Moments in Time Represented

Hair

I stumbled upon an auction on eBay the other day. For several thousand dollars, one could bid, or buy at a set price, a strand of hair from John, Paul, George, and Ringo of the Beatles! I thought that was pretty weird! Why would someone want such a memento? I have always admired the Fab Four, but this is going a bit overboard! Then I realized that I have in my Frankie Laine collection, Frankie Laine’s used chopsticks! And they are even framed! Whoa! I felt a bit like a hypocrite.

Why do some collectors covet these materials that were at one point in time so closely associated with certain celebrities? Well, I began to do some research. Guess what? There is virtually nothing out there that explains why some of us collectors crave these types of mementos on a physiological level.

Over the years, I have had several personal associations with Frankie Laine. Among the Laine career work, my Laine Library Collection also contains several Laine autographed items. Autographs represent something personal. The person signs his or her name in a style unique to that person. They move the writing utensil, and they hold the piece that is being signed. Therefore, the autograph retains this moment of personal contact.

According to the Professional Autograph Dealers Association, an autograph gives is a personal connection to the person signing. “Collecting autographs, signed letters, documents, manuscripts, books, or photographs—has long been an exciting and deeply satisfying pastime. In today’s world of fleeting electronic communication, these personal connections to the past offer the unique satisfaction of holding pieces of history, quite literally, in our hands. Autographs bring moments in time to life, often with incredible power. The window they open onto the past helps us better understand a person or event of importance to us. Autographs let us feel an individual’s presence . . . the essence of an individual’s personality.”

Indeed, my Laine autographs have certainly been a highlight when showing my Laine collection to interested individuals over the years. The most important autographs to me are the personalized ones from Frankie, but the ones with the most market value would be the “signature only” autographs.

Chopsticks

This only answers part of my original question. Why are some collectors interested in the more personal celebrity items? As in my case, it may be simply that the item recalls a moment in history that the person shared with the celebrity.  Frankie Laine took me to a Japanese restaurant the day I first met him in 1986. Frankie used chopsticks to eat his meal. I used my silverware. I casually told him that I would take my unused chopsticks home as a souvenir. Handing over his, Frankie said, “Here, take mine if you want a souvenir!” So I have Frankie’s used, stained chopsticks in a frame within my collection. I can look at them and recall seeing Frankie eat his lunch with them! This is by far better than a photograph!

That’s it! These personal mementos help us recall special moments in time! Just like an autograph, when one actually has witnessed the moment, the memento, which was part of that moment, acts as a catalyst for us to be able to recall the exact feelings we had at that particular time in our history. This renders the item or autographed piece extremely special. Pictures or videos are just images. A special memento is part of the actual moment in time.

As far as the pieces of hair from the famed Fab Four, I would assume this would be as close as one could ever get to the moment in time when occupying space on the four “Mop Tops.”  Sometimes we have to admire historical items even if we were never part of the actual moments. There are exceptions to every explanation.

But I am very happy with my Laine chopsticks.

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About the Author:

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Craig Cronbaugh, Director of the Legislative Information Office with the Legislative Services Agency at the Iowa State Capitol. As famed singer Frankie Laine’s special friend and a collector of Laine’s recordings and career memorabilia, Craig has written articles; has written, produced, directed, and hosted a distinctive radio program; and has appeared on Iowa statewide television regarding his Frankie Laine avocation. Craig has been highlighted briefly and has been given a research screen credit in the 2003 internationally distributed documentary Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer. Craig’s book, a memoir, Reaching for a Star, featuring his friendship with Laine, was published in 2005.