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One Man's Collectible is Another's Trash


The Toothpick Holder Collectors Society, 700 strong, is on alert.

Bet you didn't know there was a Toothpick Holder Collectors Society and can't wait to find out what has the membership vigilant.

We can thank Jeffrey Zaslow, writing in the Wall Street Journal, for pointing out a ticklish situation that affects the toothpick holder folks and other people who -- over the course of a lifetime -- have lovingly gathered thimbles, beer bottles, pearl buttons, and just about everything else you could possibly collect.

Corners of dens, whole walls of family rooms, and display cabinets in millions of American homes are filled with matchbook covers, post cards of Paris, vintage shoelaces and the like. Ask the owners why they latch onto this stuff, and they'll say, "I don't know. I've always liked them," or "I just started picking them up when I traveled."

Well, here's the problem that has the Toothpick Holder people and other collectors watchful. It seems that your love of toothpaste tubes or bubble-gum machines is almost certainly not your spouse's or children's obsession. So when you pass on to that great knickknack cabinet in the sky, your precious assortment of teacups will quite likely end up in the trash can, a yard sale, or a quick for-sale listing on the Internet.

This has alerted fellow teacup collectors to be ever-watchful for such things, lest -- as Mr. Zaslow recounts -- wonderful treasures go the way of one fellow's accumulation of rare sewing machines. They were sold to a junk dealer for $200 before other sewing-machine buffs could come to the rescue.

Now, some family members will tell you they'll keep and cherish your roomful of mousetraps. But how long will that last when the surviving wife or hubby or kids get to thinking about all that tempting shelf space?