Seven years working at the Smithsonian gave Tim Gold an insight into the world of collecting. He is fond of sharing his excitement and spreading the word that the things you choose to collect do not need to be expensive.

Tim and husband Mitchell Gold thought it would be fun to start collections to display in their new Washington loft, the first place they furnished as a couple. They settled on two categories: mechanical stopwatches and retro table lighters.

“I found it interesting to collect something once commonplace in the home that now is almost taboo,” says Tim, pointing out his lineup of table lighters, which were a staple of coffee tables for a good chunk of the 20th century. They are made of many materials: Bakelite, silverplate, marble and metal.

“I like to say that I chose stopwatches because every second counts. Sometimes I hold one up to show Mitchell, who is always working and creating. It’s to show him that we have to slow down and relax and just be together,” says Tim. He looks for stopwatches made in the 1940s through the 1970s.

Here are Tim Gold’s list of tips for both the novice and seasoned collector:

Tim Gold arranged part of his collection of table lighters (he has about 30) on this mirrored tray in his Meridian Hill loft. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

1. Set a price limit and don’t exceed it.
It makes scavenging more fun.

2. Choose something small in size, especially if you travel a lot. This makes it easy to seek out objects that you can bring back in your backpack or luggage. They are also easier to display.

3. Support local businesses. Flea markets, thrift shops and junk shops are good places to look.

4. Condition is everything. You’ll want to display pieces that have been cared for and are in good working order.

5. Don’t display every piece of your collection at the same time. Put out six or seven pieces and rotate them every few months. You will appreciate them more.

6. Avoid eBay. It takes the fun and ad­ven­ture out of collecting because its stock is overwhelming.