The World’s Weirdest Collections
Each day, legions of diehard collectors embark upon the task of building their collections with whatever free time, and money they have available. There are certain types of collectibles - Baseball Cards, Memorabilia, Coins, and Art to name a few - that have become so deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society that it's hard to imagine that they will ever fade away. In addition to these firmly established hobbies are hundreds, if not thousands, of different collectible endeavors that fly under the radar of public awareness. Items in these collections can range from interesting, to compelling, to offensive, to just flat out strange. This less heralded side of the collectibles market has increasing become not only a strange endeavor, but a profitable one. Forbes.com recently chronicled a number of these unusual collectible money makers, the highlights of which we have listed below:
- Walter Husak sold his collection of 301 rare American pennies for $10.7 million earlier this year. The highest bids were on two large antique "coppers" from 1793 and 1814, fetching $632,500 each. Husak decided it was time to cash out when the only pennies he had not acquired carried price tags of more than $700,000.
- Wayne Martin, a 64-year-old antique-store owner acquired 30 restored tractors over a time period of 40 years. The only problem? They are strewn across his property. Seems the old adage one man's treasure is another person's trash holds true: City officials in Clovis, N.M., have deemed the collection unsightly, and Martin could face fines. Martin can't stomach the idea of pricing his beloved tractors, which were abandoned or acquired for next to nothing, so he will let bidders determine their value. He has decided to keep six as the last remnants of the hobby he shared with his father.
- Take Florida real estate magnate Anthony Pugliese, who, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, decided to liquidate his collection of pop culture memorabilia to start "City of Destiny," a 61-square-mile community in Florida that uses alternative energy and other green technologies. Pugliese put his collection on the block in March. The Palms Casino, site of the auction, billed the 850 lot auction as the "greatest pop culture collection ever assembled." It took Pugliese 25 years to amass and includes the gun Jack Ruby used to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, Mel Gibson's sword from Braveheart and the Wicked Witch's hat from The Wizard of Oz. (Click here to read about collectors searching for the Witch's broomstick and here for a story on Dorothy's ruby slippers. The sword and the hat sold for $25,000 and $170,000, respectively. Pugliese received bids upward of $1 million for the pistol but ultimately decided to keep the historic weapon.
- Kumla, a small town in central Sweden, is the world capital when it comes to airsickness bags. It took 15 years for Rune Tapper, a radio engineer, to acquire more than 1,200 vomit bags from 474 airlines in 133 countries, which he showcases on his Web site, sicksack.com. A recent eBay search reveals a market for the bags. Though, Tapper, 58, collects only for fun. "My collection is only worth the paper the bags are made of," he says.
- The Golden Calf a work by British artist Damien Hirst that sold for more than $15 million this fall at Sotheby's in London. The piece can best be described as a calf with golden horns and hooves suspended in formaldehyde.
- Gerald Burg's collection of Victorian-era "Calling Cards", which were name cards left when visiting an acquaintance. Burg's extensive assortment of cards includes those owned by Napoleon, Jefferson, Sitting Bull and Hitler. Burg estimates spending $150,000 over 60 years on the collection. Burg isn't in financial dire straights but wants to ensure the collection is available to the public. The 10,000 card collection became Burg's retirement fund, proving a healthy obsession can be a sound investment.