10 Weird and Wonderful Personal Collections

Courtesy of Barbara H. Hartsfield
Courtesy of Barbara H. Hartsfield

One way to break a Guinness World Record is by collecting something no one else wants. Just make sure you don’t settle on back scratchers, umbrella sleeves, or fossilized poop as your collectible of choice—those items (and more) already make up some of the most unique personal collections on earth.

1. MINIATURE CHAIRS

Shopping for pint-sized chairs began as a weekend hobby for Barbara Hartsfield, and after maintaining the habit for 10 years, she had built up a collection of 3000 of the miniatures by 2008. Today, tiny furniture enthusiasts can find chairs in bottles, bird feeder chairs, and chairs made from toothpicks and clothespins at her Stone Mountain, Georgia museum.

2. DALEKS

Thinking?

Rob Hull // Flickr

You wouldn’t be faulted for pegging someone who owns hundreds of Daleks as a fan of Doctor Who, but Rob Hull of Doncaster, England isn’t interested in the show—he only has eyes for the Doctor’s cyborg nemeses. His obsession traces back to the day his mother refused to buy him a Dalek toy he saw in a store as a child. He vowed to buy his own one day, and at age 29, he purchased his first model. In 2011, Hull earned a Guinness World Record for amassing 571 Daleks, ranging in size from tabletop knick-knacks to a 6-foot replica. One person who wasn’t thrilled about the achievement was his wife. According to The Telegraph, she said, ''I hate the bloody things and I've got a feeling this is only going to encourage him.''

3. UMBRELLA SLEEVES


Nancy Hoffman may very well be the only umbrella sleeve collector on earth, but that doesn’t make her achievement any less impressive. Guinness World Records recognized her collection of 730 umbrella sleeves as the largest in the world in 2012. Since 1996, Hoffman’s Maine home has been open to the public as a museum. As visitors peruse umbrellas from 50 different countries, Hoffman treats them to a live accordion rendition of “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella.”

4. BURGER PARAPHERNALIA

Like many people, Harry Sperl likes hamburgers. But this Daytona Beach, Florida resident takes his passion beyond ordering the occasional burger at a drive-thru—he’s spent the past 26 years filling his home with at least 3724 burger-related items.

Nicknamed “Hamburger Harry,” Sperl started his collection as a way to sell a vintage drive-in tray he owned. He purchased a few plastic hamburgers to use as props when photographing the collector’s item. From there, he purchased more burger merchandise for fun and started receiving them as gifts from friends and fans, who he calls his “hamburger helpers.” Today, the Guinness World Record holder owns everything from a hamburger waterbed to a customized burger Harley Davidson. He eventually hopes to open a museum in the shape of a double bacon cheeseburger.

5. DINOSAUR TOYS


Randy Knol

Randy Knol’s epic dinosaur collection would make many 5-year-olds jealous. He first started collecting the toys after receiving a Flintstones playset for Christmas in the 1960s. Today, he estimates he has “probably about five or six thousand” dinosaur figures scattered in bags, boxes, and plastic containers around his house. His collection has yet to be verified by the Guinness World Records committee, but there's a good chance his is the largest. He told Smithsonian, “I knew a couple of collectors who had more but they're all dead now.”

6. DO NOT DISTURB SIGNS

Some people who like to travel buy T-shirts, snow globes, or key chains to remember the places they’ve been. Rainer Weichert enjoys bringing back “Do Not Disturb” signs to his home in Germany instead. As of 2014, his record-breaking collection included at least 11,570 signs gathered from hotels, cruise ships, and airplanes in 188 countries. A couple of his more valuable items are a sign from the 1936 Olympic Village in Berlin and a 106-year-old sign from the General Brock Hotel in Canada.

7. BACK SCRATCHERS

Manfred Rothstein

A trip to Manfred S. Rothstein’s dermatology clinic in Fayetteville, North Carolina includes a free look at the world’s largest back scratcher collection. The doctor owns more than 800 of the handy tools, hundreds of which are displayed in cabinets in the examination rooms and hallway of his practice. The spread includes one back scratcher with an alligator foot, another made from buffalo ribs, and three electric models from the early 1900s.

8. FAST FOOD TOYS


Percival Lugue

Growing up in the Philippines, Percival R. Lugue treated his toys with a level of care beyond his years; it was a quality he never grew out of. Today he owns more fast food restaurant toys than anyone else on earth with over 14,500 in his possession. After earning the distinction from Guinness World Records in 2014, Lugue hasn’t slowed down. He told Lucky Peach that he eventually hopes “to collect all the fast-food toys that exist.” A 1999 Inspector Gadget toy from McDonald’s and a 1987 Popeye and Friends set from the Filipino chain Jollibee are two of his most prized pieces.

