Collectaholics, BBC2, review: It's time for these obsessives to say goodbye to all tat


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The Independent Culture

"We're a nation of collectors" reckons Antiques Roadshow's Mark Hill (a man who describes himself with his own mouth as "antiques expert – and lifelong collector – Mark Hill", which must be a mouthful in the pub or at meetings of other antique experts). His case for the prosecution came in Collectaholics (BBC2) where Hill and Mel Giedroyc find a motley crew who – you've got it – are addicted to collecting.

There was a bloke with 7,000 unique beer cans (lad!); another who was burying himself and his wife in old railway signs; and a young man who just liked things from the 1930s and Forties. Note the preponderance of XY chromosomes, armchair psychologists. Airline steward Ben, the retro man, is quite sweet. His home is uncluttered and full of cheap nods to his favourite period. He just wanted Antiques Expert Mark Hill and Mel to rid him of a few bits so he can afford to plumb in a proper period oven. So they sold a few knick-knacks at Spitalfields market and made £430. Fine.

More dramatic was ex-railway worker Stuart whose collection of railwayana is so vast that he doesn't have room to display it. Despite having a life-sized station platform in his garden. And a buffet bar. And a petrol station. And a collection of stuff from shops upstairs. He has too many things, essentially.

Most of those things are those lovely retro transport signs that John Lewis flog for about £90 to people who used to live in Finsbury Park but now commute from Leighton Buzzard, to remind them of being edgy.

There were countless cool individual items of beautiful train art by artists like Harry Riley and Tom Eckersley (Mel and Tom's sections on the history of these things make Collectaholics worth tuning into). Even if he sold just his petrol station tat, Stuart would be good for £50-70,000, which he gleefully suggested he could use to spend on more railway bits, or to extend his storage space. OR TO TAKE HIS WIFE ON HOLIDAY??

But Stuart seemed positively sane compared to Nick, the beer can man from Somerset. I'm assured by Psychology Today that this kind of collecting doesn't qualify as hoarding unless it's impeding your life.

Alas, Nick's collection of beer tinnies is so vast that it led he and wife, Deborah, to move from a house they loved so that Nick can have a larger – humidity controlled! – room for his cans. And they're not even good beer cans. Sure, Nick has some fascinating specimens. There's a Felinfoel Brewery Pale Ale can from post-prohibition. Which is obviously worth caring for. Though it should be, having cost £1,200. But Nick also collects bog-standard Heineken, Stella, Special Brew and – ! – Somerfield Simple Value Bitter cans. As Antiques Expert Mark Hill said: "Who would have thought to save this?" Sure, it's an interesting history of modern branding. But one that belongs in a beer or design museum. Not upstairs in suburbia.

Nick's tinny myopia was best exemplified by a line too good for even an arch mockumentary. When asked at the end if the £10-15,000 valuation he'd been given was enough to make him flog the lot and finally let his poor wife downsize, he stepped from toe to toe and mumbled: "Well, I was collecting cans before I married Deborah, so, to a certain extent, the cans came first."

If I was Deborah, I'd file for a divorce asking solely for half of the beer cans. Then I'd buy a Lakeland Crush-a-Can Aluminium Can & Tin Crusher, set it up in the front garden and send those Tetley's Bitter tins up to the great municipal recycling point in the sky while Nick watched, beating his chest, wiping snotty tears from his cheeks and realising the crushing futility of collecting slightly differing Boddingtons cans and – ultimately – life itself.

But that's just me.