Some people collect stamps, others collect comic books. The people on this list, however, collect things that are far, far stranger. Behold, Neatorama's guide to the 25 Strangest Collections on the Web:
1. Graham Barker's Navel Fluff Collection
Graham Barker's Navel Fluff Collection
Some people see navel fluff or bellybutton lint as life's little annoyances. Not Graham Barker: he began collecting them since 1984, and now has the world's largest collection of navel fluff according to Guiness Book of World Records:
It was on the 17th of January 1984 that I found myself under-occupied in a youth hostel in Brisbane. The night was steamy and stormy - too wet outside and too hot inside to do very much, and my attention drifted to my belly button. There it was ... fluff! I must have seen it before that night, but this occasion was the first time I ever picked it out and wondered about it. I became curious about how much navel fluff one person could generate (enough to stuff a cushion, maybe?), and the only way to find for sure was to collect it and see. My first piece of navel fluff was stored in an empty film canister, and the collection had begun.
2. Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum
Like its name implies, the Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum is all about vomit bags. Indeed, it catalogs more than 2,000 photos of air sickness bags from all over the world.
In addition to airplane air sickness bags, the website also has a collection of bus sickness, sea sickness, and even space sickness bags!
Though most are underwhelming in terms of design, some are actually quite artistic. Virgin Atlantic airlines even held a "Design for Chunks" project in 2004, where artists submit their designs to be put as a limited edition barf bags!
Before you check out the website, I'll leave you with a few of the more unusual bags from the Visitor's Favorite section:
From left to right: Brooklyn Artist Sarah Nicole Phillip's Little Brown Barf Bag, a parody of Bloomingdale's Little Brown Bag; The Space Shuttle Sickness ("Emesis") Bag; Barf Bag One, unfortunately only a gag gift and not the real thing.
3. Joseph W. Lauher's Handcuffs
If you want to collect handcuffs, then Joseph W. Lauher is your man, and handcuffs.org is the website to see. Indeed, Joseph has the largest collection of handcuffs (with focus on vintage ones), leg irons, nippers, and thumbcuffs on the Web: Link
What's a nipper and a thumbcuff? Well, a nipper is a handcuff that locks only one hand, but has a handle for keeping the cuffed person under control (Photo to the left is a 1888 nipper made by Thomas & Smith).
A thumbcuff, like its name implies, cuffs both of the person's thumbs.
4. Bob Toelle's Fish Posters
Bob Toelle collects posters - but not any poster, just the ones about fish - and he's got a lot of it. Currently, Bob has more than 700 fish posters from around the world: Link
5. Medical Antiques by Douglas Arbittier, M.D.
Amputation set by Ferris & Co., Bristol (c. 1885)
Dr. Douglas Arbittier collects old medical equipments, and specializes in cased surgical sets. His collection includes a lot of amputation saws, and bloodletting artifacts (leech jar, anyone?).
When you visit his website, keep what Dr. Arbittier said in mind: "be thankful you live in today's medical world ...": Link
6. Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art
Texan artist Barney Smith has an unusual choice of art medium: toilet seats! For the past 30 years, Barney had created over 700 artistically decorated toilet seat lids. Check it out here: http://www.unusualmuseums.org/toilet/
7. Sergei Frolov's Soviet Calculators
W.T. Odhner Arithmometer (1890)
Sergei Frolov has a fantastic collection of over 150 Soviet-made calculators, as well as vintage computers, watches and slide rules. I'm particularly fond of the old mechanical arithmometers, as shown above: Link
8. Phil Miller's Sugar Packets
Phil Miller is a sucrologist - meaning that he collects sugar packets and sugar cube wrappers. Indeed, Phil has been collecting since 1978 when he started with the Presidents of the United States sugar packets, and he hasn't looked back since. Life must be sweet if you collect sugar packets ... Link
9. The Asphalt Museum
The Asphalt Museum is actually a real museum in a real building in Sacramento, California, but it's weird enough that we'll just have to include it on this list. It has a large collection of (you guessed it) everything asphalt.
The museum was founded by Scott Gordon and Marie Vans in 1991, while both attended Colorado State University.
In addition to asphalt "samples" from famous (like Route 66, Highway I, and the ancient Roman road Appian Way) and not-so-famous roads, the museum also has a recipe on how to make your own asphalt: Link
10. Gideon Weiss' Back Scratchers
Gideon Weiss must've had one really itchy back when he started collecting back scratchers. His online collection has grown to include 236 of the strangest back scratchers I've ever seen: Link
11. Michael Lewis' Moist Towelettes
Michael Lewis welcomes visitors to his website with these warm words: "Welcome to the exciting world of Moist Towelette Collecting."
