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Why men collect things? A case study of fossilised dinosaur eggs

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  • Apostolou, Menelaos
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    Abstract

    Collecting entails substantial costs in terms of effort, money, time and space needed to find, obtain and store desirable items. Still, the non-utilitarian nature of collectibles suggests that a simple economic justification of this behaviour is unlikely. Moreover, the apparent sex difference, with collectors being almost exclusively men, indicates a possible reproductive motive. However, presently available theories have failed to identify these motives and predict its patterns leaving collecting behaviour unexplained. This paper employs recent developments in the fields of evolutionary psychology and theoretical biology in order to construct a plausible theory which accounts for collecting behaviour. In particular, it is argued that collecting has evolved to facilitate reliable communication between males with respect to their unobserved resource acquisition capacity. Based on this theoretical framework three hypotheses are derived: the desirability of a collectible item is positively related to its rarity, aesthetic pleasingness, and size. Evidence based on eBay auction sales of fossilised dinosaur eggs provides support for all three hypotheses.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (June)
    Pages: 410-417

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:3:p:410-417

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep

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    Keywords: Collecting behaviour Honest signalling Scarcity effect Conspicuous consumption Sexual selection under parental choice;

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    1. Koford, Kenneth & Tschoegl, Adrian E., 1998. "The market value of rarity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 445-457, March.
    2. Carey, Catherine, 2008. "Modeling collecting behavior: The role of set completion," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 336-347, June.
    3. Mcinish, Thomas H. & Srivastava, Rajendra K., 1982. "The determinants of investment in collectibles: A probit analysis," Journal of Behavioral Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 123-134.
    4. Belk, Russell W, 1988. " Possessions and the Extended Self," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 139-68, September.
    5. Benjamin J. Burton & Joyce P. Jacobsen, 1999. "Measuring Returns on Investments in Collectibles," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 193-212, Fall.
    6. Belk, Russell W., 1995. "Collecting as luxury consumption: Effects on individuals and households," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 477-490, September.
    7. Anderson, Robert C, 1974. "Paintings as an Investment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(1), pages 13-26, March.
    8. Pesando, James E, 1993. "Art as an Investment: The Market for Modern Prints," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1075-89, December.
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