Strange Collectibles: Odd Things that People Collect May 21 2021
From rare coins and autographs to vintage comic books and valuable documents, collectors carefully acquire and catalogue a wide variety of items. Hobbyists often see collecting as an enjoyable way to spend their free time. Some collectors are motivated by the investment value. Others do it for the sheer love of – or obsession for - the items they collect.
However, some collectors have very unusual collections compiled of uncommon items. In those cases, monetary value may not be a factor. But before reviewing those oddities, let's define what a real collection is.
COLLECTING VS. ACCUMULATING
Accumulating is not collecting. For example, someone with drawers full of jewelry or closets filled with purses or shoes is likely not a collector. They simply like accessories a lot. Maybe you have a jersey from every team you follow and refuse to toss even the rattiest one. That's not a collection. That's accumulation with a preference, and good taste, we're sure.
Collecting vs. accumulating
For some individuals, compulsive accumulation, and the inability to let things go develops into hoarding. Hoarders may be drawn to many of the same types of objects. But rather than carefully acquiring individually chosen keepsakes, they amass "stuff" – often multiple identical items.
Conversely, collecting is a purposeful activity. The serious collector is knowledgeable about their chosen treasures. They usually organize and catalogue their inventory. Details about each item in their collection are noted. That information may include when and where the piece was acquired, its value or significance, the date of production, and other relevant data.
Moreover, most collectors showcase their compilations in some manner. Both public and private displays are common. They may organize each acquisition by the manufactured date or some other meaningful method. Typically, they also know exactly what they're missing and hoping to acquire.
So, with those distinctions made, let's now turn to some unusual collector catalogs. The following selections are strange, odd, unusual, or bizarre in the world of collecting.
1. Barf Bags
Think airsick bags have always been plain and unremarkable?
Think again. There's actually an online virtual museum for air sickness bags. Curator Steven J. Silberberg created a website highlighting his dubious treasures.
Sadly for "baggists," as barf bag collectors are called, whimsical airplane barf bags are a thing of the past. So, much of their collecting activity involves chasing after vintage airsick bags. Two of the sick bags on Silberberg's "most wanted" list are "Beastie Boys License to Ill" and "I Survived the Clinton White House."
Before that sad turn of events, Niek K. Vermeulen of the Netherlands earned the Guinness World Record in sick bag collections (Yes. That's a thing.) in 2012. Over the previous four decades, he had collected more than 6,000 airsick bags from nearly 200 countries. One of his bags has even been in space. It's a NASA space shuttle barf bag.
2. Celebrity Hair
Another Guinness World Record notable is John R.. His collection is made up of celebrity locks. He authenticated a patch of Elvis Presley's hair for a $15,000 sale. John R. also sold a bit of Michael Jackson's hair from his own collection for a mere $2,000.
In the Victorian age, a snippet of hair from a notable individual was today's celebrity autograph. People even sold celebrity hair in the mid-1800s. John R´s collection contains samples from Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Eva Braun, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Marilyn Monroe.
Paul Fraser is another successful collector of celebrity hair. When Fraser parted with a sample of Marilyn Monroe's hair – snipped after she sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy – it commanded a record-topping $331,233. He's also connected to the $40,668 sale of Justin Bieber's locks.
Upon initial consideration, it may seem as though a collection
of nails would be limited and boring. Yet this collection, slowly acquired by Richard Jones, is more diverse and interesting than you might imagine. The retired joiner from the UK collected nails for over five decades. He mounted his inventory of more than 3,000 nails for display on more than 32 boards.
Jones collected his assortment of nails during his work with a joinery shop and a construction company and from yard sales and antique fairs. As Jones' renown grew, so did his collection. People started sending him interesting nails from around the world. In fact, some of his items are from Roman times.
4. Fossilized Feces
The question, "Why are you collecting that crap?" may never have rung so true as it does with George Frandsen. Yet another Guinness World Record recipient, Frandsen is a collector of fossilized feces. His "poozeum" is a whimsical play on words describing a very bizarre collection.
Frandsen has amassed more than 5,000 fossilized poop specimens from around the globe. These historical turds are small, medium, large, and ancient – ranging in age from 10,000 years to 400 million years old. Coprolite is the official term for the animal dung that Frandsen collects.
He explains that his hobby isn't as gross as it sounds. You would be far more likely to mistake his collector's items as rocks than as feces. They're also extremely educational. But he cautions people that most of the supposed coprolites on the market are fakes, especially purported dinosaur turds.
5. Hot Sauce
Vic Clinco's hot sauce collection is approaching 10,000 bottles.
He became a "Chile-Head" more than two decades ago, after his then-girlfriend gifted him with a pack of sauces. Clinco's love of hot sauces now runs the gamut, from inexpensive grocery store versions to pricey reserve bottles.
One of the prides of his collection is a Blair's Reserve Caldera, one of only 499 bottles ever produced. He also owns a hot sauce made with black ants, called SoCaliANTe. Unlike his challenger for largest hot sauce collection, Clinco collects only hot sauces and a handful of hot wing sauces. Chip Hearn's collection, on the other hand, includes salsas and barbecue sauces. Thus, the competition may be heating up.
