The spark for me was back in the early 2000s when I basically wanted to learn how to build computers, but not having any money or parts to practice with, nor people to ask questions about computers since nobody I knew knew anything about them.
So I figured I'd go dumpsterdiving and use those old junkers to practice on. But everything I found was much older than my (at the time) Pentium 2 350, most was 486 and older with a few Pentiums thrown in the mix, all systems being proprietary or AT at best.
And the more I took home with me, the more my interest kept growing along with the size of my stash.
Later on I started doing less of the dumpsterdiving and more of the purchasing because I wanted to get more higher end or maxed out parts (I was getting tons of DX-33 and Pentium 100MHz, 137-ish MB Quantum ProDrives and that kind of stuff etc etc, more than I'd ever need but not really suitable for what I wanted), so I discovered ebay and a couple other sites where I started purchasing stuff (like tons of cheap CPUs or cheap graphics cards, batches of wiped harddrives, even a couple car seats worth of tossaway "I need room so it's going into the bin or you take it for free" stuff) and I only did dumpsterdiving occasionally instead of 5 or 6 nights a week.
I asked left and right for people if they had an old PC collecting dust in their attics and I did some work with PCs where I could also take home some stuff they deemed 'not worth it'.
This was also the time where I moved and also started taking the storage bit more seriously. At some point the proverbial drawer filled with spare socks won't suffice anymore! 😜
At some flea market I bought WinME for €15 or so, which was the event that send me into using WinME a lot (I mean on dozens of systems), so my interest shifted more and more to hardware which I wanted to run ME on.
I basically stopped collecting back in 2014 or so?? I don't remember exactly but in a few years it slowed down to almost full-stop, partially because I had everything that I felt I needed and was basically feeling content about what I had and anything post AGP and post single cores didn't interest me as much
And that stuff was still too expensive for me back then thanks to the decade of tech stagnation thanks to AMD being mostly uncompetitive post core2 and Intel getting lazy to milk the consumers for 10 years or so because of this, so prices on second hand parts stopped dropping, along with mining becoming a thing.
And tbf at some point my interest started to wane and has only been rekindled relatively recently.
So almost by chance, my collection is mostly AGP/ATX stuff and AT/PCI/VLB/ISA stuff >=386 (I needed a cutoff point to prevent my stash from growing too much so 286 and slower had to go) with a very wide assortment of parts, mostly lower end parts. If it was common back then, I'll probably have a sizable amount of it right now. Having a wide range of parts and not just the cool items kinda forced me into experimenting more, which taught me to appreciate a wider range of hardware and gave me way more experience instead of going for only the cookiecutter builds 😜
I don't even know how much exactly I have, but I'm fairly sure I written about it before and it barely grew since then.
I've got some big projects happening with my life and my place atm, but I did notice I've finally run out of antistatic bags so I bought another couple hundred ESD shielding bags and probably in a couple months or so once these other projects have been completed I'll be going up in the attic again ^^