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Wild Collections

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Collections seem to be a fairly lost art these days. There are, however, still many students and teachers who are avid collectors and are passionate about topics we wouldn’t expect. While we usually envision collections as seashells, rocks, cds, etc, collections can be very meaningful and can represent things that people value and care about the most.

Walking into social science teacher, Matthew McClure’s room, his passions are immediately obvious. Train pictures cover the walls and several maps hang from the ceiling. The train pictures, taken by McClure himself, are not the only item which he admires. He also collects model trains, fine writing utensils, rare photographs, maps, and has a wide collections of coins that he has accumulated over the years.

“My favorites [are] pennies, especially wheat pennies, [which are from] 1959 or earlier. On the obverse side [of the penny], it used to be two strands of wheat on either side. I have every single year, including the rare 1942, which doesn’t use copper because copper was in such short supply during the 2nd world war.”

But that’s not the only thing McClure compiles. “I have the complete set of all the Apple posters that they used to have in the 80’s and 90’s. I have all of those, including the very rare Einstein one, that now is worth $7,500,” McClure said.

Senior Leah Kuhn also has experience in the collection world from her year and a half of work at Des Plaines Hobbies.

“Primarily, they sell model trains and model cars. [We] also sell a lot of the equipment you need to make what’s called a layout,” described Kuhn. “If you’ve ever been to the Museum of Science and Industry, downstairs they have that train [display]. The fake grass, some of the buildings and the trains in general, [most of] that stuff actually came from our store.”

While collections can be of interest to any age group, especially with Des Plaines Hobbies being a very popular destination, Kuhn noticed that a majority of the customers that visit were retired. “I know it’s nostalgic for a lot of them, especially the ones that grew up with trains as a big part of their neighborhood. A lot of them have worked for railroad companies, or their parents did. They just grew an enjoyment for it.”

Like McClure, European History teacher, Diane Lanham, also displays her collection in her classroom, but rather than photos of trains, she has an assortment of souvenirs from around the world, including items from places she has been and places her students have visited.

“Most of them have some kind of connection to history,” Lanham said. Her collection–half of which sits on her desk and the other half at home–features everything from figures of Jesus to miniature unicorn statues. Since each item comes from a different place, they each have a unique story and memory attached to them, as is the case with most collectible items.

Most of the stories are about the places they come from, but they have also served as a ways to create new memories. “One of the unicorns was used by one of my students, spur of the moment, to crush a cockroach that was crawling across my desk,” Lanham explained.

She also has items that aren’t necessarily travel souvenirs, but still connect to her passion for teaching and history. For example a Lego Big Ben her son made her, which she named as one of her favorite items, and a stamp a student made for her that says “AP Euro haunts your life.”

The items are from many different states and countries, but most are from Europe. The origin of her collecting habit connects to Lanham’s family because her parents accumulated souvenirs and knick knacks as she grew up.

Sophomore Ian Listopad and his family are also collectors and have an assortment of souvenir baseballs. His collection includes over 30 baseballs, including a limited-addition Seattle Mariners ball. He has found that collecting has brought his family together over something they all enjoy. “We go to baseball parks as a family vacation, so we just like to get a memorable thing from each,” Listopad said.

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