Corvallis Collectors

If there’s one thing we know about humans, it’s that we tend to collect things – from the normal, everyday objects like coins and stamps to the more quirky, unique items like gas station signs and Happy Meal toys (yes, really). Here are some of the wacky, cool collections that local Corvallisites have built.   

Vintage Country/Western and Folk Records  

Jess Norick, who does not work due to disability, collects country/western and folk records in her free time. She was hooked from the age of three after listening to her mother’s Willie Nelson albums.   

Thus far, Norick has collected over 600 records, and her most unique one is a debut single of Smiley Bates, a Canadian country singer, from 1966. The single was recorded in Bates’ motel room on a portable reel tape machine, and there were only a few hundred of them pressed.   

“My collection is important because I’ve been collecting all my life,” Norick said.   

Her collection ranges from Burl Ives and Billy Vaughn to George Jones and Marty Robbins and is only continuing to grow. 

Push Puppets  

Local stay-at-home mom Stacey Torres began her collection of push puppets a few years ago after discovering the toys at a garage sale. Push puppets are small wooden or plastic toys with a lever-button on the underside that, when pushed, makes the puppet move.   

I was spontaneously inspired to start collecting them due to my delight at seeing them, the low price, small size, colorful aesthetic, and amusing movements that literally make me laugh out loud,” Torres said.  

Torres’s push puppet collection has slowly grown over the years, and the goofy toys never fail to make her smile or laugh.   

Sometimes people around me smile or chuckle when I play with them…although I am not sure if they are entertained by the puppets’ antics, or my response to such antics,” Torres said. “It is most likely a combination of both and either way, happy smiles should never be frowned upon.

Novelty Tarot Card Decks 

Rachel Kohler manages educational programming at a local theatre and church. Like Norick, Kohler has been collecting since she was young.   

“My grandmother bought me my first tarot deck when I was 12, one based on Greek mythology,” Kohler said. I found the whole thing fascinating and started reading up on the history of tarot and buying more decks as I found them on sale.  

Though Kohler doesn’t read tarot very much anymore, she continues to collect because she loves “the lore around tarot and the endless permutations of the basic formula.”  

Kohler builds her collection by shopping at yard sales and thrift stores.   

“I collect novelty tarot cards specifically because there are a lot of novelty decks out there, decks that aren’t really designed to be used as serious divinatory tools,” Kohler said. “What this means is that I can collect tarot decks that are related to other things I’m into, like Shakespeare, King Arthur, or comic books.”  

Kohler’s favorite items in her collection are decks related to her favorite video games –franchises like Ultima, Persona, Undertale, and Kiseki.  

Animal Skulls, Pelts, and Hooves

Erica Heath’s collection relates directly to her line of work. As a skull cleaner and skeletal processor, she collects a variety of animal remains, including skulls, pelts, hooves, and inner structures for equine farrier and veterinary study.   

Heath’s largest collection is her domestic dog skulls – she has many, from Chihuahua to Great Dane.   

“I greatly enjoy collecting and adding to my dead pack because of the extreme variation in skulls among just one species,” she said. “Whereas all wolf skulls look similar, all dog skulls look different.  

Heath builds her collection by searching through the woods or from processors who obtain the skulls through professional work. She has been collecting since she was young, when her dad once brought her home a coyote skull.   

“My collection is extremely special to me because they’re all one of a kind,” Heath said. “Every single dog skull is different and is/was an individual. This is a collection that can never be replicated, even by those who also collect dog skulls.”  

Eventually, Heath hopes to add her dream item to her collection, a bull terrier skull. 

Collections

You read that right. Laurie Zink collects collections. From rocks and vintage beads to political buttons and treasure chests, Zink collects almost anything you could think of. As the owner of Kaleidoscope Beads and Treasure in Corvallis, she is able to put her collections on display.

One of Zink’s most unique collections is her molinillos, which are traditional wooden whisks native to Mexico. They are commonly used to stir hot chocolate.

Like many others, Zink started collecting at a young age.

“I have always had many collections, but what really kicked it into gear was when I started volunteering as a prop master at the Majestic Theatre,” she said. “I just started collecting – and making – props like crazy.”

When she started displaying her collections in her store, which was primarily for beads at the time, people wanted to buy them, and so she began to sell them.

Zink said that she simply “can’t stop” collecting; it’s a passion.

“All of my collections are special to me!” Zink said. “I just love variety, color, craftsmanship, history, culture, and creativity. Oh, and stories. So many of the things I collect have stories!”

Start Your Own Collection

Starting your own collection can be fun and easy. Norick advised picking something you love and collecting something that relates to it.

Torres agreed, “For other people yearning to start a collection of their own, I highly recommend that it be something that evokes amusement, wonder, beauty, reflection, hope, sentimentality, or growth.”

Kohler expressed the importance of collecting second-hand when possible, because not only is it more affordable, but it’s better for the environment. Zink suggested that new collectors start at estate sales, garage sales, and antique malls.

Heath advised, “My tip for future collectors is that no matter how eclectic and strange your collection, don’t be afraid to be yourself and to tell people what you like!”

By Cara Nixon