The American Pencil Collectors Society, (APCS), is a non-profit organization which touts itself as existing to "establish and maintain communication among pen and pencil collectors and to disseminate information relative to writing instruments."

Founded in 1958 by Lester C. Taylor, a professor at Sterling College, (in Sterling, Kansas), the American Pencil Collectors Society currently has about 300 members, according to its website. While the APCS considers itself a multi-national society, its communications are generated from the mid-western United States, in English.

Most of these members aren't hoarding commercial, store-bought pencils. Rather, they are focusing on writing instruments with advertisements on them, or specialty pencils such as carpenter pencils, golf pencils, and vintage 'Autopoints'. Surprisingly, their definition of "pencil" includes mechanical pencils, fountain pens, and ballpoint pens. The APCS has conventions every other year, and a primary function of the Society is to facilitate among its members the efficient trading of the more rare or novel writing instruments.

Perhaps this hobby isn't so strange, after all, though I must admit that my initial reaction to hearing of the Society was to laugh. People collect all kinds of strange things: matchbooks, bottle caps, candles. Why, the Guinness Book of World Records even has an entry -- and I shit you not -- for "Largest Airsickness Bag Collection"!

All of this got me to thinking: what makes collecting fun, in my humble opinion, is the fact that the creator of the artifact being collected did not design it specifically so that it could be collected. In other words, collecting Barbie dolls is boring nowadays because Mattel has collectors at least partly in mind every time it makes a new Barbie (or erstwhile boyfriend Ken) doll. The collectors wait patiently for the company to produce the next 'collectible', which they dutifully purchase.

The things that are truly cool to collect -- the most delightful collectibles indeed! -- are miniature cultural artifacts whose creators didn't have collecting in mind. Here are some collection ideas, (some novel, some probably not): microchips, cell phones throughout the ages, antacid packages, absentee ballots from various jurisdictions and eras, inhalers, or notary seals.

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Credit where it's due: I heard of The American Pencil Collectors Society by reading E2 writeup 'pencil' by user junkpile. Check out that writeup, which inspired this one.

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