February 28, 2009

Counting Sheep with Names I Know.

My wife and I are collectors of a sort. We are by no means fully vested in our collections, but we do it more as a hobby. I don’t think either one of us sat down and decided we were going to start collecting Kaleidoscopes or Circa 1920 glass oil lanterns. But that is what we did.
What began with having one or two items eventually grew into a hobby. We might have seen something else that we liked or a friend might have given us a gift and soon we had another.
My wife has a kaleidoscope collection that is just beautiful. They range from .75 cent pieces bought at the towns fair, to significant higher works of art that produce an array of images and colors that are spectacular. They sit in a curio cabinet and every so often we drag them out to remind us of the beauty contained within them.
In another cabinet in another room she has a salt and pepper shaker collection that was handed down to her by her mother. I’m not very certain, but I think most of them date from a 1900-1940 range. While they are never used, they are equally aesthetic.
Years ago when I lived in the middle of the woods with no electricity, I started gathering a collection of oil lanterns. I found out later that I had developed a surprising liking for the older ones. Not the ones that are made in a production factory that are boxed and sold in Target stores and the like, but the ones you would have found in a Sears and Roebuck catalog 50 years ago that you would have had to order. I prefer the old hand blown glass antiques that carry the residue of yesteryear. That collection started when a friend of mine from church gave me a lantern and told me it belonged to her family back before electricity was in full running service. “We used to use it all the time,” she said.
I have treasured it ever since.
I also have a collection of marbles. I am guessing thousands. And while most of them are not nearly as old as I would like them to be, I still keep on collecting them. That started not long after I was helping a friend of mine do some yard work with a backhoe and I pulled out a spiral hand-painted Chinese marble that was quite possibly a century or two old. I know this because the town I lived in was an old mining town and the Chinese had flocked there back in the early 1860s. Anyway, I got to keep the marble. Regrettably, I later sold that marble for around $75. It was a big mistake. I don’t know how long that marble lay buried in the ground, but when I unearthed it, it was in pristine condition. I kick myself whenever I think about it and mutter, “Doh!” every time.
It bothered me so much that one year while my wife and children were on vacation driving south from Eaglesville, Mo., to Utah we stopped at every farm house, hen house and antique store along the way to buy every glass jar full of marbles we could find. Surprisingly we found quite a few and I was lucky enough (if you’re into that sort of thing) to even hear stories about said marbles being unearthed at old farm houses back in the day. In the end though, I never did find the likes to the Chinese marble I sold all those years ago and I learned a valuable lesson about what I’ve come to hold in high regard. I learned it wasn’t money, but the value of what money can or can’t buy. That marble was priceless.
Which leads me to another point about collectibles. Do you know any of these names? Chocolate, Cubbie, Flash, Legs, Patti, Pincher, Splash, Spot or Squealer?
In 1993 they first appeared at a gift show. They debuted in stores in 1994 and for the most part were unknowns. They were the first nine. Later there would be more names. Bronty, Bumble, Caw and Flutter. And still later there would come Billy and Curly and Erin. And hot on their tales were the crowds. Women and children for the most part, and then there was my wife. And my mom.
Do you remember these names?
Well…My wife was a Beany Baby collector. And for a couple of years we hit every store front known to man that might house such a collectible. Which was pretty much every store front known to man.
I remember these names because while in tow I would be scouting for those names, hence making my life that much easier so that we might get out of these stores in a timely fashion.
For some odd reason while I lay in bed last night trying to fall asleep, I was plagued by the Beany Babies. Their names danced in my head as if I was counting sheep. Fortune, Glory, Peace and Princess. I don’t know why I was thinking of them but, there it was. Soon I began to wonder what ever happened to Ty Warner. Did he indeed back himself into a corner and force himself into retirement or did he go willingly? Is he still out there? Or is he back on that beach in Miami where he first got his idea that brought him so much success? Maybe he’s on an island now? Whatever happened to the Beany Kingdom?
And then I started thinking about all the Beany Babies my wife had stored away in the 50 gallon Tupperware totes out in the garage. How many of them were there?
When Ty started retiring the Beany names each year millions of people scrambled to buy them. He would later announce the new line of names and again millions of people would scramble to buy them. And then in '99 he announced he was done. Over, kaput, finesse. The ‘End Bear’ would be the end. Millions of people scrambled. My wife joined them. They were all searching for The End Bear.

On December 31, 1999 the beany babies were going into retirement. My wife shrugged her shoulders and moved on. And then began the rumors in early December. Ty wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, there was talk about the NEW Beanies and Baby Ty and the New Ty Classic. There was a list of them! Millions of people were frustrated. My wife included. Then she got mad.
Make up your mind Ty. Are you coming or going?
I watched as my wife slowly began to remove the Beanies from their resting places around the house. Some of them even became chew toys for the dogs. Dozens upon dozens of Beany Babies disappeared. Eventually they were stored in plastic baggies and then loaded into two very large containers that I eventually had the honor of storing away out in our garage -- their final resting place -- until last night. Last night they came back to haunt me.

There were two things I learned last night.
1. Remember to take you sleeping pills on a work night or you will have a restless sleep.
2. If you are a collector of things, know where your sense of loyalty lies. Else those things might end up in a box. They may even crawl out in the middle of the night and wake up your spouse.


Linda S. Socha said...

Funny...Love the Beany on the post...I have a Princess Di but that is pretty much it.....
I enjoy your writings...I am a collector at times but trying hard NOT to be. Hope your weekend is a good one

*mary* said...

That was a great story! My sister-in-law had so many Beany Babies, it was insane. I wonder what happened to them all.

End Bear?! I had no idea they made an End Bear. He looks sad. He should play The Doors song 'The End' when you press his belly. Haha.

Kaleidoscops are cool. That is a fun thing to collect. I've always loved those.

We have a small collection of Ugly Dolls for Violet and we are already running out of room. There are usually six piled on the bed at any given time. Here's what they look like, in case you are wondering:


(See. They aren't really that ugly.)


Linda, <:)

Thanx so much for letting me know about CarePages. I found what I was looking for. Be well friend.

Krëg said...

I have a couple of oil lamps around my place, but they are nothing precious. I only have them around in case the power goes out. However, I think my parents have a few that date back to the early 1900's, and one of them is quite impressive as I recall.

Outside of musical instruments, I never really took to collecting things. I'm not even sure I can count instruments as something I collect, since I use them regularly, and don't buy them out of any perceived collector's value.

I guess I'm lame that way.

Good post by the way.

Lorrie Veasey said...

You didn't tell me you were back!!! Sheesh!!

Here's what I know about Ty:
He bought two hotels WITH CASH in Hawaii.

Two Hotels in Hawaii.
Now THAT'LL keep you up at night.


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