When you inadvertently become a collector of something you really aren’t all that into

As I was heading home at the end of the day, I ran into one of my colleagues who was also going home, and he was carrying a Star Wars-themed metal lunchbox similar to this one. For those who didn't grow up in the United States, these metal lunchboxes are the type of things elementary school children use to carry their lunch to school.

I remarked, "Nice lunchbox."

My colleague explained, "Yeah, I sort of ended up as the lunchbox guy. It started when somebody gave me a lunchbox as a semi-humorous gift, and I kept it on my shelf. Then other people saw that I had a metal lunchbox and concluded, 'Oh, he must collect metal lunchboxes,' and they started giving me metal lunchboxes. And before I knew it, I became an unwitting collector of metal lunchboxes."

The same thing happened to a different colleague of mine. As his first birthday after he got married approached, his new in-laws asked his wife, "What does Bob like?"

His wife shrugged. "I dunno. He kind of likes Coca-Cola?"

That year, he got a vintage Coca-Cola serving tray. The next year, he got a Coca-Cola clock. And then Coca-Cola drinking glasses. And so on.

Eventually, he had to ask his wife to tell her family, "Okay, you can stop now. Bob doesn't like Coca-Cola that much."

Comments (25)
  1. Boris says:

    I'm not much into giving or receiving gifts, but my sense is that one should probably figure out what's _missing_ (and is likely to remain missing forever) in the target home. Of course, the missing item should also be something that the person might actually like if exposed to by someone else.

  2. Andrew says:

    Ha!  We always got my uncle penguin-themed gifts because he supposedly liked penguins.  At least, you'd assume that given all the penguin stuff he owned (by the end, at least)…

  3. Sarkie says:

    I have 1 thing from my football (soccer) team Liverpool on my desk.

    No one knows what to get me for Christmases or Birthdays.

    I've been at the company for 4 years.

    I now have 8 Liverpool Mugs.

  4. Si says:

    When I was in my twenties I once told my mom that I liked The Simpsons; when I was in my thirties, you won't believe the amount of Simpsons crap I threw away…

  5. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    I'm a casual collector of The Lord of the Rings stuff, too. I do love Tolkien's work, and people keep gifting me all sorts of related things, like One Rings (there was only one of them, right?), figures from the movies, or various objects with Tolkien's anagram in them. Once, someone gifted me a book titled "Tolkien for Dummies" – I think that was at the time I had just finished reading the Silmarillion for the second time. I don't think I have even opened it.

    Going off topic, the good thing about writing a tech blog is that your readers can follow your links even when you make a mistake with them :-) .

  6. Mr Cranky says:

    I like Ferrari, Rolex, and Montblanc.   Just saying.

  7. Ace says:

    I like bills.  Maybe I should start framing $10s and $20s.

  8. Paul says:

    @James Gayhart,

    BEP sells uncut sheets of notes, see http://www.moneyfactorystore.gov/uncutcurrency.aspx

    I have a framed sheet of $2 bills at home

  9. Anon says:

    @Mr Cranky The problem there is that you'll soon be inundated with hats and keychains.

  10. Jim says:

    Historically I've been a TRS80>Tandy>Windows guy, but fifteen years ago someone gave me an old compact mac and I put it on my desk. Pretty soon, they were coming out of closets cause "Jim likes those old macs." Pretty soon, my wife had to tolerate "the evolution of the compact mac" on our fireplace mantel instead of normal wife stuff. I found that more than 3 don't stack well for storage. Seriously, I had over 100 of them when I had to move… What do you do with these things?  I contemplated burying them in the crawlspace! I kept a few "interesting ones" and put an ad on Craigslist:  1 mac for 1 premium beer, all you can haul. (Quite the discount from the original sales price)  I ended up with a lot of easily disposable beer and also scientifically determined that an Isuzu Trooper can (uncomfortably) hold 43 compact macs.

