Why We Collect

Why do we collect? Why do we have such an attraction to Mahjong? There really is no easy answer, and probably all of us have different reasons, but one thing is the same: we feel some kind of emotional connection with the sets and the art.

Why is Mahjong different from other toy collections? You only have to go on the internet to see images of people with huge collections of toys, pez dispensers, ships, etc.

For example, Captain Kyle Ugone  has the largest collection of Lego sets.

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and another collection of pez dispensers:

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from pinterest


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salt and pepper shakers (photo by Julius Friedman)


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and the Thomson Collection of ship models.


Collections can also be virtual, as exemplified by the photos we see on Pinterest.

What makes Mahjong different? Mahjong really is in a category by itself, because of the many different associations people have with the game, the tiles, and the history.

Many of us are attracted to the game because we have relatives who played, and having vintage sets reminds us of those long gone days, giving us a feeling of connection. Some of us are attracted by the variety of carvings styles and materials, and the ways the craftsmen expressed themselves, despite the limited parameters allowed for the tile designs. We may love to have a collection we can play with as adults, small little pieces of art. We may decide to collect sets made of different materials, quirky and unusual sets, only hand-carved,  sets with Flowers telling stories from Chinese lore,  or beautiful Mahjong boxes.

Few of us have gone as far as Mr. Kyouitirou Noguchi, Chairman of Take Shobo Co., Ltd., of Tokyo, Japan, who built a museum to house his collection.

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the rest of us have had to resort to refurbishing a closet, or renting a store room.

To take a look at some wonderful collections, please visit the Resources area of the website, in the tab about online web resources.

Here are some articles written about collecting:



One thought on “Why We Collect

  1. Tony

    To my mind, Mah Jong collecting has more of an affinity with collecting typewriters than anything else:- the restoration element is a big part of the attraction for me, and the same with typewriters (I have a couple of these too!), but I think the difference is that Mah Jong is much more tactile and you can really play a game with them, whereas typing letters on your typewriter collection seems not to be a real option (except for obsessives)?
    I collect dominoes too, but there is nowhere near the variety of styles, materials and boxes that Mah Jong has, so it plays second fiddle (and no, I don't plan on collecting them, although I am restoring a melodeon).
    Some concentrate on elaborate boxes, others on plastic tiles, many on high-end bone/ivory & bamboo/ebony sets... I collect the unusual, quirky sets; many are very cheap, but hold a special interest for me.
    And I like rescuing the battered and bruised, unloved sets and trying to restore them to their former glory.
    The obsession (there, I've said it!) doesn't end, every week I see something new to pique my interest, and there seems to be no lack of competition from other collectors...

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