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In Flagrante Collecto: caught in the act of collecting: Questions? Comments? Collections?

The Act of Collecting


The Object’s Voice


Whoops, It Broke


The Better Mousetrap


Plumb Wore Out


Taste Changed


Owners Lost Faith


Owners Lost Interest


Owners Grew Up


nobody cared


Got Lost


Part of Something Bigger


Used Up


Better in the Afterlife


A Bad Idea in the First Place


Never Made Enough


Provisional Utility


Made for One Use Only


Unintended Survivors


Mental Collections


So What’s Left?


Just in Time

About the Author

From the Author

From the field

From You

« back a bit
contents »
From You

Questions? Comments? Collections?

This is your forum to ask questions, share your opinions and talk about your collections. Thanks for visiting.

  1. Cool!! I can’t wait to spend more time on the site.

    From Kay Bearman   ★   Monday, May 8, 2006,   12:50:05 PM

  2. Hello,

    Fascinating stuff … do you have any dog-related items in your trove? Interested in a brief interview about collecting dog-related objects.

    Cameron Woo
    Publisher, Bark magazine

    From Cameron Woo   ★   Friday, August 4, 2006,   10:42:53 AM

  3. Dear Marilyn: I am thoroughly entranced with this project. Since I am also a collector from times past to current interests, I will get your book and enjoy it even more! Ira and I keep hoping we will get to see you when we are in New York but it just never seems like there is enough time. We will be at Sylvia’s (in Bethesda) around Thanksgiving but we are not planning to be in New York this year. Take care—hope all is well with you.


    From Janet Gelfman   ★   Sunday, August 6, 2006,   10:14:36 AM

  4. Hello Janet;
    Thanks for your hello and if you’re in NY after you’ve read IFC, we’ll probably have alot to talk about. Regards to Ira.

    From marilynn   ★   Tuesday, August 8, 2006,   11:17:29 AM

  5. Hello Cameron Woo;
    A few of my collections such as Shopping Lists (dog food), Cartoons About Collecting (Snoopy’s food dish collection) and Lost Pet Posters, have dog referents but are part of other concepts. I collect expired dated metal tags and many of them are dog licence tags. Dog stuff is not my thing. Thanks for asking.

    From marilynn   ★   Tuesday, August 8, 2006,   11:33:14 AM

  6. Hi Marilynn
    What a fantastic project! Congratulations! Did you get a chance to see Kim Levin show of exhibition invites with her handwritten comments at Ronald Feldman’t at the start of the year?

    From michelle rogers   ★   Monday, August 28, 2006,   11:54:00 AM

  7. The metal object abouive your head on page 54 in Country Home , Oct. 2006 looks like a snowshoe for a horse. It has two rectangular holes and several round holes where the front of the hoof would fit. Is that correct? Thanks, Morris

    From Morris   ★   Monday, September 18, 2006,   08:47:24 PM

  8. Hello Morris;
    The person from whom I purchased the snowshoe told me that it was for a mule.

    From marilynn   ★   Tuesday, September 19, 2006,   12:22:49 PM

  9. Dear Marilyn,
    I plan to order your book; it sounds fascinating. My entire family collects antiques—furniture, primarily primitives; smalls, etc. My sister showed me the article on page 54 of the October 2006 Country Home. On the wall directly above your head (starting at top of the page, item fully shown) is a straight iron piece with two moving curved “arms” coming out the sides. My husband and I recently purchased several iron pieces, including one of these. The dealer told us he thought it was perhaps used for drying two ears of corn. Do you know what it was used for? Thanks very much. Gail

    From Gail   ★   Friday, September 29, 2006,   03:02:18 PM

  10. Hello Gail;
    I was impressed with the grace of the hand-forged object and vaguely thought it could be a kind of double calipers, meant to measure the inside and outside dimensions of pertinent parts. Pages 250-1 of my book address these mighty fine tools.

    From marilynn   ★   Saturday, September 30, 2006,   12:26:14 AM

  11. Dear Marilyn,
    I write from “Down Under” – Wellington, New Zealand to be precise. Excellent book! On p.145 you refer to “roll caps” as used in cap guns. Do you know if roll caps are still manufactured at all please and, if so, do you have any contact details for a manufacturer? I collect old tin toys, and have a battery-operated tinplate Police car with a machinegun mounted on the bonnet, and a roll cap-firing mechanism concealed in the trunk. M/gun fires as car moves along. I’d like to get the m/gun working, but need some roll caps. Any info you can assist with would be most appreciated. Many thanks.
    Kind regards,
    Trevor W.A. Morley.

