This trio of articles starts off non-numismatic, but the connection is straightforward. Numismatics, like all collectible fields, seems
to be shrinking. Here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article from June 25, 2015 about old-time collectors and their
old-time collections. -Editor
At a recent meeting of the Penn-Ohio Matchcover Club, Shirley Sayers had a confession.
“We sat down one day and counted 36 things we collect,” said Ms. Sayers, a 67-year-old retired secretary. Along with about a million
matchbooks, the collections include calendars, pens, straight razors and shoehorns.
“It’s nuts,” said Ms. Sayers. “Totally nuts.”
Many collectors of old stuff—things of mostly sentimental value, such as matchbooks, menus and postcards—worry that no one will want it
all after they die. Meanwhile, they keep collecting more.
For younger people, collecting seems to be less of a priority. Online pursuits take up much of the time once given over to baseball
cards or sea shells, and the hunt for that rare Beanie Baby is less interesting now that it can be found instantly on eBay, said Dr.
Montana Miller, an associate professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University.
In the Sayers’ home, figurines and other doodads still trump the virtual world. They crowd the living room and swamp the dining table.
Two bedrooms upstairs are devoted to boxes and shopping bags bulging with matchbooks.
Museums often decline collections, though. The Smithsonian Institution museums “get offered way more than they can take,” said Linda St.
Thomas, a spokeswoman. That doesn’t mean the Smithsonian won’t take a look. The institution’s National Museum of Natural History, for
instance, has accepted several collections of ticks.
The Rathkamp Matchcover Society—a 75-year-old international group of matchbook collectors named for its late founder, Henry Rathkamp—has
about 550 members, down from 1,600 in the 1980s. Many of the remaining members have grown old together.
Gregory Gibson, 65, a retired auto worker in Fenton, Mich., cherishes his collection of about 3,500 automotive license plates. Mr.
Gibson doesn’t want to burden his wife with the collection if he dies first. So he intends to sell it within a few years. Even so, he still
scours the Internet and browses antique shops. He hopes to find one of the few municipal plates issued by Valley City, N.D., around 1909
and made out of porcelain.
“Even though I know I’m going to be selling them, I’m still buying them,” Mr. Gibson said. “It makes no sense.”
This stuff has value to my mind, even if only as cultural artifacts rather than collectibles. My kids don't know what matchcovers or
ashtrays are, but they capture the essence of a bygone era and I hope new collectors and even museums can be found to curate them for
future generations. One of my most enjoyable life experiences was sifting through the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and
Advertising Ephemera at the New-York Historical Society while researching issuers of Civil War Encased Postage stamps. If not for
collectors like Landauer and those who came before her, many of the 800,000 items (American trade cards, lottery tickets, handbills,
labels, broadsides, calendars, billheads, price lists, advertising fans, etc.) would have been lost to history. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
What’s the Hardest Thing for Collectors to Find?
Someone Who Wants Their Stuff (www.wsj.com/articles/SB10377601820344704643704581052192921577246)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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