As we enter the time of year when many china collectors add to their herds, there is a very visual side effect found in the aftermath. Collectors will often share a photo or two of their latest acquisition on social media.
Truth be told, this sharing phenomenon occurs year-round, with collectors always finding something interesting in our collecting hobby. Depending on which online collecting group you frequent, the increase in posted photos is quite noticeable in late December.
Some people feel that this is a rude habit, "bragging", but here is why it is not:
1. The Audience
China collectors build groups on social media with the purpose of sharing photos with each other. There are also model horse photo competitions, which are unrelated to the collector groups. If you go waaaaay back to the old mimeographed Model Horse Showers Journal's, and even the printed The Hobby Horse News, you will find ads where collectors share one particular model, listing its wins and pedigree, in the tradition of real horse showcase advertising. Most of us over the age of 18 have at least a passing familiarity with this within the model horse hobby, and we don't see it as "boasting" in the rude sense. It was promotion of a show horse, just like real horses are promoted. In other words, collectors view this showcasing without malice.
2. The outlook of the person doing the sharing
Instead of the goal of the braggart- to inspire envy- the collector share is just, "Hey, isn't this neat? Do you know more about it?". It is meant to inspire wonder, memory, and critical thinking.
3. A nurturing environment with an interest in freshly rediscovered antique equine art.
The shares are being made, as point 1 identified, to an audience already prepped for a positive, traditional context. As a group, we love ceramic art, and the more we see, the happier we are!
4. The sharing doesn't fit the format of the attention-seeking "humble brag" so many complain about on social media.
A humble brag is a boastful post or description on a shared photo, self-deprecating, often minimizing the difficulty or expense in acquisition. Example: "I tripped over this on the way to the mailbox" captioning a photo of a shiny new motorcycle.
China collectors just don't do that, or if they do, it's a private message for laughs between close friends.
5. The listing of the price paid is made known by two means:
If it was a bargain, the information is provided to encourage other collectors that cheap finds can still be had, they are still out there, and the era of eBay has not destroyed all chances of an affordable score. It's not meant to tear down others as a brag, but to be uplifting to the community.
If full collector price was paid, it was generally already public knowledge due to online ads or auctions. To reiterate and report that price on the photo share is rather redundant, so most do not.
6. It puts the sharer more at risk of negative attention. They do it anyway, because they want their friends to experience enjoyment of the art, and the sharer hopes to learn something, as well.
Risk of negative attention? Yes, when you share photos online, even to a private group, you open yourself up to uninvited offers to trade or purchase your item. This can be a little off-putting or even alarming, as selling the item was probably the last thing on your mind when you posted the photo. A gift from a loved one, or perhaps a find of a lifetime, and even years later, you get emails... Sometimes, the requests are quite persistent and distracting. It can really get out of hand when your shared photo is used without permission, sometimes in want ads. As the poster, you feel raw being pestered to begin with, and then photo theft adds lemon juice to the wound.
So what are the benefits? Replies, comments, or Likes? A genuine photo share is not fueled by a boastful person seeking such tepid ego strokes. The only real benefit the sharer was seeking was history or other conformation that the crowd might have to offer. There are so many makes and materials of ceramics to collect, it is very difficult to acquire all the knowledge, let alone most of the books, on every single one. Many manufacturers are not even covered by books, yet. Trivia preserved by specialist collectors can be seen as gems to be mined by sharing a photo and jolting a memory. Education is the main benefit of sharing, for both sharer and the audience. The second possible benefit is if someone else out there has the mate to go with it, or a foal to complete a set, and that someone offers the piece needed for completion.
Those looking at our collecting hobby from the outside may not understand why we tolerate online "bragging", but to us, it is far beyond that low form. Don't call it bragging, gloating, or boasting. Scientists share their findings in published papers, is that bragging? Of course not, it is discovery. That is similar to how collectors view their sharing: bringing something new, lost, or hidden to light!