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Collectors' Passions Vary from Buttons to Beerbottles

Watches, especially old-time pocket watches, are an enjoyable collectible - both functional and beautiful.

Entire organizations are devoted to people who collect things

For the longest time, people have collected things, just for fun. Butterflies. Buttons. Beer bottles. String wrapped into balls.

Umbrellas, matchbooks, model airplanes. You name it, somebody probably collects it. It’s not just an American thing, but we go a little nuts with it.

Surely the first prize for fanatical collecting goes to a fellow in New York City who calls himself “Inspector Collector.” On an Internet website by that name, he shows photos and tells little stories about the many, many things he hangs onto.

Menus from Chinese restaurants, for instance. Rubber bands, pencils, scissors and bottle caps. And there’s more! He also collects spoons, paper clips, maps, drinking straws, shopping bags, postcards, hockey sticks, transit tokens, marbles, dice, security badges, airline tags, citrus peelers, and toothpicks.

Speaking of toothpicks, there are entire organizations of collectors, including the Toothpick Holder Collectors Society, 700 members strong.

These groups exist, in part, because collectors have a problem: their love of toothpaste tubes or bubble-gum machines is quite often not shared by their spouses or children. So when they pass on to that great knickknack cabinet in the sky, their precious assortment of teacups could end up in the garbage, a street sale, or at an auction site on the Internet.

Collectors’ club members keep in touch, even checking on each other’s health. If the unfortunate happens, a member passes away, and the family has no interest in his or her ivory needles or miniature buses or vacuum cleaners, the clubs ensure that someone will eagerly step forward to save the collection from the trash heap.