5 Weird Collector's Markets You Didn't Know Existed
People have been collecting things and selling them to other people since roughly the first time someone found more than one of a thing.
Because of that, the items people collect should, reasonably speaking, fall under one of two categories: 1) things that make sense to wanna own and show off, and 2) worthless junk that no one will be looking for after its owner dies alone with it. Which is why it's just as baffling to us that there's actually a thriving marketplace for ...
Hidden away in the private collections at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada are some old cotton underwear with a 50-inch waist that belonged to Queen Victoria. Somewhere someone's groaning, not because it's gross that they were kept in the first place, but because they're not even on display. Strange as it may be, queens' underwear is a hot commodity among collectors ... of queens' underwear. And it may even be a hotter commodity than the underwear of living celebrities; Kylie Minogue's bra and panties only sold for a little over $6,000 in 2011, and what living creature doesn't wanna floss their teeth with those?
By comparison, pairs of Victoria's bloomers have sold for upwards of $15,000 and $16,500. For dead old English lady drawers! You don't have to let your imagination run too wild to figure out what kind of person wants to get their hands on Kylie Minogue's underwear, but what the hell are people doing with Queen Victoria's? Especially when considering that a museum doesn't even wanna show them off! You know what, don't answer that ...
Victoria isn't the only queen getting her privacy retroactively violated, either. Not to be outdone, a pair of Queen Elizabeth's dirty panties were auctioned off on eBay a few years back for $18,000. Clearly, condition doesn't matter so long as they came in contact with a royal person's nether regions at some point. But hey, we at least solved the age-old mystery of which elderly woman's skid marks are worth the most money.
A once-popular tradition that has thankfully remained once-popular is that of making trinkets with some part or another of your dead loved one incorporated into them. Ashes weren't uncommon to include, nor were skeletal remains, though the deceased's hair seems to have been the go-to fashion accessory of the Victorian era. This was apparently how people mourned their losses in the days before you could just snap a selfie with the body and be done with it. It hasn't been specified how or when exactly the hair would be obtained, but we can only hope they waited until after the funeral to start yanking clumps of it out of their scalps.
However it was done, the hair could then go on to be used in a variety of different ways, such as weaving it into earrings, lockets, brooches, and the like. Really creative types even weaved the hair into wreaths to give their neighbors hope that they too could one day go to their graves completely bald. It wasn't unusual for the living person to use their hair in the design as well, which makes it a little less creepy, we suppose. Well, until you realize that the living person is also now a dead person aaannnddd we're back to pretty fucking creepy again.
It would stand to reason that after the mourning party died, their bizarre corpse-hair mementos wouldn't be of any value to anyone else. That is if they didn't also happen to be jewelry. This is why these horror film-ass relics have crept their way into the hands of many a modern-day collector and are worth quite a pretty penny. So next time you come across some cufflinks at an estate sale that feel a bit fuzzy, by all means, snatch that shit up before someone else does, just ... wear ... gloves ... and maybe let 'em soak in holy water ... just to be on the safe side.
Related: Jewelry Under $50 Your Mom Will Love
Misprinted Magic Cards
For years, ending up with a Magic: The Gathering deck with printing errors or alignment issues was considered nothing more than a waste of money for the poor bastard who got stuck with it. Now, thanks in part to Facebook groups and online stores adding "Misprint" categories to their websites, that waste of money could turn into an even bigger waste of money for somebody else -- but not one they'd complain about. With the rise of private internet communities, there's a bigger demand for misprinted Magic cards than ever before, and the people who stumble upon them out of dumb luck get treated like celebrities.
And then there the rarest occasion, when you open up a deck of Magic cards and find that you can't even use a single one of them. As happened to Emiel Van Daele, who bought a deck in 2019 that somehow shipped out with the front and back images printed on the same side. Naturally turning to the internet, he was met with an even crazier surprise -- aside from how far we've come with penis enlargement.