6. Antique Surgical Sets
Dr. Douglas Arbittier has been an avid collector of medical antiques. With a macabre assortment of implements, this vintage collection is not for the weak. Tools for bloodletting and amputation, toothkeys for tooth extractions, and skull saws for neurosurgical procedures are among some of the more cringe-worthy items.
Dr. Arbittier's collection spotlights surgical equipment from Germany, Italy, France, England, and the United States. It also contains a military section for Civil War medical equipment. In case you're a fan of outdated surgical implements, the vast collection was put up for sale in late 2020.
7. Antique Rodent Traps
Rick Ciciarelli is a collector who finds the beauty of human
ingenuity in traps. As he explains it, most of the traps invented and patented since 1836 were designed to catch rodents. He is on a mission to collect and preserve samples of these innovative creations from years gone by.
It's a vast field for collectors. There have been innumerable inventions for trapping mice and rats. Some examples are live traps, cast iron devices, guillotines, backbreakers, pinch traps, and flat snaps, among several other options.
Antique rodent trap collecting may seem odd. But it's not unusual. Just ask Dannis Warf with 500 specimens acquired over four years, Ohio Trap History Museum curator Tom Parr, or the North American Trap Collectors Association.
8. Hotel 'Do Not Disturb' Door Signs
Jean-François Vernetti must really hate being bothered. Between 1985 and 2014, the Swiss man collected more than 11,000 'Do Not Disturb' signs. He gathered the signs from hotels in 189 countries. His hobby was initially inspired by the sighting of a misspelled DND sign at his Sheffield, UK, hotel. In 2010, his collection was declared the largest of its kind.
But by 2018, Edoardo Flores was fast approaching Vernetti's record, with more than 9,000 DND signs from 190 countries, plus some airplanes and cruise ships. As a UN employee, Flores is called upon to travel frequently. He counts the country of origin as an important factor. He hopes to add to his collection with DND signs from more non-tourist locales.
Flores has observed that in Asian countries, higher end
lodging usually offers the more elaborate signs. One of his items, located at a Vietnamese resort, features a metal DND sign with eyes that may be shielded or uncovered. But the distressing news for DND sign collectors is how tech advancements are impacting the signs. Soon, hotel door display lights may replace most of these handy DND door signs.
9. Space Rocks
Meteorites are fascinating, sure. But how do you get your hands on enough of them to build a collection? It turns out, it takes several collectors, curators, a university, and a museum.
Professor Joseph P. Cook started collecting meteorites for his chemistry and Mineralogy department in 1850. He then acquired the J. Lawrence Smith collection in 1883. J.E. Wolff took over as curator in 1894. He added to the collection with meteorites he purchased himself.
Other scientists contributed to the collection over the ensuing years. Today, the Harvard Museum of Natural History meteorite collection contains 1,500 specimens and 600 separate meteorites.
However, InfoSpace CEO Naveen Jain has given museums a run for their money in meteorite collecting. He's paid about $5 million to acquire more than 500 meteorite specimens. He competes with museums and other collectors to acquire his specimens.
By 2013, Martina Schellenberg had amassed an impressive
napkin collection with 125,866 unique items. She organizes her massive collection by theme, keeping them in separate boxes.
Another contender is Antonia Kozakova with more than 80,000 napkins in her collection. She looks forward to finding a napkin signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and dreams of a napkin with her own name and face on it.
While napkin collecting may not be mainstream, there's a respectable market and a widespread collector community. They even engage in swaps with other types of collectors, like DND sign curators. It really is a small world out there.
11. Moist Towelettes
Many unusual collections seem to be built on the collector's fascination with disposable products. Some claim that they're captivated by the idea that something that should have been thrown away many years ago has persevered. John French is no exception.
He also designed his own personal museum for his odd collection of moist towelettes. You can see it on display at Michigan State University. Online, French catalogues his towelette packets by manufacturer, design, company branding, and other details. He accepts towelette donations but hasn't updated his website for several years.
12. Toilet Paper from Around the World
Now with a virtual museum online , collectors Richard and
Floralee Newman have created since 1978 a collection with some 2,500 pieces of toilet paper from various countries - every continent except Antarctica.
They are stored in boxes in their home, with some dating back to a century ago. The Whole World Toilet Paper Museum has not only a place on the internet, but was aired on the Travel Channel in 2019 in an episode about bizarre collections.
ONE MAN´S TRASH. . .
You've no doubt heard the old adage that "One man's trash is another man's treasure." That's quite accurate with several of the strange and unusual collections spotlighted here. But isn't it interesting to see something you felt had no value with new eyes? Perhaps you too may find hidden treasures in unlikely places. Isn't that the collector's dream?
Interested in authentic autographs?
Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum, http://www.airsicknessbags.com/
Medical Antiques, http://medicalantiques.com/
Antique Mouse & Rat Trap Gallery, http://rickcicciarelli.com/traps.html
Moist Towelette Online Museum, http://www.moisttowelettemuseum.com/
Whole World Toilet Paper Museum, http://www.tagyerit.com/tp/index.html