Book Review: Kiwi Collectors

Stuart Macadam

Stuart Macadam is a business student at Massey University's Albany campus. Originally from South Africa, Stuart now lives in Auckland with his parents and younger brother and sister. He enjoys writing articles and opinion columns which generate good discussion and encourage people to think independently. 

Matt Elliot’s book Kiwi Collectors provides a lot of interesting stories about people who have some fascinating, unique and sometimes rather boring collections. The subtitle, Curious and Unusual Kiwi Hobbies suits the book well as there are indeed some rather strange goods which some of our fellow countrymen and women dedicate many hours and dollars to collecting.

The write up which Elliot did with each collector is impressive. His writing style has certainly improved since he penned the biography of Billy T James. This time around he is clear, concise and to the point. No extra words are needed. Each visit to the different collector holistically has three sections; the collector themself, the collection and the uniqueness of the collection. Accompanying pictures in varying sizes show off some of the crown jewels. One man has almost completely decorated his house in fishing floats. Bill Williams is clock man, with a grandiose collection of clocks from all around the world, ranging from alarm clocks to grandfather clocks. Of course there is a rugby related collection in there. I shall not say what it is though. You’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.

The book is essentially a collection of essays. If you picked up the book and read about one collector a night, you’d be done within three weeks.

A lot of the deep and meaningful assemblies were educating and informative. Medal collections, comic books and model trains (and lots of them) are very humorous and joyous to read. Due to security, privacy and modesty, some collectors do not give too much personal information away; one collector who owns a sizeable Tennessee warehouse of goods simply informs us his location is NOT TENNESSEE, a cheeky quick witted way to modestly move aside.

Some flaws let the book down in some areas. Some products were just not very interesting at all and for the casual reader it will be difficult to relate to these passions. The man who lends himself to the cover page collects moulding planes. Another gentleman owns a wide range of stationary engines. As hard as Elliot tries (and he certainly does), I just didn’t enjoy hearing about those collections. Some write ups for the less interesting sections too were overdone. A man who has a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants gets seven full pages, which could easily have been reduced to five. The gun collection, a very interesting one indeed, got a paltry four pages.

Regardless of the small hiccups, Kiwi Collectors is informative, well written and insightful. Some small snippets of the New Zealand and product history is given. However, we cannot be short sighted. A lot of the colourful collections belong to colourful characters. Perhaps they could start selling this book next to the road atlas and tourism brochures. It’d certainly be a memorable trip for visitors to see as many grand collections as possible. Many museums throughout New Zealand are also talked about as hotspots to visit.

Hopefully this book kick starts people to get into becoming a collector themselves. Or maybe there are some assembled possessions you already have. Would there be enough to make another book? I certainly hope so. 


Kiwi collectors is for sale in fine book stores everywhere for $36.99

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