  11. Ken in NH says:

    For me it is Beatles junk by proxy. I do have most of their music and I enjoy it, but I have other artists that I enjoy far more. My children, on the other hand, latched onto a few of their songs and became huge Beatles fans. Everyone made the inference that they could only become Beatles fans because I am and started giving me Beatles junk. And trust me, there is a lot of Beatles junk for sale out there and I very deliberately use the word junk.

  12. JamesNT says:

    Even though I may not be into Coke that much, if someone started giving me vintage stuff, I wouldn't complain to much.  Some of the old Star Wars and Coca-Cola merchandise from years ago is worth a lot of money now.


  13. James Gayhart says:

    @Paul  That's awesome.  I might be able to afford the $1. :)

  14. Katie says:

    Moose. I always get moose stuff. Or generic "geek/nerd" stuff that's not actually funny…

  15. Muzer_ says:

    @Andrew: This reminds me of a brilliant Dave Gorman bit about (if I recall) "the badger person". Unfortunately I can't find a clip of it. Sorry.

  16. 12BitSlab says:

    @ Ken in NH,

    Feel free to send the Beatles stuff my way!!

  17. morlamweb says:

    Sometimes this idea can work out in your favor.  A few years ago my sig other and I let it be know to the extended family that we both like craft beer.  For every Christmas that followed, we usually received one or two bottles, growlers, or beer mugs from the fam.  Believe me, we have not complained : )

    I've also seen the down side of this effect.  Years earlier my mom asked me what I like for Christmas.  I replied that I like history books and baseball.  Now, for every birthday and Christmas, I get a deluge history- and baseball-related books every year (sadly, no game tickets).  Occasionally some of the titles turn out to be interesting, but most of them sit on my shelf until I get a chance to put them into the book donation bin.

  18. Spire says:

    Not too long after I got my Computer Science degree, a friend of mine gave me a big illustrated “How Computers Work” book for Christmas. And not as a joke.

  19. alegr1 says:


    Some CS graduates really do need that book.

  20. GWO says:

    @Sarkie – Maybe you should smash one everytime they underperform in the league.  Problem solved!

  21. JoshMart says:

    When I was travelling for work, one of my co-workers asked me to pick them up a shot glass from the airport. The co-worker ended up leaving before I could give it to them, so I kept it. Kind of a neat keepsake for the places I travelled to. After that, I started buying them from every airport I went through. My parents knew of my collection and when they came back from a roadtrip, I had 20 new shotglasses for my collection. I didn't have the heart to tell them I wasn't collecting shot glasses, I was collecting memories of my travels.

  22. ChiefInspectorClouseau says:

    Obligatory Dilbert reference:  dilbert.com/…/2001-05-06

  23. jonwil says:

    Too bad I am not in the kind of environment where people do this, otherwise I would be telling everyone that "I love LEGO" and have everyone gift me LEGO :)

    Of course they would probably get me useless crap (things that look like LEGO but aren't LEGO, things that are LEGO but that I already have, things that are LEGO but that I have no use for, old used LEGO that isn't good enough for the collection etc)

  24. Amita says:

    I bought a cheap, deactivated training hand grenade off Ebay and put it on my desk several years ago (It's the "blame grenade" for when someone breaks the build). My coworkers saw it and now, years later, I have an impressive arsenal of replica training Mills bombs, Stielhandgranates, pineapple grenades, lemon grenades, "baseball" grenades, rifle grenades, flash bangs, and smoke grenades.

  25. My friend Steve says:

    Old guy, loved the Giants. Went to over 500 games ( over 45 years ), at one of his first games, saw this offer for Mr Peanut Promotional items. Over the years, collected so much stuff, that he gave away boxes of it at the New Years Day Party. Wish I still had the Mr Peanut Pencil he gave me.

    He, oh my, looked like he was wearing those fuzzy eyebrow glasses. He put on a pair, and no one knew he was wearing them.

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