I am a Tolkien collector from Essex in England. I work in IT in London for a multinational company. My hobbies are English history (especially medieval) and book collecting. I collect quite a few different authors (I really like Folio Society books), but my main collection is UK Tolkien books, ephemera, posters and artwork.
I first encountered Tolkien while still at school in 1975, when my teacher read The Hobbit to the class. I bought my first copy of The Lord of the Rings in 1978 (the Film tie-in edition) with the Nazgûl from Ralph Bakshi's film on the cover. This is my favourite copy of the Lord of the Rings because it was new to me when I read this book.
I had bought the Silmarillion in paperback as well, but at that age struggled with the book. In 1980 I was given the newly released hardback Unfinished Tales, and I think this book really got me started on collecting hardbacks and better quality editions, as I was very impressed with the fold-out map (still today the best Christopher Tolkien map of Middle-Earth).
My collection gradually grew from there.
I have put very strict limits on what I collect (I find that if you don't do this, you can't break them).
I primarily collect British editions of Tolkien's fiction, and try to own every different UK edition i.e. all the books on Deagol's "Illustrated Tolkien Bibliography". I'm probably about 98% complete and it is now very difficult to find missing items.
I am very interested in box-sets and signed items. I am also focusing more on Tolkien's published academic works at the moment
This is very difficult to calculate as I am still trying to catalogue my collection, but I think probably about 400 books (about 90 copies of The Hobbit and 120 copies of The Lord of the Rings).
It is very difficult to identify a greatest find. Some of the hardest editions to find for me have been paperback box-sets, as some of the Unwin 1970's sets where very flimsy in construction.
My favourite item though has to be the 1982 Super Deluxe Silmarillion, but I also like my rebound 1946 Hobbit and my first impression set of The Lord of the Rings.
I don't have my own website but am a moderator on The Tolkien Collector's Guide, run by Jeremy Edmonds.
I am very interested in signed items (I have a signed copy of the 1968 paperback one volume Lord of the Rings, a signed Tolkien letter and a History textbook that Tolkien gave to his son Michael in my collection), but as Pieter points out in his article on Avoid Buying Fake Tolkien Signatures on eBay, J.R.R. Tolkien signatures are a minefield and very, very expensive.
This does not have to stop you collecting signed items though. I also collect items signed by Tolkien's children, Tolkien illustrators (one of my favourite signed items is Farmer Giles of Ham signed by Pauline Baynes), and other people associated with Tolkien, such as his publishers, biographers, colleagues and scholars.
It is an addiction, but a nice addiction.
The Tolkien community are very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable and it's a great hobby to have.