A collection of objects no larger than a man’s hand

At "Sleepless Hollow," his country home in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, comedian Joe Cook kept a collection of objects "no larger than a man's hand." This included, "safety pins, collar buttons, unset stones, Japanese netsukes, miniature bibles, bathtub faucets, tin soldiers, perfume bottles, and ball bearings."

The objects hung from the ceiling of his trophy room.

Tower Radio magazine - Sep 1934

Sleepless Hollow was full of other oddities, such as a "golf tree" on which golf balls grew (they had been wired on). More from Wikipedia:

Cook, from 1924 to 1941, made his residence at Lake Hopatcong, in Hopatcong, New Jersey, which was then a popular resort. His house was appropriately named "Sleepless Hollow" for the many parties he gave and celebrities he entertained. One visitor, his librettist Donald Ogden Stewart, later recalled that "Joe lived on a mad gag-infested estate in New Jersey which bewilderingly expressed his genius. On his three-hole golf course one drove off confidently into what looked like a fairway only to have one's ball rebound sharply over one's head from a huge rock that had been cunningly camouflaged. The last green was a golfer's paradise in that no matter where the ball landed it rolled obediently into the hole. Conditions inside the house were similarly deranged. The "butler" was one of the contortionists, acrobats, midgets, or other show-business people whom Joe had picked up his years in Vaudeville. Poor Mrs. Cook lived bravely in this cuckooland and struggled apologetically to bring some degree of common sense into the madhouse." The Cookhouse still survives at Lake Hopatcong but is not open to the public.

Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1941. This forced his retirement from show business. He sold the lake house the same year and moved to a more modest residence in New York State, where he resided until his death in 1959.

Sleepless Hollow's funnel-shaped golf green

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 26, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Collectors

The Signature of Button Gwinnett

In the world of signature collecting the "holy grail" is to obtain a signature of Button Gwinnett, a representative from Georgia to the Continental Congress and also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As explained by Wikipedia:

Gwinnett's autograph is highly sought by collectors as a result of a combination of the desire by many top collectors to acquire a complete set of autographs by all 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the extreme rarity of the Gwinnett signature; there are 51 known examples, since Gwinnett was fairly obscure prior to signing the Declaration and died shortly afterward. Only ten of those are in private hands. The 1953 Isaac Asimov short story "Button, Button" concerns an attempt to obtain a genuine (and therefore valuable) signature of Gwinnett by means of a device that can move objects through time.

In 2022, a copy sold for $1.4m.

If you're going to build a device to move objects through time, I think you can do better than that.

image source:

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 18, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Collectors, Eighteenth Century

Reamer Collectors

If you collect reamers, consider joining the NRCA (National Reamer Collectors Association).

The NRCA used to have its own website,, but no longer. (The old site was archived by the Wayback Machine.) Now they have a private facebook page instead.

Some explanatory text about reamers from their old website:

Reamers, also known to many as orange juice squeezers or juicers, are one of the fastest growing collectibles in America today. The main reason for this is time and efficiency. They have been replaced by electric juicers which perform the function of squeezing juice faster, and frozen concentrate which makes providing juice to a busy family in today's society an easier task.

The reamers were invented over 200 years ago out of necessity when it was discovered that citrus provided a cure for diseases like scurvy. The first reamers were all producted in Europe. Major china companies such as Bayreuth, Miessen, Royal Rudolstadt and Limoges produced reamers for some of the finer tables in Europe.

The first reamer was patented in the United States around 1867, after the Civil War. It was a hand held reamer. Next came the one piece reamer with a small saucer and a cone that was meant to fit on top of a glass. These were quite messy as they slid and slipped off of the glass. In the 1880's a glass rim was added to the bottom of the saucer to help keep the reamer on the glass. Around the same time, wooden squeezers with a press action were also being used. Two-piece sets with measuring pitcher bottoms and separate reamer tops did not come along until the mid 1920's.

The biggest boom for reamers came in 1907 when a a co-op named the "California Fruit Growers Exchange" was formed. This co-op marketed the name Sunkist to sell fruit to the east coast. Sunkist reamers were produced as a promotional item. However, not until 1916 when the "Drink an Orange" campaign was launched, were reamers marketed to the masses.

I have an old glass reamer — a family hand-me-down. I didn't know it was called a reamer, nor that it was something people might collect.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Mar 03, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Collectors

Ed Haberman, collector of oil rags

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."

Quad City Times - Feb 4, 1973

Posted By: Alex - Sun May 29, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Collectors

Charles Davis, collector of elephant hairs

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."

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 20, 2022 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals, Collectors, Hair and Hairstyling

Mr. Plastic Fantastic

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.

By 2016, in the most recent update about him that I could find, his collection was up to 1,497 cards, giving him available credit of $1.7 million.

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.

According to the Next Gen Personal Finance blog, this shouldn't be surprising. Both his payment and credit history are long and positive. Also:

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.

So companies keep sending him new cards.

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 10, 2022 - Comments (8)
Category: Money, World Records, Collectors

The Dorothy who collected Dorothys

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.

As an Alex, the most famous Alex ever is pretty obvious and, I assume, will never be topped.

Port Huron Times Herald - Mar 12, 1950

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 26, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Collectors, 1950s

Banana Label Collecting

Banana-label collecting is not only a thing. It has an active community of collectors.

One of the top collectors is Becky Martz who now has over 22,630 labels. She's archived them at her website, Becky's Gone Bananas.

You can also check out the BananaLabel Catalog of the Produce Real Society. There's not many labels to see on their website, but they sell a master catalog of 31,000 labels going all the way back to 1913.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 16, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Collectors, Bananas

Myrtle Young, the Potato Chip Lady

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.

When the media became aware of her collection it led to numerous appearances on talk shows, including a 1987 appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. TV Guide named this as the funniest moment ever on television.

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!

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 02, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Humor, Television, Junk Food, Collectors, 1980s

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