Magnificent obsessions
November 13, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Jay Raymond collects irons. Until 2007 he collected only streamlined irons: In the U.S. this meant irons made between 1932 and 1952. In 2007 he sold that collection of about 180 irons, and he now collects electric irons made between 1890-1925.
Alan Davies collects old bricks.
Rev Doug Dawson owns about 900 harmonicas.
Shaun Kotlarsky collects electrical and telegraph insulators. He has about 2,000 of them.
Bob Manning collects Mickey Mouse ties.

Edoardo Flores, a retired international civil servant from Turin, collects 'Do Not Disturb' door hangers from hotels, cruise ships and airlines around the world. He has about 7,000.
Michael van Kleeff, retired silversmith, collects midcentury clocks and other kitschy items.
Jo Pond collects brushes and Kirsten Hively collects volvelles, (also known as wheel charts, info charts, etc.).
Martin Parr collects Osama Bin Laden ephemera.
All those and MANY more can be found at Obsessionistas: "From the curious and fun to the uniquely significant, the things people choose to collect help reflect their values and say a lot about who they are."
Similar: Coudal’s Museum of Online Museums
posted by growabrain (29 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
See also: Antique Doorknob Collectors of America.

It's not weird that the African Violet Society of America exists, but it is weird how obviously they seem like an Illuminati front.

It's not anything serious, but I do have an unnatural attraction to and thus small collection of typewriter ribbon tins, and a quick Google reveals: "If you think typewriter ribbon tins are fun, you've come to the right place."
posted by 23 at 4:37 PM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Interesting post. I am a bit of a collector, and often joke with similar-minded friends about the vestigial nature of collecting. I think part of our brain is still wired from prehistoric times, when the guy who dragged the greatest number of dead animals back to his cave attracted the most desirable women, because he could provide meat and furs and oil light through the cold winters. Today it might work with cars, but a man would be hard pressed to attract desirable women with irons.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:45 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

but a man would be hard pressed

You could use a little starch instead.
posted by 23 at 4:55 PM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

None of these fellows is married to Mrs. Fnarf.

My obsessive-compulsive need to acquire and organize collections of things found its greatest expression in my enormous collection of swizzle sticks, which came to an abrupt end when she discovered how much I was spending on Ebay for them. Her real objection wasn't the money, though; it was the sheer volume of the things, which I was buying in lots of 50 or a hundred, hoping there'd be some great Vegas or Hollywood or Miami Beach ones in there. There usually were. I still have them in a box somewhere but I know that if I pull that box out there will be a tense scene, which could possibly spread to the question of "what about all these postcards? Do you need all of these postcards?" and "what about all of these road maps here?" and several other discussions that are best left undiscussed.

My attempts to deflect attention from my problem by pointing out that she has enough yarn squirreled away to knit enough sweaters for the entire population of our state, or enough vintage cooking pamphlets, I don't want to go there; she might agree, and get rid of them, and her vintage cooking pamplet collection is AMAZING.

We can agree on one thing, which is records, so I consider myself lucky.
posted by Fnarf at 5:05 PM on November 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Sometimes I search ebay for "collection of" and think about acquiring a collection of collections.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:09 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

While looking for our house we looked at a large older home that had been converted into a duplex. The guy upstairs had, according to him, 600 antique toasters and about 80 different radiant heaters. I felt like I should have been paying admission.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:14 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This guy does it with rear bicycle derailleurs. He must have hundreds.
posted by OHSnap at 6:29 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My collection of camel saddles is pathetic. I only have two. The first one was a junk tourist one, purchased for $1:00. The second one, a GOOD one was purchased for $150.
I'd far rather be collecting camels, but I can't keep even one here.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:33 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had toy busses as a kid, Greyhound busses and London busses were my favorites, also I had a horse collection. Mom had dolls and matchbooks.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:40 PM on November 13, 2012

Does a collection of collections contain itself?

