When you think of collecting things you probably lean along orthodox lines towards things such as stamps, shot glasses and retro football sticker albums. After all, you’re a normal human being. More or less. However, there are some people who always seem to take the volume level to 11 - those whose idea of a collectible is at best a little strange and at worst likely to leave you fleeing in terror.
So without further ado here’s our guide to the world’s 10 strangest things people collect.
Some celebrity fans are often pretty intense, to say the least. From autograph-hunters to obsessives who camp outside their favourite stars’ hotel rooms, there’s something a little bit weird about the mass hysteria that follows famous faces. However, even amid the bizarre cult of celebrity collectibles, celebrity hair collecting is up there with the weird and the wonderful. Plenty of enthusiasts ply their trade on eBay or hovering around tinseltown barbershops, but the undisputed king of famous follicle collecting is a chap called John Reznikoff, who won himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest collection of human hair in history. His collection, which is valued by insurers at up to $1 million, contains locks from celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln and even Elvis Presley.
We all get belly button fluff, but let's be honest, how many of us have ever thought of storing up our belly button fluff? Well Aussie Graham Barker apparently did, storing up a whopping 22.1 grams of the stuff since 1984. Bizarre as it sounds he’s made the record books with the largest – and presumably only – collection of belly button fluff on the planet. Driven by curiosity at how much the average human could produce in a year, Graham’s navel gazing made him a household name back in 2010 when he sold some of his stash for an undisclosed sum to museums and other collectors.
Creepy as it sounds, there are thousands of people out there who stockpile murderobilia, collectibles that relate to mass murderers and violent psychopaths. From cars to clothes via keepsakes, diaries and even artwork doodled by some of the most deadly people ever to grace society – murderobilia comes in all manner of forms. It’s a creepy pastime that’s sprung up into a multimillion-pound industry with online auction sites such as Serialkillersink.net and murderauction.com, which are making a killing and proving that in some ways crime does indeed pay. As you might expect, the idea of collecting killers’ possessions has courted controversy and campaigners in the US are currently working to outlaw the auction of such items there.
Potato chips are up there when it comes to unlikely collectables. Sure, we could understand if people were hording limited edition flavours, but that’s not the case for Myrtle Young, a one-time quality inspector from Indiana who’s famed for amassing a monstrous collection of salty snacks that resemble famous faces or familiar objects. Myrtle became something of a celebrity after making appearances on talkshows such as Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show where host Johnny Carson almost gave the poor woman a heart attack by pretending to scoff one of her prized potato chips.
Most of us enjoy a McDonald's every once in a while, but collector Len Foley has gone one further curating a burger museum based on the fast food chain’s menu, which dates back more than 23 years. One of the creepiest things about the collection is that his burgers look and smell exactly like they did when they were first flipped, even if that was a decade ago. Creepier still is the fact that Foley does nothing to preserve his sandwiches aside from air-drying them for six to seven days before displaying them. The secret, according to his website (www.bionicburger.com), lies in the fact these burgers are chemical concoctions designed by fast food chains to look and taste exactly the same in every outlet – it’s almost enough to put you off burgers for good… almost.
From jokes to gropes, a man's, er, manhood is a big part of who he is. But for Icelandic curator Sigurður Hjartarson the male sex organ is a way of life. It's also the inspiration behind the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which plays host to more than 300 specimens from 93 different species. From the minute to the bizarre via the spectacularly large, Hjartarson's collection is like a Noah's ark for naughty bits with animal penises ranging from the 2mm hung hamster to the 170cm tip of a blue whale’s bits. Since 2011 the collection has also housed its first human penis, donated by an elderly Icelandic gentleman who donated it upon his death. For some reason the museum has become a popular tourist attraction and is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Reykjavík.
Pickled punks is a carnival term for human foetuses preserved in jars. A common sight in sideshows of the early 20th century the attractions featured abnormal foetuses preserved in formaldehyde and presented in a glass jar for people to gawp at. In recent years the collections have died away after being banned by lawmakers. However, the clampdown has sparked a new trade in 'bouncers', rubber replicas designed to preserve the practice of hording bizarre human remains.
While not quite on the same level as Reykjavik’s penis museum, the Burnt Food Museum in Arlington, Massachusetts, is still right up there when it comes to kooky collections. First established in 1981 this love letter to culinary disasters is exactly as strange as it sounds, with exhibits ranging from a thrice-baked potato to a slow-burned lemon. Thankfully the collection is replicated online at www.burntfoodmuseum.com, complete with before and after pictures; and while it’s not entirely serious (at least we hope it’s not) burnt food still ranks as one of the world’s weirdest collectibles.
According to Steven J Silberberg, the enthusiast who curates this online collection of vomit receptacles, "airsickness bags are works of art". Well we're not too sure about that, but we're certainly impressed at the dedication involved in amassing his exhibit of more than 2,000 barf bags from around the globe. You can check them out at www.airsicknessbags.com.
The throne, the dunny, the can: whatever you call it, the toilet is something that touches all of us, quite literally. But while people take pride in their bathrooms, the idea of collecting toilets themselves is something entirely different. And yet around the world there are people who do just that. There’s even a museum dedicated to the things in India (www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org) and an online alternative with all manner of images of real-life cans alongside a collection of toilet humour and even flushing sounds (www.toiletmuseum.com).
So there you have it - some of the world's weirdest collectibles and the people who collect them. Let us know of any strange collections you have, in the comments below.