9. FOSSILIZED POOP

George Frandsen is basically the Indiana Jones of poop. He’s gotten his hands on 1277 samples of coprolite (the scientific name for fossilized feces). His collection was certified as a world record-breaker in August 2016, and in October, he lent it to the South Florida Museum for a year-long exhibition. Visitors to the museum can feast their eyes on coprolite from eight different countries, including a 4 pound, 3.5 ounce prehistoric crocodile turd affectionately named “Precious.”

10. TRAFFIC CONES


Think of the mayhem you could cause with 500 traffic cones. Fortunately, UK resident David Morgan doesn’t use his collection for nefarious purposes. His obsession began while working for Oxford Plastic Systems, the world's largest producer of traffic cones. In 1986, a rival manufacturer claimed that Oxford had copied one of their designs, so Morgan set off searching for a cone to prove the design wasn’t new. The incident sparked a lifelong passion for the product. Despite owning hundreds of them, Morgan told Somerset Live he would never consider stealing one “as they are a safety product."

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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17 Odd Things We've Sent to Space for Some Reason

There's a Starman waiting in the sky.
There's a Starman waiting in the sky.

Artifacts, personal and pop cultural totems, and even the dead have made the journey from our planet to the outer reaches of the heavens. We've covered some odd items that have gone to space before; here are 16 more unusual things that took a trip to the cosmos.

1. Human remains

Thanks to Celestis, a company that specializes in booking “memorial spaceflights,” and an agreement with private rocket company SpaceX, the remains of several people who have died have been launched into the great beyond (for a couple of hours, at least). Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's remains were on the inaugural Celestis flight in 1997; his remains took flight again in 2012 with the remains of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty. Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s ashes were also on that flight.

2. A toy dinosaur

In 2020, astronauts aboard SpaceX’s first crewed missions packed an unusual travel companion: a plush dinosaur. During the historic flight, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were accompanied by “Tremor,” a sparkly Apatosaurus. The crews’ sons chose the toy, which acted as a zero-g indicator.

3. Actual dinosaurs

In 1985, astronaut Loren Acton brought small bits of bone and eggshell from the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum along on a mission on SpaceLab 2. Thirteen years later, the skull of a meat-eating Coelophysis from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was a passenger on a trip to the Mir space station.

4. A car

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, with Earth in background
Nothing clears the head like a long drive through the stars.

In 2018, Elon Musk took off roading to a whole new level. SpaceX launched a red Tesla Roadster into space as part of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s test flight. “Starman,” a mannequin clad in a spacesuit, sits in the car’s driver’s seat. You can track Starman’s cosmic journey here.

5. Salmonella

Lots of strange things have been brought to space in the name of science—including salmonella. Two shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS) contained samples of salmonella to determine how the bacteria would react to low gravity, and the findings were kind of scary. When the salmonella returned to Earth after being in orbit for 12 days on the space shuttle Atlantis, the bacteria became even more virulent. In the first study to examine the effect of space flight on the virulence of a pathogen, the bacteria that had taken a space trip was three times as likely to kill the lab mice as the salmonella that was kept on Earth in as close to similar conditions as possible.

6. Tardigrades

Tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, became the first animals to survive exposure in outer space. The eight-legged creatures typically spend their days on a moist piece of moss or enjoy feasting on bacteria or plant life at the bottom of a lake, but they survived being frozen at -328°F or heated to more than 300 degrees on their trip to space. The water bears, which typically don’t grow more than 1 millimeter in length, were dehydrated and exposed in space for 10 days by a group of European researchers. Back on Earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of the tardigrades that were shielded from the radiation survived. A handful with no radiation protection not only came back to life, but later produced viable offspring. Excitedly, an “amateur tardigrade enthusiast” theorized the water bears must be extraterrestrial in origin if they can handle such conditions, but that claim has boringly been denied by the Swedish and German scientists, who made up for it by naming their experiment "Tardigrades in space," or TARDIS.

7. Sperm

Without gravity, samples of animal sperm don’t work the way they should. Putting bull sperm in orbit made the tiny cells move faster than usual. Meanwhile, in sea urchin sperm that flew on NASA missions, the process of phosphorylation screeched to a halt when the enzyme known as protein phosphatase didn’t do its job. In 1979, two female rats that went to space became pregnant but didn't carry the fetuses to term, and the males’ testes shrank along with their sperm count. Fortunately (or unfortunately), one creature has been able to reproduce far from our planet: the cockroach.

8. See-through fish (medaka)

Since the medaka’s organs are clearly visible because of its transparent skin, this species of fish was the obvious choice for scientists to test the effects of microgravity on marine life—and to help determine why astronauts suffer from a decrease in bone density while in orbit. Bones naturally break down and rebuild, and osteoclasts help break down bones while they're under construction, as it were. In space, the process gets wonky, which is why astronauts endure two-hour high-intensity exercise routines and take vitamin D supplements. With the medaka’s help, scientists discovered the time-consuming space exercise could be avoided, and by finding the mechanism in bone metabolism, it may lead to the development of an osteoporosis treatment.