(Personally I collected little plastic fuzz-coated creatures-- like this bear. I wonder if my parents still have them.)
posted by nat at 6:58 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

This post creates an electric buzz though my whole body. I could so easily be one of these people, except I'd actually have to be about 100 of them--how do they focus on *just* one thing? All of the collections are amazing (except the Mickey Mouse ties. No). It really gives me a physical reaction to see all these cool objects. I am just on the verge of becoming a hoarder.
posted by bluespark25 at 7:02 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My problem with collecting is I always price myself out of everything. I'll discover a cool thing I want to collect, and I'll buy a few indiscriminately, then out of enthusiasm, I'll start educating myself about said items, and invariably will gain enough knowledge to realize the only ones worth collecting are the ones I cannot afford. I did this with vintage typewriters -- they're bulky too, and are taking up an inordinate amount of space in my attic -- baseball cards, comic books, electric bass guitars (I use those, though, but god, have you LOOKED at a '59 Precision on eBay?) and more recently paperweights.

I have about 40 glass paperweights, most of them junk shop mass-produced crap that I bought on a whim before I knew what I was looking at, and a few that cost upwards of 1 or 2 hundred, but by modern makers, and a couple that were really elaborate gifts from my amazing, amazing wife & lover. I never did snag that 1880's Clichy or St. louis that I always hoped to find hidden in the corner of some flea market booth, and when I did finally see some of the real thing, with their attendant multiple-thousand dollar price tags, the wind just came out of my sails.

Now that I've settled down in one house though, the stuff has begun to mount up. We joke that were we ever to hit the lottery, we'd add a museum wing & hire a curator & preservationist. The wife collects art--the shelves are filled with Native American pottery & the walls are full of oils, pastels, and more recently photography. It's an event that can last all afternoon when it's time to hang a new piece. Neither of us bugs the other about our predilections because we each have our own, and we empathically understand.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2012

Ah, yes. Nat, my daughter had ten of those bears--on swings, trikes, in high chairs, etc.

I need to weed down the collections, but where to start? I have my old teenaged collection of china horses, with a few given to me recently by friends or relatives. (please stop!) There are the many horse pictures, which I guess constitutes a collection. There is the donkey salt & pepper set collection, and the collection of just plain donkeys that somehow accrued. The collection of kitchen Holstein cows was never my idea, but my son thought it was funny. I have a snaffle bit collection, as well as what my m-i-l calls my book 'collection.' Not as big as a library, but more than your average couple of bookcases. My husband says I have a collection of plants big enough to rival the Amazon, but he exaggerates a tad. He also says most of this stuff is just clutter that collects dust.

What does he know, he collects JUNK!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:11 PM on November 13, 2012

My problem with collecting is I always price myself out of everything. I'll discover a cool thing I want to collect, and I'll buy a few indiscriminately, then out of enthusiasm, I'll start educating myself about said items, and invariably will gain enough knowledge to realize the only ones worth collecting are the ones I cannot afford.

I think there are different sorts of collectors: those who buy their collection pieces from other collectors, and those who hunt and dig to find pieces. It's easier to buy from collectors who have already done the legwork, especially if your life is already busy enough to allow little time to go hunting for bricks, but then you have never seen your bricks in their natural habitat.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:32 PM on November 13, 2012

I came in here to snark about the glass telegraph insulators, particularly since such a collection was a minor point of surrealism in The Willodale Handcar by Edward Gorey. Of all things.

But I can't. Because the insulators are beautiful. And I could see myself collecting them, if I had a collecting urge.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:49 PM on November 13, 2012

I have always had the urge to collect, so I understand. When I was little, it was shells - not just random ones, I had to know about the creatures that lives in them. It was sparked by a camel cowry I was obsessed with the chambered nautilus and the textile cone. Later I moved on to wind-up toys (I wish I still had them!) and more recently, glass eyes, with cases and ephemera - I even have a strange mold that is made to cast five eyes at once.

I think my blog is kind of an extension of that - it's a way to collect something without it taking up physical space in my house (except for the dvds. and the films. and books. Um.)
posted by louche mustachio at 8:28 PM on November 13, 2012

When eBay debuted, I toyed with the idea of becoming a collector, but the eBay thing of course soured me on the whole idea. Scouring antique stores (as much as I enjoy it twice a year) was no longer an option for the true collector. Too difficult.

