The inclination to collect is indefinable. Some are so dedicated to the gathering, they are honored in the Guinness World Records for their unique collections. The unusual dedication holds mystery in both the discrimination of the category and attraction to it. The discipline in collecting such large quantities becomes an achievement in itself.
Along with the assumed collections of products, toys, and superhero memorabilia, are the more peculiar accumulations. Most of these have related records pertaining to size, time, age, which at times seem even more mysterious than the associated collection. Examples of the less surprising collections include: Biggest coke cans collection, largest Barbie collection, and largest Superman memorabilia collection, most stickers, biggest record collection, and on.
Sir Hugh Beaver, Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery, attended a shooting party where guests argued about the fastest game bird in Europe without any reference to conclude it. Several years later in 1954, he decided to start a “Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments and invited the twins Norris and Ross McWhirter who were fact-finding researchers from Fleet Street to compile a book of facts and figures.” In the about us section on the Guinness World Records website, inspiring people is the purpose to keeping these records. Even their mission is to be the best at keeping records. Company values include integrity, respect, inclusiveness, and passion. Originally the Guinness Book of Records, Guinness World Records, has over 50,000 records in the database. It receives about 47,000 record applications from 178 countries annually, and approves around 6,000 of them.
“We don’t define or recognize success in a conventional or limited way and so draw upon the entire range of superlatives to help people realize their potential and to re-examine the world.”
The vision is “to make the amazing official.”
This is a selection of unusual collections honored for being the biggest of their kind.
Somewhere in between, and an appropriate starting place is Martyn Tovey’s 1,700 collectible Guinness World Records items, including approximately 1,200 books
Frank Divendal of the Netherlands owns the largest collection of bookmarks with 103,009 different bookmarks from all over the world, which he has amassed since 1982. He sorts them first by country. Within each country he arranges them by theme, such as bookshops, libraries, tourism, etc. Although he collects all types of bookmarks, his favorites are the ones made of paper.
Irene Sparks has the largest collection of ties counting at 21, 321. From New Zealand, she started her collection in 2000, because she wanted to make quilts from this collected accessory. It took her 2 years to make 3 quilts.
Manfred S. Rothstein has been collecting back scratchers since the 1970’s. He has 675 from 71 countries, and stores them in his dermatology clinic in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Although an entire category exists about the human body such as tallest and shortest people, longest fingernails, hair, and on, there are also several collections involving parts of the body, including bellybutton fluff and toenails.
Graham Barker has the largest collection of naval fluff by a single person. He has been collecting it since 1984, and has a website dedicated to the collection. Here he describes the reasoning behind any good collection and explains how his fits into this successfully. These criteria include uniqueness, rarity, completeness of collection, and good condition of items.
“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.
I've read that if you do something every day for three weeks it becomes an ingrained habit, and that’s what happened with collecting navel fluff. The ritual of removing fluff from my navel and putting it in a jar prior to my daily shower soon became a habit, and now that I've been doing it so long it would take some effort to stop. As the photo shows, the volume collected is disappointingly small for such a long time, and I doubt I'll ever have enough to stuff a cushion, but it may be handy for something one day.”
The Australian goes on to describe the color of the fluff relating to clothing and type of washing machine used, as well as the reasons the body naturally collects it. He created a survey generating data about the physical properties and manufacturers of belly button fluff with 5,000 responses.
Atlantic PATH of Canada, Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health Study, is part of the largest cancer study ever conducted in Canada looking at “how genetics, environment, lifestyle and behavior contribute to the development of cancer.” They are the proud owners of the largest collection of toenail clippings with samples from 24,999 individuals. The clippings were collected as part of a scientific study in researching cancer.
An article in CBC news quotes Project director Dr. Louise Parker by explaining, "toenail clippings are really important because they tell us about environmental exposures over about the previous nine months — before the toenails were clipped and during that time they're exposed to all the things that you're exposed to in your diet, in the water that you drink, in the general environment.” The collection and study is ongoing. They are studying blood simultaneously.
Val Kolpakov of Alpharetta, Georgia has the largest collection of toothpaste tubes consisting of 2,037 different tubes of toothpaste from all over the world. The collection started when he read about German Carsten Gutzeit who collected 500 tubes.
“I thought that collecting toothpaste was a nice hobby for a dental professional. It allows you to learn more about your profession, I had friends all over the world, so I asked them to mail me toothpaste from the countries where they lived.” An English antique Georgian 1801 silver tooth powder box he considers the most rare and valuable because toothpaste was not invented at that point, so tooth powders were used. He paid over $1500 for it.
“I have several toothpaste tubes that were dug out of World War II trenches, including Doramad toothpaste that had an active radioactive compound. During those times, some people believed that radiation [could] revive dead tissues and that radioactive toothpaste [could] revive your gums.”
Nancy Hoffman owns the largest collection of umbrella covers with 730. From Peaks Island, Maine her house became the site of the Umbrella Cover Museum in 1996. The collection includes covers from 50 different countries and was established as a celebration of the mundane. The museum even has an official song.
Carsten Tews has 1,563 different mobile phones, which he has collected since 1998. The oldest mobile phone he owns is a 33-year-old TEKADE BSA 31. He lives in Germany.
Malin Fritzell of Torekov, Sweden has been collecting paper dolls since the 1960s and has a collection of 4,720.
Barbara Hartsfield of Ellenwood, Georgia has a collection of 3,000 miniature chairs, which she has been collecting over 10 years.
Chris Ried owns the largest collection of super soakers, with 340 of them. His first water gun is autographed by Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the super soaker.
Karen Ferrier of the UK has 1,117 different dalmatian-related items that she has been collecting since 1991. Karen’s collection includes a car and the items that used to belong to Dodie Smith, the author of 101 Dalmatians.
Harry Sperl, aka Hamburger Harry, from Germany has a collection of 3,724 hamburger related items.
David Morgan of the UK has a collection of 137 different traffic cones. He owns a cone from about two thirds of all types ever made. As a traffic cone inventor and manufacturer, Morgan explains in a short documentary, King Cone, more about his collection. “I see them as little soldiers that are out protecting the public, and the public don’t notice it. I think it’s very sad when you see a cone that’s being discarded, that has done its work, and no one cares, and no one looks after it. So when I find them I actually bring them in and bathe them in hot water, keep them in a darkened room so the sun doesn’t fade them, then catalogue them.”
Niek Vermeulen of the Netherlands has 6,290 airline sickness bags consisting of 1,191 different airlines and almost 200 countries, which he has gathered since the 1970s.
Rainer Weichert has collected 'Do Not Disturb' signs. He lives in Germany and the collection consists of 11,570 signs from 188 countries. Since 1990, he has been collecting them from hotels, cruise ships and airplanes. His favorite item is a wooden statue he collected from the Matahari Beach Resort in Bali. His most rare and valuable item is from the Olympic Village, in Berlin, from 1936. His oldest item is from the General Brock Hotel, in Canada, and dates back to 8 September 1910.
Milan Lukich Valdivia has the largest collection of candy wrappers with 5,065 wrappers.
Ralf Schroder of Germany owns the largest collection of sugar packets containing 14,502 different sugar packets. He started his collection in 1987. The oldest sugar packet dates back to the 1950's.
Martina Schellenberg of Germany has the largest collection of napkins with 125,866 different ones. The collection is catalogued by theme and arranged in separate boxes.
Carol Vaughan of the UK has the largest collection of soaps. She has collected 1,331 individual bars of soap since 1991. Miss Vaughn said she loves finding a new soap she hasn't seen before and likes to find ones that might seem unusual. "I was given one by a friend that is shaped liked cheesecake, you don't know whether to eat it or use it to have a wash," she said.
The list goes on, with many missed and countless future champions. Regardless of the psychology behind the desire to amass these quantities as collections, the mystery beneath poses seemingly endless questions. With thoughts about human nature, cultural impacts, and societal entertainment, the extreme connects the mass.