Though I'm not sure just how wet naps would rank in the excitement scale, Michael's collection sure is something: Link
Don't miss the "Awards" section!
12. Nancy Alford's Mangles
What is a mangle? You'll be forgiven if you don't know what it is: a mangle is a cast iron contraption with two wooden rollers, a spring, and a side wheel with handle. Its function is to wring clothes dry after you wash them, so obviously it's now obsolete with the invention dryers and all ...
A few years ago, Nancy Alford was in a local department store when she saw, and fell in love with, a mangle. For her sixteenth wedding anniversary, Nancy wanted (and got) - you guessed it, a mangle. Her husband thought she was mad.
Since then, she has collected so many of them that they had to build a new house (which she aptly named Mangleten) to fit all her mangles. http://users.pipeline.com.au/%7Ealford/default.htm
13. Victor Paul Taylor's Scratchcard Collection
Victor Taylor is a lotologist (yes, a made up word meaning someone who collects lottery tickets). He has a particular interest in "Instants" Scratchcards, produced by Camelot for the UK National Lottery. As far as I can tell, none of the scratchcards have been scratched, so he's sitting on a potential goldmine worth bazillions!
Check out his incredibly detailed collection, which starts with the 1995 issues: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/victaylor/ScratchIndex.html
14. Lydia's AOL CDs
Younger Neatorama readers may not be familiar with AOL CDs, but the rest of us surely remember getting spammed with tons of these discs from America Online.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, AOL produced over a billion CDs (with over 1,000 distinct designs) for its direct mail campaign. The strategy was a huge success: AOL became the largest dial-up Internet Service Provider in the world (for a while anyway). After its fateful merger with Time Warner and the decline of dial-up as a mean of accessing the web, the company stopped producing the discs in 2006.
But fear not. Lydia of Lydia's AOL Disks shares with us her collection of over 2,500 unique AOL diskettes and CDs. Check it out here: Link
15. Museum of Burnt Food
The Museum of Burnt Food is dedicated to accidentally burnt food, er ... carbonized culinary masterpieces (no intentionally burned artwork there!). The museum was founded by harpist Deborah Henson Conant, who recounted this tale:
The museum was founded in the late 1980's one night when Deborah put on a small pot of Hot Apple Cider to heat, then received an unexpected . . . fascinating . . . and very long phone call. By the time Deborah returned to the kitchen, the Cider had become a "Cinder" and thus the first, and perhaps still the most impressive, exhibit: "Free Standing Hot Apple Cider" was born.
SINCE THEN, countless other works have entered the museum, such as "Thrice Baked Potato," "Why Sure, You Can Bake Quiche in the Microwave," the indestructible "Mmmm……Soy Pups," and the lovely matching set of Pizza Toast.
Deborah has a tip on kitchen decorating, which I think everyone should heed: "Never scrimp on fire extinguishers and smoke alarms." She would know now: Link
16. Steve Salcedo's Street Sign and Traffic Light Collection
From left to right: Auto Club of Southern California Stop Sign (c. 1940); Children "Wanted Alive" sign, the equivalent of "Slow - Children at Play" sign (c. 1950); "T" Intersection with Marble Reflector (c. 1940); Eagle 4-way 12" Beacons (c. 1930)
Steve Salcedo's fascination with street signs and traffic lights began when he received a bulletin board about traffic signs when he was just a small boy. Two years later, his collection was well under way.
Currently, Steve has over 350 street signs in his collection - all legal (rescued from street departments before they were scrapped, purchased from antique stores, flea markets, etc.): Link
17. The Chocolate Wrappers Museum
In 1996, Martin Mihál's began collecting empty chocolate wrappers from around the world with a sizeable collection of 674 wrappers. A decade later, his collection grew to an astounding 38,579 wrappers! Martin has over 8,700 wrappers from Germany alone and even a few wrappers from far-flung countries like Oman and Uzbekistan.
So, the next time you eat a chocolate, think of Martin before you throw away the wrapper! Link
18. Becky Martz's Banana Labels
In 1991, Becky Martz first noticed banana labels when she put two bunches of bananas in the fruit bowl together. She noticed that the "Dole" labels actually weren't quite the same: one said Guatemala and the other said Honduras. Later that year, she noticed a particularly festive Chiquita label and decided that she wanted to collect banana labels.
Today, Becky has more than 7,000 different banana labels and even branched out to collect asparagus and broccoli bands.