    From trevor w.a. morley   ★   Wednesday, February 7, 2007,   06:54:08 PM

  12. Hello Trevor;
    I do not know if caps are still manufactured; I have only seen them at antique shows and flea markets. They are not expensive. Have you tried eBay? Your toy sounds great. I hope you get it working.

    From marilynn   ★   Sunday, February 25, 2007,   01:42:49 PM

  13. Looking for skate key for old 4 wheel ball bearing metal skates! Please.

    From Leah Watson   ★   Saturday, May 5, 2007,   04:48:40 AM

  14. Hello Leah;
    eBay has many skate keys on sale now. I have found lots at flea markets too. They are not hard to find and are inexpensive.

    From Marilynn   ★   Saturday, May 5, 2007,   05:15:14 PM

  15. Dear Marilynn,
    I have just ordered your book because it’s the first one that looks at the objects of two of my collections: “do not disturb” signs from hotels and “sanitized for your protection” bands. There are indeed just a handful of collectors for the first, and I don’t know any for the latter. What is the best way to find other collectors? Maybe your book will enlighten me. Best wishes.

    From Edoardo   ★   Wednesday, May 16, 2007,   01:02:35 PM

  16. Hello Edoardo;
    It’s a pleasure to e-meet you. There must be others out there, but so far you are the only other collector of sanitized for your protection bands and do not disturb signs that I know. There must be someone else out there.

    From Marilynn   ★   Tuesday, May 29, 2007,   07:00:48 PM

  17. Dear Marilynn.
    What a pleasure to find you again (you were my prof. of an Intro.
    to Art class at NYU, mid ‘60’s). This is an altogether fabulous book
    and I look forward to exploring it more. I loved your aquamarine
    glass story. Auguri, and continued success.
    Joanne Milazzo

    From Joanne Milazzo   ★   Wednesday, July 25, 2007,   03:07:18 PM

  18. I have had a brief history as I am only 26 of collecting and the majority of that has been failed or fleeting interests. I am almost a collector of collections…trying to find myself.

    The only collection that has survived my whims has been my marbles. It began in sixth grade and I still have most of the marbles I played with on the playground. I do not keep many material items and I go through purging processes quite often to try and minimalize what I own. Sometimes I regret my past actions as I do not have the pleasure of passing down my toys and pastimes to my children, and I think that my collecting marbles is a way to make up for what I have given away or lost in moves as well as something I can present that will account for the past 26 years and onward.

    It is funny that I found this site (completely by chance while doing an image search for marbles) because I was just thinking today (no lie) about collectors and the significance of collecting. Maybe the reason why people collect is to have some sort of purpose in life. It is a hobby that one partakes in for the pleasure of adding one more addition to a treasured collection as well as for the thrill of finding it. I truly never thought of what one collects as having any type of insight on personality, but it completely makes sense! Maybe we don’t discover or decide what we like or want to collect, but instead we are just predisposed to liking something because of our unique human code and are fortunate when the opportunity presents itself for us to learn a little more about ourself.

    Sure there are other marble collectors, and fans of the Cheshire Cat, but how many are both? I think our interests and collections are what make us truly individuals but at the same time give us the ability to relate to one another.

    Sorry, I am in a philosophical mood and I am sure your book explains everything far better than I could even on my best day. I look forward to reading it.

    Do you have a large collection of marbles? How do you display them?

    From Christina Clemons   ★   Monday, August 27, 2007,   11:01:56 PM

  19. Hi,
    I am an artist/art student who for my fourth year is looking at what is in my basement.
    I was sent your site and was not disappoined.
    I come under the fourth area of collectors – the crow.

    From Jackie Alcock   ★   Sunday, October 21, 2007,   03:23:05 AM

  20. Hello Jackie;
    I would probably have a grand time in your basement. Thumb through my book and you’ll see why. If any of your accumulated stuff is useful to your art, you could reassign yourself to the Bower Bird area.