That said, the harmonica collection in the FPP is a thing to behold. The harp is about fifth on the list of instruments I play well, had no idea!
posted by kozad at 8:38 PM on November 13, 2012

This reminds me of my film camera and manual typewriter neuroses.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:38 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never thought I'd say this, but I really dig that guy's brick collection. It would be cool to see them all stacked up into a wall of sorts.
posted by Dr. Send at 9:34 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by mistersquid at 10:07 PM on November 13, 2012

Those harmonicas are beautiful! what a cool thing to collect.
posted by quazichimp at 11:56 PM on November 13, 2012

I found the bricks to be surprisingly interesting as well. And if you don't know what to do with them, you could always pave a garden path and bide your time.

I collected swords for a while. Again, once you start learning about what's worthwhile and what isn't, that gets very expensive very quickly.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:35 AM on November 14, 2012

What, no Tony Stark jokes?
posted by EnterTheStory at 2:36 AM on November 14, 2012

I used to collect coins in a "I've been there / it looks cool / how interesting!" way. Coins from my birth place since that's where my parents met, the U.S. States Quarters collection in a book, wheat pennies, and the odd amount of foreign coins that just seem to find me (i.e. a penny from the Bahamas in my dentist's office in the Midwest). Now I travel, so I actually have the chance to get the coins from their place of origin (though I mainly try to get the current smallest-to-largest denomination configuration rather than those that are very old).

Also, I lazily gather bird guides of various styles and countries when I can; animation with no clear collection boundaries including childhood movies I loved, TV shows, foreign, anime, live action mixed with animation, and the just plain weird (however, I used to take the DVDs out and throw away the cases so I may have to eventually re-purchase those movies in whatever format the people of the future use); quotes from anything and anyone that seem to make up a sort of creed, or meditative mantra, or personal code.

I've yet to find a good format for the last, so I just end up rewriting quotes in each new journal I deem my "quote book." Currently a small black moleskine.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:36 AM on November 14, 2012

The pictures are pretty, and I feel fortunate that those people exist, because they are the ones you turn to when you come across some random thing and want to learn about it. There's always some obsessive who collects it and either has a webpage with the history of [whatever], or you can track him down and give him a call.

But I also feel fortunate that I didn't marry someone like this and that I don't have the collecting gene myself, because my house and my income are both too small to support even a modest hoarding collecting habit. Given an unlimited budget, I could imagine collecting architecture -- buying houses and buildings -- because vernacular buildings are cool. But other than becoming a slumlord I'm not sure what I'd actually do with them, and anyway I don't have the budget for it so it's all imaginary anyway.
posted by Forktine at 6:09 AM on November 14, 2012

Cast iron cookware collectors sometimes have to reinforce their homes to handle the sheer mass of iron contained therein.

My cast iron collection contains only a single skillet, but I know everything I can about it.
posted by helicomatic at 6:33 AM on November 14, 2012

i think it's great when people collect things and make it a personal experience. like the woman collecting matchbooks takes time to draw the location where she found the matchbook on the inner jacket of the book.

most of my collections are useless but carry experiences and help remind me of where i've been - collecting race bibs from all the races i've done, matchbooks from all the bars and restaurants where i've been a patron, movie ticket stubs from every movie i've seen since i was a kid. for a while i was collecting receipts from every purchase but i had to let that one go because i was doing it for paranoid reasons, not nostalgia.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:51 AM on November 14, 2012

most of my collections are useless but carry experiences and help remind me of where i've been

I have small handfulls of rocks that do this for me -- stream cobbles from a lovely cave in Mexico & the river passage at the bottom of the deepest cave in Texas, & beach rocks from Oregon & Washington. They look lovely in little earthenware bowls.

I also have concert ticket stubs going back to the late 70's -- I'm only missing a very few of those from shows I've seen. I wouldn't collect random stubs because I wasn't there, so I get this sort of collecting, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2012

The Volvelle collection does not have the sleeve for Lep Zep 3, yet.
posted by ovvl at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2012

« Older Like horn rimmed glasses, but it's a kind of...   |   In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments