We are a nation of collectors – more than half of us in Britain admit to having at least one collection, and many people dedicate their lives to their hoarding hobby.
The most popular items for collectors include postage stamps, antiques, autographs, memorabilia, coins, trading cards, art, books, classic cars and comic books, but some collectors aren’t content to hoard the predictable and branch out to something far more obscure.
Never more has the expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ been more apt.
Specialist high net worth broker Adrian Flux Insurance Services looks at 10 of the world’s most bizarre collections, from belly button fluff to celebrity hair, lizard droppings to handcuffs and discovers how you can protect your own precious collections.
1) Burnt food: You’ve probably got exhibits of your own that could be shown in Deborah Henson-Conant’s Burnt Food Museum in Massachusetts. The exhibit wings of the museum house more than 49,000 burnt items that range from venison, pork, fish, potatoes and even a carbonized elephant. The Hall of Burnt Toast contains more than 2,000 items. Museum staff have published more than 90 books on burnt food led by Henson-Conant, a science historian fascinated by organic chemistry.
2) Belly button fluff: It’s an almost literally stomach-churning collection which has fascinated owner Graham Barker since 1984 when he discovered his first exhibit in his own navel. “I became curious about how much navel fluff one person could generate. Enough to stuff a cushion, perhaps? The only way to find out for sure was to collect it and see,” he said. Graham now boasts several large jars of belly button fluff – all his own work.
3) Air sickness bags: An equally queasy collection, many people collect the bags that airlines offer to passengers who experience motion sickness on-board. Such is the clamour for chunder bags that well-known designers have been called on to create their own bags and there’s an Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum which showcases the very best of the genre.
4) Celebrity hair: What better than to own a tiny part of your hero or heroine? This is a kind way to look at the strange collection of John Reznikoff, founder of a historical hair collection which includes locks from George Washington, John F Kennedy, Napoleon, Beethoven, Elvis, Abraham Lincoln and Charles I. Mr Reznikoff has even created a perfume line using the DNA of celebrities to create a special fragrance. You too can smell like Marilyn Monroe…well, her hair at any rate.
5) Lizard faeces: Sadly a collection that is no longer, Leeds University student Daniel Bennett was distraught when cleaners accidentally threw away his 35kg collection of lizard poo during a routine clean-out. The droppings had been collected during five years’ study in the Philippines. With tongue in cheek, Mr Bennett said: “Its loss left me reeling and altered the course of my life forever”.
6) Moist towelettes: A useful item to have to hand – literally – when you’ve just consumed a plate of sticky ribs, the moist towelette has become an object of fascination for John French of Michigan who now has an entire museum dedicated to hand wipes.
7) Handcuffs: A man who is particularly attached to his hobby is Joseph Lauher, who has the world’s biggest collection of handcuffs. A handy collection if you wish to restrain an over-enthusiastic collection viewer, Mr Lauher also has an enviable selection of thumbcuffs and leg irons. Those that annoy him had better hope he also owns all the corresponding keys.
8) Fish posters: Bob Toelle can’t help but fish for compliments for his strange collection of 700 posters that feature only fish. The posters come from around the world and feature a dizzying array of aquatic creatures – actually, just fish. But lots of fish.
9) Pencils: Pencils are incredibly useful, but it’s probable that you don’t feel the need to own every brand of pencil ever made, unless your name is Bob Truby. Bob has photographed and described practically every pencil that has come off the drawing board and is your go-to man if IKEA has run out of the small free ones you need in order to buy almost anything in-store.
10) Obscure patents: Ever wondered what the prototype bird nappy looked like? Or wanted to see the world’s first gravity-powered shoe air conditioner? Or thought ‘I bet it would be great if someone had invented a machine that simulated someone giving you a high five’? Ponder no longer and instead head to the Obscure Patents Collection where all your questions – and far, far more – will be answered.
* Your collection might not be as bizarre as those listed above, but if you have high value items in your household you need the right insurance cover to ensure they’re protected in case of accident or theft. Finding household contents insurance that covers high value contents such as antiques, collections, jewellery and other valuables can be problematic, but Adrian Flux offers bespoke policies to suit every policyholder. For more information, visit www.adrianflux.co.uk or call 0800 3698590.