If you think that this is a strange hobby, well, ... it is. But Becky isn't alone: there are others like her in the world, and they even have their own Banana Sticker Collector Convention. Check out Becky's collection here: Link
19. Museum of Talking Boards
The Museum of Talking Boards is all about collecting Ouija boards. The site is quite neat: it explains the history of the board, theory as to how it works, as well as things you should never do or ask.
And, of course, it has a fantastic gallery of over 80 antique talking boards.
The board above is the original Ouija board, created by Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard and produced in 1891 by Kennard Novelty Company.
Visit the Museum of Talking Boards here: Link
20. Scott Weed's Date Nails
Date Nail is exactly that: a marked nail hammered into poles and bridge timbers to identify or date them.
Scott Weed of Nailhunter, who has a huge collection of these nails, wrote that "unlike most collectibles, Date Nails can still be found in the wild. With a couple of tools, some spare time and transportation, the world of Date Nail is open to everyone."
Indeed, but for now, I presume all of you will just satisfy yourself with visiting his website: Link
21. Dr. Val Kolpakov's Toothpaste Collection
Dr. Val Kolpakov is a practicing dentist in Saginaw, Michigan, so it's only natural that he has an unnatural affinity to toothpaste.
Starting in 2002, Dr. Val began collecting toothpaste from around the world. His website, Toothpaste World, categorizes toothpastes according to location, brand name, and year of production. Right now, he has over 1,400 items: Link
I'd be remiss if I didn't share with you a toothpaste trivia from Dr. Val's website. Here's the world's oldest known formula for toothpaste:
The world's oldest-known formula for toothpaste, used more than 1,500 years before Colgate began marketing the first commercial brand in 1873, has been discovered on a piece of dusty papyrus in the basement of a Viennese museum.
In faded black ink made of soot and gum arabic mixed with water, an ancient Egyptian scribe has carefully described what he calls a "powder for white and perfect teeth".
When mixed with saliva in the mouth, it forms a "clean tooth paste".
According to the document, written in the fourth century AD, the ingredients needed for the perfect smile are one drachma of rock salt - a measure equal to one hundredth of an ounce - two drachmas of mint, one drachma of dried iris flower and 20 grains of pepper, all of them crushed and mixed together.
The result is a pungent paste which one Austrian dentist who tried it said made his gums bleed but was a "big improvement" on some toothpaste formulae used as recently as a century ago.
22. Weird Fortune Cookie Collection
Ever got a strange fortune from a fortune cookie? Well, it belongs in the ever-growing collection at Weird Fortune Cookie Collection. Seriously, head on over there and browse their gallery (preferably after a nice little Kung Pao Chicken meal): http://weirdfortunecookies.com/
23. British Lawnmower Museum
British Anzani Lawnrider (c. 1960)
The tireless curators of the British Lawnmower Museum, Brian and Sue Radam, dedicate their lives to preserving the best example of British engineering prowess: the lawnmower!
The lawnmower was invented in 1827 by English engineer Edwin Beard Budding, who wanted a superior alternative to the scythe. He took a machine designed to cut the knap off cloth and used it to cut grass instead. At the time, people thought that he was mad, so he tested his invention in the middle of the night so no one could see him!
The British Lawnmower Museum's now has over 200 vintage lawnmowers and part of 400 others: Link
24. Helena Vnouckova's Napkins
Napkins: you use and throw them away, but Helena Vnouckova collects them. A lot of them - in fact, she has over 16,000 napkins from around the world (with sets of Christmas themed napkins, company napkins, and even airline napkins): http://napkins.czi.cz/
25. Museum of Hoaxes
I'm going to end this long list with Neatorama pal Alex Boese's excellent website: Museum of Hoaxes.
Alex Boese probably has the strangest collection of them all: he collects stories about and examples of scams and hoaxes! In 1997, Alex created the Museum of Hoaxes as research notes for his doctoral dissertation, and the website quickly became popular. So much so that Alex the "hoaxpert" wrote three books which we have featured on Neatorama before: The Museum of Hoaxes, Hippo Eats Dwarf, and Elephants on Acid And Other Bizarre Experiments.
If you haven't seen it before (perhaps you've been living under a rock), then definitely check out the Museum of Hoaxes: Link - you won't be disappointed!
I'll be the first to acknowledge that this is but a short list of unusual collections you can find on the Web. For more weird things people collect, check out MuseumStuff's Unusual Museums and Strange Collections, and Unusual Museums of the Internet at RingSurf.
If you or someone you know has an unusual collection we should list here, please let me know in the comment section!