This is where I get the most enjoyment out of collecting. The Internet has really empowered collectors, by placing so much information and collaboration with other collectors at our fingertips. It is really amazing, the stories your pieces tell as you gather more and more information.
An essential tool is some sort of organized repository for the information you gather. Sometimes it takes years for all of the puzzle pieces to fall into place, so you must have a system to avoid losing information. It doesn't have to be fancy. A three-ring notebook will do (it did for Jerry Janzen), as will a box with 4 x 6 cards. After beginning with an Excel spreadsheet, I chose to create a Microsoft Access database to store all of the information about each piece in my collection. I also have photographed each piece in my collection and have linked the photos to the database, so that I can refer to them while I am researching or responding to others who are seeking information. Discoveries about pieces in my own collection are often made when collaborating with other collectors or assisting them in their research.
I am a firm believer that the story does not add to the value of a piece, unless it can be documented to a reasonable degree. However, a story can significantly add to your enjoyment. And that's what collecting is all about: enjoyment. See my Library
pages for leads on beginning to research items in your collection.
Here are a some examples of how pieces in my collection have come to life through research:
Argentine M1871 Mauser Rifle?
German? French?, German M1866 Bayonet?
Discovering a Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket
Researching Your Finds