"Years ago my partner and I were walking past a garage sale in San Francisco when I spotted a piece of midcentury Norwegian enamelware—a bowl in a blue lotus pattern. It's really rare, a great find. The asking price? $1.
"The bowl was worth about $150—but it's not about the money. I loved knowing I was the only person around who understood its value. I've always loved that. When I was a girl in upstate New York, I made my grandmother take me to the dump to look for treasure; she was a collector, too. When I was told to clean my room, I would instead arrange my collections—arranging was always my favorite part. It's also what I did in my blog, A Collection a Day: Every day for a year, I arranged a collection and took a picture or sketched it. There's something so appealing about an array of like things—so orderly and pretty.
"My advice is to find something special to you and start seeking it out. It doesn't matter if it's worth money; it just needs to be something you want more than one of. And it should be hard to find, because the hunt is half the fun. I like collecting the way I like crime novels: I want to awaken my inner detective. The longer the search, the sweeter the find."
—As told to Laura Birek