Ed Haberman of Tama, Iowa collected oil rags. The kind used in garages to clean oil dip sticks. He started collecting them in 1956, and by the time he died in 1988 he had over 1300 of them.
Quad City Times - Feb 4, 1973
In 1968, he talked about his collection to a reporter from the Des Moines Register (Nov 10, 1968):
It all started in 1956 when the walk-in cooler in the now defunct Haberman's Royal Dairy here sprang a grease leak. To keep the grease from dripping on his clean floor, Haberman went over to Wilkinson's service station and bought an oil rag for 8 cents. After that it was one oil rag after another.
"I kept exchangin' dirty oil rags for clean ones at Wilkinson's," he says. "Pretty soon, I decided I needed more than one rag. I guess it was when I had about nine oil rags that it suddenly occurred to me to collect them. Pretty soon, I was watchin' for discarded oil rags all the time — you can find them almost anywhere. When I'd find one, I'd take it back to Tama and exchange it for a clean, new one."
There is little rhyme or reason to Haberman's method. For example, he quickly discarded the idea of keeping dirty oil rags because his wife, Eleanor, 52, would have none of it.
"I don't even care much for his CLEAN oil rags," she said last week. "In fact, I think the whole idea is pretty stupid. It gets pretty nerve-racking when we're out on a trip and he keeps stopping the car every time he sees a dirty old oil rags. But I guess as long as he keeps them in a neat pile and out of my way, it's all right."...
"People come to my basement," Haberman says, "Look at my pile of rags and just stand there laughing. I know they're probably laughing at me, but I don't care. Really, I don't. They don't understand. I just laugh along with them. But, all the time, I know I've done something no one else has.
"It's important for a man to accomplish something. For me, it's collecting oil rags. I happen to enjoy doing it."
Charles Davis collected elephant hairs — in particular the long hairs that grow from their tails. By the time he was 83, in 1962, he had hairs from 357 different elephants.
Cincinnati Enquirer - June 14, 1959
Details from a syndicated article by Ramon J. Geremia (Weirton Daily Times - Mar 24, 1962)
Davis, 83, who uses the title "Elephant Biographer," lives alone in a six-room house surrounded by mementoes of circuses and of elephants he has known, loved and pulled hair from. There are statues of elephants, elephant-shaped lamps, pieces of ivory, elephant bull hooks, even a tooth garnered in 1933 from an elephant named "Vera."...
But the elephant hairs make up the bulk of the collection of elephantiana. The longest one is 13 inches, the shortest, plucked from a 200 pound baby elephant, is one and one-half inches long. They include colors ranging from black to white with a few red chin whiskers.
Most of them were plucked from elephant tails — some were cut from the more belligerent behemoths. Every zoo in the nation is represented, except the Bronx Zoo in New York...
Davis started his unusual hobby as an elephantphile in 1928. He asked a circus elephant trainer to suggest something he could collect from or about elephants and the trainer suggested hair. Davis, a retired optometrist, says his collection "took my mind off business."
Walter Cavanagh's hobby is collecting active credit cards issued in his name. Which is to say that he's not interested in collecting the cards themselves, as a typical credit card collector might be (such as a member of the American Credit Card Collectors Society). Cavanagh's collection consists entirely of cards that he could use to buy something.
By the mid-1970s, when the media first got wind of him (and dubbed him 'Mr. Plastic Fantastic'), he had already acquired 788 cards, giving him available credit of $750,000.
However, he never taps into this credit. He uses only one card, and he always pays off the balance in full each month.
Los Angeles Times - Feb 1, 1976
But how does he keep getting companies to send him new cards? Wouldn't companies see the huge amount of credit already available to him and deny his application? Apparently not. Cavanagh reports that he's hardly ever had an application denied.
he has $1.7 million in available credit and since he is only using one card, his utilization rate (credit used divided by total credit) is probably less than 1% or way below the 30% that is the generally accepted figure that you want to be below.
Dorothy Richert collected stories about people named Dorothy. Which meant that, once the news story about her had appeared in the paper, she could collect herself.
She held an unusual belief about her name:
Girls who are named Dorothy, she says, are supposed to have interesting things happen to them or do interesting things. She says that girls named Mary run a close second.
Hmm. That would never have occurred to me. In fact, I could think of only two famous people named Dorothy: Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Sayers. Apparently Faye Dunaway's first name is Dorothy, but I don't think she should count because she's famous as Faye, not Dorothy. There's various lists around the web (here and here) if you want to learn about some other famous Dorothys.
Myrtle Young worked as a potato chip inspector at the Seyfert Potato Chip plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During the course of her job, she would occasionally notice potato chips that resembled something, such as an animal or a celebrity. She began to take these chips home to show her granddaughter, and soon she had amassed quite a collection.
I don't know if it's the funniest ever, but it's definitely amusing. The noteworthy part occurs about a minute in.
The scene was later parodied in a 1993 episode of the Simpson's, 'Selma's Choice,' in which Great Aunt Gladys bequeathes to Marge, via video will, her collection of potato chips that look like celebrities. As the video will is playing, Homer is seen eating the chips. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a clip of this scene.
Update: Paul managed to get some screenshots of Homer and the potato chips!
In 1977, Topps issued a set of Star Wars trading cards. The set included one card that would, arguably, become the most infamous card it ever printed. This was the so-called C-3PO 'golden rod' card — so called because it seems to show C-3PO in a state of prominent arousal.
First, Topps not only really did issue this card... it printed a lot of them. This isn't a rare card.
Second (and to me this is the most remarkable thing), no one involved in the creation of the card noticed its most salient feature until after it had been released and word started to spread among card collectors.
Finally, there's no evidence that the card was the work of a rogue artist. The most compelling theory about what happened is that a panel on the side of C-3PO's armor plating must have accidentally fallen open, and was in exactly the right position to create the illusion of robotic arousal. And then, for whatever reason, Topps selected that image, out of all the possible ones, to print.
Eventually Topps released a corrected version of the card (below). Apparently this corrected version is rarer, and more collectible, than the original. Though, ideally, a collector would want to have both.
Nancy 3. Hoffman is a self-confessed eccentric. For a start, she decided to legally change her middle name to '3'. She's a professional accordion player, which is definitely an unusual occupation. And then she created the world's only Umbrella Cover Museum on Peaks Island, Maine in 1996. The museum is still going strong. Due to Covid, it had an outdoor exhibit this year.
Back in 2012, Guinness recognized Nancy 3 for having the largest collection of umbrella covers in the world. At the time that was 730. She now has around 2000 covers.
The reason for their value is that so few of them exist. In 1943, due to the war, pennies were made out of zinc-coated steel. But somehow approximately 40 copper ones were made by accident.
For several decades the US Mint denied the existence of 1943 copper pennies (see news clipping below). It wasn't until a few showed up, and were authenticated by experts, that the mint changed its tune. Now it states:
Approximately 40 1943 copper–alloy cents are known to remain in existence. Coin experts speculate that they were struck by accident when copper–alloy 1–cent blanks remained in the press hopper when production began on the new steel pennies.
Some strange rumors have circulated about the 1943 copper pennies. Such as that if you found one the Ford motor company would give you a free car. Not true, though if you find one, you could afford to buy quite a few cars. And a few of these pennies are potentially still in circulation.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.