Someone once posed the question: Do you own your collection or does your collection own you?

It provokes a moment of reflection.

At our house, we are not hoarders. But, by golly, we have certainly been collectors over the years.

Books, paintings, prints, old maps, daggers, CDs, albums, a ridiculous number of hats and innumerable tchotchkes are there to be found. Some of them are second generation, things my parents collected or Connie’s parents acquired that now find a home at our house.

Still more are things we’ve picked up along the way.

And then there is the suitcase in the attic.

It came to mind a couple of weeks back when I was talking with my older brother, Steve.

He and his wife have been working through the long, tedious process of downsizing as they move from a house to a more manageable condo.

The contents of the suitcase started with Steve.

Back about 1956, he started a collection of toy cars and trucks in 1/43rd scale; and he was a nice enough big brother to let me share in the collection.

Both of us added to it over the years, acquiring a Dinky Toy at Wolf and Dessauer in Fort Wayne or a Corgi Toy at Marshall Field in Chicago or occasionally a German toy made by Marklin, which mostly made toy trains, from a little shop in the Loop.

It was a joint effort, and after Steve and Beth married there was a memorable afternoon when it came time to divide the spoils.

It was sometime in the second half of the 1960s. Beth was worried that it might prove contentious, as I recall. But our tastes were different enough that we both ended up with what we wanted, and one collection became two.

Mine didn’t grow much. I bought a few more little cars in college and even fewer after Connie and I married.

For most of the past 40 years, my collection has been in an old suitcase in the attic, each toy vehicle wrapped in old newspaper scraps.

But Steve’s grew.

Over the phone, it became clear that he didn’t know quite what to do with it today.

By a rough count, his collection now totals something like 500 little diecast metal toys. Mine, meanwhile, probably tops out at about 75.

At one point, both of us thought the things would prove valuable in an “Antiques Roadshow” sort of way. But in the age of eBay, that’s not the case.

So what, Steve wondered, should he do with these 500 or so little cars and trucks?

I had no answer. But I did have a question: Why didn’t he give them to his grandsons when he had a chance?

Trouble is, Simon and Andrew Ronald are now in the heading-off-to-college stage of their lives. The last thing they’d want to drag along would be 500 little toy cars and trucks.

And when I hung up, the idea hit me.

Now I know what to do with that suitcase in the attic.

Our grandsons — Julian and Gabriel — are coming for a visit in April.

It’s time to start divvying up the collection.

It’s time to set aside the notion that these things are going to appreciate in value. 

It’s time for the toys to be played with again.

My plan, such as it is, calls for the two boys to choose an as yet undetermined number of the pieces as their own. 

I want to make sure that granddaughter Johanna gets to choose next time she’s here for a visit, and I want to make sure there are still good ones for new granddaughter Bea to take possession of several years from now. But at some point, they will all be distributed.

This time around, the best way to own the collection is to let it go.