What are Curios?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Curios are small objects which are prized for their rarity or distinctiveness. The term is short for “curiosity.” Many people keep a few curios around their homes, and they are often topics of interest and discussion at parties. Sometimes a curio comes with an interesting history, or it sparks conversation simply because it is so distinctive. In some cases, such objects are displayed in a curio cabinet, which sets them off to advantage while protecting them. Some curio cabinets are works of art or curiosities in and of themselves.

People have been collecting objects which make them curious for thousands of years. Early explorers always brought back unusual artifacts from the regions they visited, to try and convey at least a small aspect of the cultures they interacted with. Some of these curios were also very valuable, either because they contained valuable components like silver and gold, or because they were very unusual. Many people in medieval society created “cabinets of curiosities” which they displayed to interested guests; these collections often included scientific specimens.


Although curios are easier to obtain than they once were, thanks to an interconnected globe, some are still quite unusual. Handmade curios from remote civilizations, for example, are often highly prized, because they are considered one-of-a-kind. In other cases, curios are distinctive because they are from civilizations and cultures which have collapsed, so they have historic interest. The tradition of bringing small objects back from foreign travels is also still retained; most people, for example, expect gifts from close friends after they have been adventuring in remote or interesting places.

These decorative objects tend to be small, distinguishing them from larger works of art, and their value varies widely. In some instances, a curio holds more sentimental than actual value, because the owner associates it with an interesting trip or with the person who presented the curio as a gift. In other cases, curios are extremely valuable, as is the case with artifacts from lost civilizations held in museum collections.

In addition to acquiring curios while traveling, it is also often possible to purchase curios from shops which specialize in the importation and sale of unusual objects. In some instances, these shops may focus on curios from a particular place, as might be the case with a store which specializes in African crafts, or a curiosity shop might be more general, enticing patrons with a wide range of unusual objects.


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Post 5

"It was a hand carved frog from Africa. It has a little stick in its mouth that you run up its back to make it croak. It is very pretty and made out of dark brown wood. What a find!"

Those things are mass produced in China. Sorry to bust your bubble but they are not unique at all.

Post 4

@minthybear19 -- Your owl classifies as a curio to me. I'm not sure where you got it from but it holds significant sentimental value. As the article said, the actual value might not matter if you have a fond association with the curios.

I have a tiny monkey trinket I got from a old friend when I visited him. It's technically worthless, but I treasure it because he passed away shortly afterward. It is simply a reminder of him.

Post 3

@tanner182 -- I do geocaching when I travel too, but I've never found anything that interesting. I've found masks, coins, small toys and other stuff like that.

I have a item I consider a curio, but I don't think that it actually is. It is a 6 inch tall clay owl statue that is handmade. It isn't from a mold and has a very stylized signature on the bottom. I can't make out the signature, but I love the owl. It is very beautiful and makes a great decoration. I collect little owls and this one is by far my favorite.

Post 2

@tanner182 - I always hunt for curios like that frog when I travel. You can find some pretty amazing things when you visit small markets abroad. Just for curiosity's sake, you might want to check into the value of that frog. I've sold some curios for decent profit over the years. Just make sure that you actually want to sell the curios -- I've sold some and than found out that they are practically priceless. I keep most of the ones I buy now and I advise you to do the same.

Post 1

I always associate curios with geocaching now. Geocaching is a type of GPS treasure hunting game I do when I travel. You get a geocaching location online and than try to find it. Sometimes you get little items in the geocaching stash -- one of them I found was a real curios!

It was a hand carved frog from Africa. It has a little stick in its mouth that you run up its back to make it croak. It is very pretty and made out of dark brown wood. What a find!

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