    From Marilynn   ★   Wednesday, October 24, 2007,   05:38:49 AM

  21. Dear Marilynn,
    I just found your book and it hit my heart. I seem to collect a multitude of things, some of which have been passed down through the generations and many of which are “worthless”. I have been told over and over again, “Throw those away. Why are you saving that? You don’t need it if you aren’t going to use it.” I have resisted, even though current culture tells us to get rid of as much as possible. In this regard, your book has helped me to make peace with myself and my collecting. Instead of feeling badly about it – celebrate it! I intend to do just that. Thank you so much for creating such a beautiful book to celebrate the everyday things that connect us to our common history and so to each other.

    From Pam Church   ★   Thursday, January 3, 2008,   07:16:23 AM

  22. Hello Pam,
    Thanks for your kind words. Stay with it. Press on regardless. Onward and upward.

    From Marilynn   ★   Thursday, January 17, 2008,   11:43:31 PM

  23. the collection process has to do with the salvation of time and memory forgotten. it is the keeper and the kept defining our likes and dislikes, it is also our own censoring away from somebody elses eyes.

    From jimt   ★   Tuesday, August 19, 2008,   01:12:26 PM

  24. Dear Marilyn, I have been a collector since childhood – rocks, shells, rubber duckies, wedding cake figures, bookends (all since discarded); at present, in my sunset years, it’s books, hinged silver Mexican bracelets, Inuit figurines and, i suppose, DVDs although they are less a collection than an entertainment source. Just finished IN FLAGRANTE COLLECTIO again,this time reading ALL the commentary. It is a treasure house, especially of paper ephemera. Many of my books deal with some aspect of folklore, so your IN FLAGRANTE DELICTO overlaps that category.

    From maureen riordan   ★   Friday, October 24, 2008,   01:17:09 PM

  25. Thank you, Maureen; it’s comforting to know that there are many of us out there archiving material culture according to our inner muses.

    From Marilynn   ★   Wednesday, December 10, 2008,   09:44:52 AM

  26. I see that the author of the blog here has copied a photo from your web site. Flattery, I suppose.

    From David North   ★   Sunday, July 19, 2009,   04:07:00 AM

  27. Thanks for the heads-up. Indeed you are correct. In these times everything is global and nothing goes wholly unobserved. I’m glad to have inadvertently served to inform the public about what marbles actually look like. My marbles are innocent!

    From marilynn   ★   Wednesday, August 5, 2009,   12:46:18 AM

  28. Marilyn: Just finished reading In Flagrante – I read it very slowly to savor each chapter. I’m a collector and collections/collectors/collecting fascinate me. For my wife and I it’s (to mention a few) American Indian art, Edward Gorey, Sendak books, original children’s book illustration, and cartoon art. The latter led me to found the Cartoon Art Museum ( in San Francisco, some 26 years ago. Your book is a treasure not only for its dazzling paraade of collectibles, but also for your erudite, clear, and jolly writing style. Well done!WbTT4

    From Malcolm Whyte   ★   Sunday, February 27, 2011,   02:51:09 PM

  29. Thank you from writing Malcolm, it’s good to know that you are out there collecting your treasures.

    From marilynn   ★   Monday, February 28, 2011,   09:24:59 AM

  30. I hope you can look at “The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious (Aperture 2011). Thanks for yours. wmh

    From WM Hunt   ★   Tuesday, December 20, 2011,   11:01:46 AM

  31. Dear Dr. Karp,
    I am a Master’s Student at NYU just starting my thesis work at Gallatin. My thesis is going to focus on collectors and collecting and I’m thrilled to be using “In Flagrante” as one of my resources. Are you still ever on campus? I look forward to hearing from you.


    From Evan   ★   Wednesday, February 15, 2012,   11:32:42 AM

  32. I’m enjoying your book! FYI I believe the little robot you picture on page 141, item number 22, is a facsimile of the robot from the TV show “Lost In Space”, whose name was B-9, a much loved character! My web link goes to my page I call “Cabinet of Wonders” where I create rotating displays of things I admire. I would love to post more of them but time has not yet permitted. Thanks for your really fun book with interesting text on the very curious objects. You are only encouraging me.—Andrea Winchester

    From Andrea   ★   Friday, June 1, 2012,   11:21:03 AM

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