Netsuke, at the top of the pyramid.
At the bottom, wrappers.
For junior collectors, candy wrappers, cleaned, spread, straightened, stacked in boxes, or pressed under books on bookshelves. Value-free wrappers off karamel’ki the hard candy from your corner Produkty store, kept to pad volume; chocolate candy wrappers, somewhat more desirable; rare wrappers with foreign words on them. Foreign words graduated in bragging and trading value: Estonian words cheaper than English, Kazakh cheaper than Estonian.
Chewing gum wrappers. The domestic trinity of orange, strawberry and mint, boring in the metropolis of Moscow, rare and elusive in the provinces, a.k.a. everywhere else. Wrappers off the domestic Coffee Aroma gum. To Americans, coffee may seem like a strange gum flavor, yet it was perhaps the most available one in the USSR. Gum wrappers brought back by kids whose Army parents were stationed in Germany and Eastern Europe: super-valuable.
Pocket-sized calendars. Glossy, matte. Calendars commemorating cities, whether Leningrad or Blagoveshchensk; calendars themed on nature, transportation, industries, the glories of keeping money in a savings account, the glories of travel to Sochi.
If your family has traveled to Sochi, collections of shells and chicken gods. Chicken gods are pebbles with natural holes in them.
Matchboxes collected for their labels.
To match matchboxes, little villages of matchstick architecture, crafted on dreary winter nights when there is nothing on TV.
Model airplanes. Model airplane collections require dedication from your parents, not just you. Model airplanes are not candy wrappers; funds and resources are needed.
Pins and badges.
Pins commemorating cities, events, achievements, revolutionaries. Pins with Lenin heads; Fit for Labor and Defense pins; Moscow Olympiad 1980 pins.
Pins pinned to red fabric display banners sewn specifically for that purpose by your grandma.
Stamps. Beginner stamps, which can be bought at any newspaper kiosk: Cuba, Sochi, Moscow Olympiad 1980, Yuri Gagarin, Bela Kun. If you keep at it, one day you might grow a scruffy beard, obtain (not buy) a turtleneck sweater, and graduate from amassing these useless paper rectangles to real philately, which means “collecting stamps that are thought important by bearded dudes wearing turtlenecks.”
Also, after you get that beard, you can start collecting books with matching covers.
The Lives of Outstanding People series: Jack London, Gogol, Balzac, General Franco, Schubert, Sun Yat-sen. Two shelves’ worth of Lives is a decent collection.
The Library of Foreign Literature, rare on the periphery of the country: Kobo Abe, Stanislaw Lem, Robert Sheckley. The more, the better.
The Library of World Literature, 200 volumes in toto: Beowulf, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Diderot, William Thackeray, Pablo Neruda, the Goncourt brothers, and poetry of the socialist countries of Europe. Hard to get. Twenty volumes or more is a good collection. You may want to try ways to discourage people from borrowing those volumes. Get your own ex libris stamp; no dishonest borrowers will be able to claim your Boccaccio as theirs.
A more drastic protective measure is to write this popular poem on a sheet of paper, and tack the paper on the shelf:
“Don’t give my shelves those greedy looks! We will not let you borrow books. To let your friends just come and borrow, you’d have to be a total moron!”
(Не шарь по полкам жадным взглядом! Здесь не даются книги на дом. Лишь только полный идиот знакомым книги раздает.)
No, not a joke.
If you collect Books with Matching Covers for the impressive display they make, you may also consider collecting Oriental rugs and vases of cut crystal.
If you collect Books with Matching Covers because your turtleneck and your beard want them, you may also consider philately and netsuke.
Netsuke, at the top of the pyramid.
In the USSR, private property is banned; personal property is allowed.
Objects collected on dreary winter nights when there is nothing on TV.
Objects which never become subjects anaphorically.