9. Soft drinks

Special designed fizzy drinks cans taken aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985
Even astronauts quenched their thirsts with a fizzy treat.
shankar s., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1984, Coca Cola decided it wanted to put the first carbonated beverage on a space shuttle. The company spent $250,000 developing a can that would work without gravity, keep the drink fizzy, and not spill all over the place—even changing some of their formula in the process. After NASA agreed, Pepsi responded by saying it felt left out. NASA then announced that any soft drink manufacturer could participate if they created a viable container. In 1985, four cans of Pepsi and four cans of Coke were on board the Challenger; the day shifters drank Coke, and the night owls consumed the Pepsi. Neither of the sodas were to their liking.

10. Pizza

Pizza Hut wasn’t satisfied with simply being the first company to advertise on a rocket in the year 2000, so one year later it paid the Russian space agency about $1 million to become the first company to deliver a pizza to someone in space. The pizza delivered to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov included a crispy crust, pizza sauce, cheese, and salami (because pepperoni grows moldy over a certain period of time). Extra salt and spices were also added to compensate for the deadening of taste buds from space travel, and it was delivered in a vacuum seal. Usachov gave the pizza a thumbs up.

11. A cheese wheel

A canister containing space cheese
Some truly out-of-this-world cheese.
Chris Thompson/SpaceX, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 2010, SpaceX placed a wheel of Le Brouere cheese on an uncrewed spaceship to honor the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus cheese shop sketch. To add to the pop culture celebration, SpaceX sealed the cheese wheel in a metal cylinder bearing the image of the film poster from the 1984 Val Kilmer movie Top Secret!. It was claimed to the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

12. A corned beef sandwich

Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 in 1965. The following exchange was recorded:

Gus Grissom: What is it?
Young: Corn beef sandwich
Grissom: Where did that come from?
Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?

The entire incident lasted 30 seconds, with the sandwich only being consumed for 10 of those seconds, before being put back away inside Young’s flight suit.

While legend has it that Yuri Gagarin was accompanied by a homemade salami sandwich in 1961, the Russians had a specialized vacuum kit so they could clean up after eating to prevent any clogging of shuttle equipment. The Americans were just supposed to consume food from tubes, so Young was putting himself somewhat at risk for the five-hour mission. The astronaut got a stern talking to; he later landed on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission.

13. Guns

Unlike astronauts, Soviet cosmonauts went into space locked and loaded, carrying a triple barrel TP-82 capable of 40 gauge shotgun rounds. The heavy duty weapon was deemed necessary after 1965, when cosmonauts landed on Earth and became stranded in the Ural Mountains. The isolated cosmonauts feared the local wolves and bears would attack them. In 2006, the TP-82s were replaced with a standard semi-automatic.

14. Buzz Lightyear

A Buzz Lightyear toy spent 467 days in space, orbiting the Earth on the ISS before having a ticker-tape parade in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom thrown in his honor. The toy’s namesake, Buzz Aldrin, was a special guest.

15. Amelia Earhart’s watch

Amelia Earhart was the first president of an international organization of licensed women pilots called The Ninety-Nines. One member of that group is astronaut Shannon Walker, who in October 2009 was presented with a watch, owned by current group director Joan Kerwin, that Earhart wore during her two trans-Atlantic flights to bring onboard the ISS. Earhart, of course, was the first female trans-Atlantic passenger in 1928, and flew from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland solo on May 20, 1932. She gave her watch to H. Gordon Selfridge Jr., who passed it along to Ninety-Nines charter member Fay Gillis Wells. Kerwin acquired the watch at an auction.

16. A treadmill named after Stephen Colbert

An astronaut using the COLBERT treadmill
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers using the COLBERT.

Stephen Colbert, as he is wont to do, managed to crash an online contest. He garnered enough write-in votes and technically won the right to name a room at the space station after himself. Though NASA reserved their right to ignore write-in votes, the agency compromised by naming their second-ever model of treadmills after him, dubbing it the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. The treadmill’s manufacturer nickel-plated the parts, and unlike a standard treadmill, there are elastic straps that fit around a runner’s shoulders and waist to keep them from careening across the space station. The announcement was made by astronaut Sunita Williams on an episode of The Colbert Report; Williams ran a marathon on the previous treadmill while living at the space station in 2007, jogging in place with the concurrent Boston Marathon.

17. An issue of Playboy Magazine

Some members of the backup crew of Apollo 12 included some Playboy spreads on the crew’s checklists, which were attached to Pete Conrad and Alan L. Bean’s wrists as they explored the lunar landscape. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who stayed in orbit around the Moon during the mission, also found a topless DeDe Lind calendar hidden in a locker, which was labeled “Map of a Heavenly Body.”