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From Curio to Knick Knack: Eight Strange Collections on Display

From curio to Knick Knack Header

Curios and knick knacks most often consist of decorative items and souvenirs treasured by people for their nostalgic value. Sometimes though, it leads to a habit of collecting and this goes far beyond the traditional stamp collection. From rubber duckies to banana labels, avid collectors will hoard whatever tickles their fancy. Here are eight odd yet very entertaining collections that have made the news.

Rubber Ducks

Yellow Rubber duck

Valli Hammer in Farmer City, Illinois, has a collection of rubber ducks numbering over 2,000. Traditionally created as a bath toy for young children, rubber ducks can now be found in a variety of styles and designs. Valli’s fascination with rubber ducks first started in 2000 when she stumbled upon some that previous belonged to her son. Over the next few years she started purchasing more and more, eventually reaching a point where she could boast having rubber ducks from each state in the U.S. Today her ducks are housed in a bathroom and the library of her house. According to Valli, spending time with the rubber ducks helps to decrease her stress levels. She has also sold over 3,000 ducks on Ebay for as much as $125 for a single rubber duck.

PEZ Memorabilia

Pack of Lemon PEZ candy

A museum in Burlingame, California is wholly dedicated to the collection and display of PEZ dispensers and related PEZ memorabilia, opened by Gary and Nancy Doss in 1995. Today, we know PEZ as the plastic cartoon toys which dispense a small candy through the toy’s mouth, a mark of American pop culture. However, PEZ candy was created in Austria in 1927 and the dispensers first came about in the 1950s as an aid to help quit smoking.

By 2007, the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia had accumulated over a thousand vintage PEZ dispensers. The most valuable dispensers range up to $5,000. The Doss’s originally owned a store selling computers and added a small collection of PEZ dispensers as a novelty feature on the side. When the PEZ dispensers started selling more rapidly, the couple decided to turn it into a full time venture. They enjoy displaying the vintage dispensers for the nostalgic value that it brings to older generations.

Banana Labels

Banana Bunch with Bar Code Label

Becky Martz of Houston, Texas has garnered a certain amount of fame in collector circles for her very odd collection of banana labels and stickers, viewable alphabetically on her website, As of 2010, she had over 10,000 labels collected and archived in albums. She first became interested in banana stickers when she noticed an amusing one that read, “The Perfect Stocking Stuffer,” on a Chiquita banana. Since that incident around 1991, Martz has avidly been collecting banana labels from brands around the world. She is not alone in her hobby and actively reaches out to other banana sticker collectors and hosts weekly online chats. The main reason why she loves collecting the little labels is because, “they are meant to be thrown away, they’re never meant to be kept”.

Celebrity Signatures

Fountain Pen Writing Signature

Paul Schmelzer loves collecting celebrity signatures, but not in the usual way. Instead of requesting their names scribbled down as a memorable token, he asks them to write down his name, albeit in their handwriting. According to his blog, SignifiersSigned more than seventy celebrities have agreed to date. Schmelzer is an artist and was the editor of Walker magazine from 1998 to 2007. He calls his celebrity signature collection the “Autograph Project: Hello, My Name is…” The collection was originally inspired by Spencer, an autistic boy who requested an autograph from a musician. Dismayed when he saw the name the musician had jotted down, he returned the paper and asked him to write Spencer’s name instead. From an artist’s perspective, Schmelzer enjoys the twist his project takes on celebrity-ism.

Celebrity Hair

Lock of Blond Hair

If celebrity signatures aren’t close enough to the real thing, what about a lock of their hair? That’s exactly the direction John Reznikoff took when he started collecting locks of famous people’s hair, including people who have been long dead some centuries ago. Not only does his collection include hair samples from the likes of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, but he has even managed to acquire hair snippets of Edgar Allen Poe, Ludwig van Beethoven and Abraham Lincoln! As of 2009, Reznikoff held the Guinness World Record for his collection of celebrity hair not only for the prestige of the hair samples but also for their value. Reznikoff displays each lock of hair in a large frame, in which it is accompanied by documents and images illustrating the person’s life and history.

Sugar Packets

Close Up of Sugar Packets

Most people dump the contents of a sugar packet into their tea or coffee and throw the wrapper away, but not Phil Miller. Since 1978, Miller has been collecting scores of sugar packets and is known today as a sucrologist. His collection numbers over 8,000 sugar packets and features numerous vintage versions as well. According to Miller, the sugar packet collection market is rapidly increasing, a fact proven by his network of fellow sucrologists and hosted events for sugar packet collectors.


Toothpaste Coming out of Tube

For dentist Val Kolpakov, toothpaste is not something to be overlooked lightly. The Michigan-native first learned about another toothpaste collector online in 2002 and was intrigued. He first started by asking friends abroad to send him tubes of toothpaste from their respective countries and then scoured eBay. To date, Kolpakov has around 1,800 tubes of toothpaste and toothpowder, some donated by visitors to his website. The collection is meticulously catalogued by him, with a quarter showcased in his office and the rest packaged in boxes. Kolpakov has been featured in the media, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and in 2010, he achieved his ultimate goal of acquiring a world record for his toothpaste collection.

Random Knick Knacks

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in culver City CA

Saving the best for last, here is a collection of all sorts of miscellaneous knick knacks and eccentric curios. The Museum of Jurassic Technology showcases a variety of strange collectables under the guise of a realistic natural history museum exhibit. Opened in 1989, the exhibits include a vast dice collection, gallery portraits of dogs sent to space in the Soviet Space Program, a collection of hand-carved micro-miniature figurines and other such strange and unrelated items. David Hildebrand Wilson and Diana Wilson are the curators and they actively try to bring quirky and interesting exhibits to the museum.

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