Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament reflects on impact of collecting


Jeff Ament poses with his skateboard collection, courtesy of Jeff Ament

Mark Douglas, Staff Writer

Collections can vary in many ways. Just like hats or shoes, collections have different values and looks depending on the person who has them. Some collections are valued in an emotional way, and others hold a more historical value. For Jeff Ament, skateboards represent more than just a simple collection, they represent a time in history when a new culture was emerging.

“Skateboarding represented freedom, and sort of helped form my identity,” Ament said.

Ament collects skateboards, and his collection started when he was a young kid in Big Sandy, Montana. His collection started from his friend who went to other skating events and swap meets, and grabbed skateboards,  old surfboards, and other things that he liked. Ament was introduced to skateboards, and he was immediately hooked into the unique culture.

Collections all hold different values, and are all important in their own ways. Having a collection plays a huge role in defining who someone is.

Ament’s skateboard collection represents the energy and feeling of a younger time in his life. The collection and hobby gave him an identity, and it occupied a large part of his life when he was younger. He enjoyed the, “Do it yourself,” aspect of the skating culture as well, where you could assemble and do everything on your own. Later in Ament’s life, his collection started to become more than just a simple hobby.

 “Then it just sort of turned into an obsession, I ended up getting to know a bunch of collectors around the world… I would visit them, and make trades,” he explained.

Ament grew up in a small town, and everyone knew each other. Skateboarding introduced him to a new social group where he discovered a new sense of freedom, and started to make new friends and connections. As he grew up, he became more prevalent in the skateboarding community. He met other collectors from around the world and they indirectly propelled him into an almost competitive game of acquiring more valuable boards. 

“It’s such a good collection, and the only thing I think about is that I don’t want to ever split it up,” he said. 

Ament’s collection has transcended his own personal value, and Ament considers the collection valuable in a historical sense. His collection of skateboards range from 1977-1981, and they have actual value because there are only a certain amount of them left in the world. He hopes that they end up in a skateboarding museum, or the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.Ament has also formed a nonprofit organization called Montana Pool Service, that creates skateparks in small towns and cities all around Montana.

 “Skateboarding turned me onto punk rock and a lot of music,” Ament said.

Ament’s love for skateboarding introduced him into a whole new world of music as well, punk rock was among them. Ament eventually started a band called Mother Love Bone in Seattle. He played as the bassist with some of his friends, and his music became popular in the new grunge and punk rock community. Ament also played in Green River, and Temple of the Dog. Later on in his  life, he formed a new band called Pearl Jam and they helped define the grunge era and became an instant hit and a household name. And in 2017, the band was honored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Some collections shape careers and define who people are, but others can be a more personal and hidden interest that shapes who you are outside of the workplace.

Like Ament, Patrick Douglas’s collection continues to this day on the basis of nostalgia and the feeling of being young again. Douglas’s collection had no profound effect on his career, but it still holds great importance to him personally.

“The passion for the collection is half nostalgia and half fandom,” Douglas said. “I love the memories of  ‘Star Wars,’ and getting toys as a kid and those good memories all come back when I see certain characters or toys.” 

Douglas started his collection in 1977 when he was only two years old. When “Star Wars: A New Hope” came out in theaters, his parents bought him new toys from the film. Every birthday and Christmas for the next eight or nine years was loaded with more and more Star Wars toys and his collection started to bloom. He never got rid of anything, even when he outgrew the toys and boxed them all up. His mom refused to let him sell or get rid of anything. The real collecting began in 1995 when a new wave of figures and ships were released with the new movies. He was an adult by then but his cousin began buying the figures and hanging them, unopened, on the wall of his house. 

“Of course, no sane child thought about displaying their toys in the 80’s so those figures are a rare find still in the package. So, as a young adult, I vowed not to make that same mistake again and left them all in the package,” Douglas said. “My motivations had changed as I grew up.” 

Douglas’s collection had grown well into his adulthood, and he still collects to this day. Playing with toys was obviously not a thing for him anymore, but hanging up carded figures on his wall was similar to hanging a picture or a painting.

“I’ve also developed a new type of nostalgia as an adult as my wife and sons have all grown to love the “Star Wars” universe,” he added.

 Douglas had a change in his reasoning for collecting once he had started a family. His collection has become a household collection and all four family members get some joy from seeing all of the unique toys on the walls. The collection is more of a personal thing, and has much more emotional value than monetary value. He has never tallied up the actual cost of all his toys, and Douglas’s collection was never meant to be expensive. He hopes that the collection will stay together as a part of the family.

“I’ve never collected for the purpose of selling and assume my kids will take over the collection when they get older,” Douglas said.

For some, collecting was never for the purpose of displaying or just having a lot of one thing. Rather just the fact that their collection holds great meaning to them personally, and the collection grows by itself.

“Books were like having a friend,” said Jessica Hilbig.

Hilbig has been a teacher for 16 years, and she has taught ELA, History, and most recently she has become a librarian for Valley View Elementary School.

“I don’t collect books because they are old, or because they are signed by an author… monetary wise they are not great. They are invaluable really,” she said.

Her collection changes shape constantly as she adds and subtracts books from the collection, she talked about how her collection has so much emotional value she still has books that she got many years ago. Books were almost a survival technique for her as a kid, and even as an adult they help her stay sane, and keep her out of unhappy situations.  Reading is very important to her emotionally, and she never collected for the purpose of displaying. 

“Reading is really important to me because I had a rough childhood, and it was a way to get away from that and learn about other places and other people,” she said.

 Books have been a vital piece to her career ever since she started working. Her goal was to always become a teacher, or a librarian because she wanted to share the valuable lessons and stories to people in need, and to people who have been in situations just like her situation when she was younger. She reads by herself very often, and for the next step in her career she knew becoming a librarian was a perfect choice. As a librarian, she is able to be  surrounded by books and to still be able to teach students about ELA, history, and books. 

“I wanted to share the value in their stories, and the fantasy and escape and science fiction, and also to learn about things that you might learn a little bit about in school, but that you can now expand upon on your own,” Hilbig said.

Her collection means much more to her than just a simple collection of a random object, like toys, or rocks. Books have even more emotional value because she collects stories. She enjoys passing on books, and her goal is to create a chain of passing on books that have meaningful stories, from one person to the next, and so on.

For someone like Hilbig, collecting books wasn’t a direct collection, and it held a huge amount of personal value. But for someone like Ament, or Douglas, their collections were meant to be displayed.

“It’s mostly just something you can just go and look at, and be inspired,” Ament said.