrings, specifically those keyrings that were released commemoratively or for publicity. Keyrings are often handed out at significant events, so it can be an exciting way to document history.
A Copoclephilist strives to find keyrings that have special significance, either personally or historically. This can be collecting keyrings you saw on holiday or keyrings that were released commemoratively.
The word comes from the Greek language. It comes from “kope,” meaning handle, and “kleis,” meaning key, to create the term keyring. The addition of “philist” comes from the suffix “-phile,” which means the lover or collector of an object. Directly translated, it means the lover of key handles, but this has changed colloquially to tell a collector of keyrings.
Many more types of collectors have their own unique names, but I hope that this list has introduced you to some of the most interesting of the bunch. Whether you’re interested in etymology or fancy taking up one of these brilliant hobbies, this list should give you a great start in the world of collecting.
From bibliophiles to lepidopterists, there are no limits to where collecting can take you, so dive into the world of collectors and see what you can find.