It is not surprising to come across a person who collects things: stamps, coins, books. No one considers such collecting remotely abnormal, even though a person might get so focused on collecting as to be unable to talk with interest about anything else. Then there are the people who collect erotic items, and that makes alarm bells go off. Of course, the erotica collectors are not as likely to bore us with their collections as, say, Barbie collectors are. For one thing, erotica is interesting to almost everyone who will admit it. For another thing, such collections are usually covert, and for yet another, even though the collectors might be obsessive, they don't get tedious with their stories about their treasures, since they are usually not a topic of conversation. Geoff Nicholson has seen lots of such collections, and gotten the collectors to talk, and reports back in _Sex Collectors: The Secret World of Consumers, Connoisseurs, Curators, Creators, Dealers, Bibliographers, and Accumulators of "Erotica"_ (Simon and Schuster). It's a funny, genial guide to odd (but not sociopathic) people and strange pursuits; Nicholson has seen plenty of eye-popping material, and while he candidly admits that there are some things he has seen that he wishes he could excise from his memory, he does not include such stuff in his descriptions. The book reflects his experience in researching it: "I've seen a great many things that were sexy and fun and beautiful and fascinating, and I wouldn't have missed them for the world." His enthusiastic book is much more about collecting than it is about erotica or sex. In fact, he dismisses the argument about differentiating between what is pornography and what is art by saying that it doesn't make a difference for the purpose of the book; what matters is that someone is collecting it.
Who is doing the collecting? Generally, people with a lot of money, for originals are not cheap and the collections are often extensive. Take Naomi Wilzig, of whom the _National Examiner_ headlined, "GRANNY Proves You're Never Too Old for PORNO!" She enjoys showing the enormous collection in her home, but is having a museum built so that we can all see it someday. Another great collector was Alfred Kinsey, although he is better known, of course, for his interviews and his reports on the sexuality of Americans. "Kinsey believed in data," Nicholson writes, and was trained as a biologist; he collected hundreds of thousands of gall wasps, his specialty, and when he moved into investigating sex, he collected anything having to do with it. Nowadays, "People donate to the Kinsey having reached the stage of their lives when they want to get rid of their collections." Also, police departments donate sex-related materials taken from offenders.
If there are collectors, there must be dealers, although "each considers the other a necessary evil". Some of them enjoy wonderful items going through their hands and being passed on (at profit) with no impulse to own any of them; others buy and sell to make a living, but also to improve their own collections.
There are tales of many other collectors and collections here. Cynthia Plaster Caster has spent decades making plaster casts of famous people's penises, and has branched out into breasts. There's the small collection of lotus shoes, the kind that were worn by Chinese women whose feet had been bound. There's a collection of 80,000 girlie magazines. There is a large group of people who collect erotic book plates, and commission them. Nicholson eventually helps us realize that we are all sex collectors; we may not look for something to put on our shelves, but we do, if health and opportunity allow, amass sexual experiences. He also comes to the conclusion that he is a bit of collector himself, not necessarily of the type of item the more generous of the collectors profiled here sent him away with, but a collector of sex collectors, an activity that has involved such familiar endeavors as finding interesting examples, doing negotiations, lucking out on good finds, and other things that collectors here do. His is a unique collection, and it is generously shared in a breezy, amusing book.