After posting about his deck online, he started getting offers from collectors ranging from $300 to $25,000. Just 19 of those cards earned him $65,000, and before long, there were YouTube videos dedicated to his misprints, and people were referring to him as "the guy with the 100,000 dollar deck" (and probably also just "Emiel"). All that money spent on cards that, best-case scenario, would be displayed on some dude's wall and occasionally get an "Um, cool?" outta whoever bothered to glance in that direction. Though, regardless of how you feel about Magic: The Gathering, or misprint collectors, you've gotta admit that it's pretty damn inspiring that we live in a world where one person fucking up at their job can make it possible for another person to be to take the next 5 years off work. Okay, maybe not inspiring enough to spend 30 bucks on a deck of cards in the hopes that it'll wind up being shitty and unusable, but inspiring nonetheless.
Niek Vermeulen is what you might call a "barf bag enthusiast." He's also what you might call "not the only one." But he's definitely the biggest (to have publicly admitted it). Before we go any further, let's just clarify what we mean by "barf bags," because, while tempting to try, you don't earn yourself a Guinness World Record for just hoarding a bunch of brown paper bags -- or at least we don't think you do, but who the hell even knows anymore?
Those of you too good to puke into your luggage may already know that many companies and airlines offer "sickness bags" specifically to contain your vomit in one place while traveling. What you don't know is that the people who are most interested in these bags aren't even using them for the sole reason they exist. See, many sickness bags have designs printed on them, and as a result, they've become attractive to people looking for cheap souvenirs. Some just say "sickness bag" in fancy letters, some sport puke face emojis. Others have the airline's logo smeared across the front -- because if there's anything you wanna be reminded of as you hack up your tiny bags of chips and peanuts, it's the name of the company responsible.
If you Google "sickness bag collectors," you'll get a pretty clear idea of just how weirdly popular this hobby is. Among the top results are sites like "Rune's Barf Bag Collection" and "Kelly's World of Airsickness Bags." Believe it or not, there's even an "Air Sickness Bags Virtual Museum," boasting over 3,000 in its collection. Vermeulen has them all beat, though; he started collecting them in the '70s and had amassed more than 6,000 by 2012. No word on how many he's accumulated since, or if he's even still around, but fortunately for his next of kin, they won't have to look far to find someone else to dump their inheritance on.
You would think that since nobody's been to the moon in quite a few decades, there wouldn't be enough moon rocks to go around to keep whatever collector's market that might exist going. Well, as fate would have it, there were just enough people willing to steal just enough of them from their rightful owners for business to be booming all these years later. Not to mention just enough people willing to spend millions of dollars on things no bigger than Gummie Bears that they can't even openly display in their homes for fear of getting arrested. Or laughed at by literally anyone.
842 pounds of moon rocks and soil made their way to Earth after the Apollo 11 and 17 missions, and samples were given out to over 100 countries and each of the 50 United States as gifts (in lieu of the alien stool samples they were hoping for). Dozens are missing today, illegally, of course, and there's such an interest in them and their recovery that there are people who actually call themselves "moon rock hunters" trying to track them down as we speak. A retired special agent for NASA named Joseph Gutheinz has worked with close to 1,000 graduate students over the past two decades, and together they've located nearly 80 stolen rocks. A word to the wise: his "Moon Rock Project" is still alive and well, and we're fairly certain it has nothing to do with him showing his ass to Dwayne Johnson.
But they've got some detective work ahead of them: one rock was found after being obtained by a casino owner in Vegas whose connect was a Baptist missionary who picked it up in Costa Rica. And that's not taking into account all the fake moon rocks floating on the black market since the '60s. Though, real or fake, at the end of the day, they're essentially dealing with a bunch of millionaires getting ripped off. If one of them ends up being Elon Musk, all the better.
Tony Alpsen does a weekly comic strip about conjoined twins at Yingandyan.com, for whatever reason.
Top image: Franz Xaver Winterhalter/Royal Collection