Nothing is off limits when it comes to collecting.
A former computer consultant collected more than 3,200 airplane bags after being enchanted by them as a student 40 years ago.
His favorite “barf bag” came from a NASA space shuttle.
Steve Silberberg, 60, from Massachusetts, United States, lives with his partner Madeleine Rys, 55.
Steve says his penchant for sick bags was a “litmus test” for his relationships in the past – he’s always gotten along well with women who can see the fun side of his eccentric obsession.
He said: “It’s not that I would lead with that and say, ‘Hi, I’m Steve, I’m the sick bag collector.’
“But I would find women who would shake their heads and say, ‘Why are you doing this? Were usually someone I wouldn’t get along with very well.
Madeleine, who has been with Steve for 11 years, was puzzled when he first told her about his collection a few months after their relationship began.
“It didn’t turn her away and I’m happy for it,” Steve said. “It amuses him but has no interest in getting involved.
“When someone is interested in my hobby, she thinks it’s crazy, but she accepts it and says, ‘Yeah, I’m with the barf sack guy.’ “
Steve dabbled in more conventional collections when he was young, like coins and stamps.
But he was inspired to start hoarding sickness sacks in 1981, when he was 20 and a student.
He said, “40 years ago I took a six hour flight from Boston to San Francisco to visit my brother.
“It was a long and lonely flight and I saw the bag in the back of the seat in front of me.
‘And I thought,’ Wow, that seems like a unique thing. I bet no one else collects them ”. So I decided to take one. And it started off in an unsuccessful way.
Soon his friends started bringing him bags that they had also collected on the flights.
By graduation from college 18 months later, Steve had racked up 30-40 bags and started looking for more original models, writing to airlines and asking friends of friends who have traveled far and wide to pick up specimens at abroad.
Then, in the late 90s, the internet made it all that much easier.
When he created a website in 1997 to catalog his collection, he realized that there was a whole world of aficionados.
Explaining why he first created the site, Steve said, “What’s the point of having a collection if you can’t share it with the world?
“It’s a point of pride and building the website wasn’t a terrible way to improve my computer skills either, as the web was pretty new back then. “
Within a year of being online, Steve found 20 other collectors, of whom he met one.
He said: “It made me think I have soul mates all over the world and this was a great opportunity to increase the size of the collection.”
Steve now has a huge collection of 3,231 bags from around 150 countries, and another 50 bags are waiting to be put into his system.
The barf bag community, which he says has around 250 people around the world, can speak on his website to swap bags.
However, only 100 bags of the ones Steve actually owns were obtained from the flights he took.
He mainly finds new vomit sensors by doing similar exchanges with others.
“The age and country of origin and application of the bag can make it rarer,” Steve explained. “I also take into account whether the airline is still in business and the size of the fleet.
“If someone I have been trading with for 20 years wants a rare bag and can only give a common bag back, then I can do that anyway because I’m generally quite free and open to trading. .
“But normally you would want to swap a rare bag for another rare bag,” he said.
Some bags are available on eBay and Steve has spent up to $ 35 (£ 26) on some cool finds.
He sometimes chooses an airline for a flight he does on the basis that it will help him in his quest for new bags.
“I once chose a specific Sky Air flight to Chile because I didn’t have a bag from them before,” he said.
As a result of all of these efforts, Steve’s collection is truly global.
He said: “I have bags from almost every country.
“There are a few places I can think of that I haven’t, like Burkina Faso – but I’m not really sure what their national airline is. “
And he even has bags from countries that no longer exist.
“I have a sickness bag from Ceylon from around 1966, before the island became known as Sri Lanka,” he said.
But as vast as Steve’s collection is, he still has a ways to go to beat the sick bag collecting Guinness World Record holder – Niek Vermeulen won his title in February 2012, with his treasure of 6,290 bags to the era of 1,191 airlines from nearly 200 countries. .
He is also not sure that his collection is worth much.
He said: “For insurance reasons I think it would cost $ 10,000 [£7,485] to replace, but in terms of what someone would pay for it I’m not sure it has any value. These are just sick bags after all.
“I thought it would be a good way to meet women, but it’s not! Why do I collect? Why do people collect? There is an aesthetic and it is satisfying.
“This means that I can focus my urge to hoard only on sick bags so as not to hoard everything else.”
He continued, “Unfortunately, I never manage to spend enough time with the bags.
“Not that I would be spending all day every day – but you know, there are family obligations and work obligations that get in the way.
“I typically spend about three hours a week in this hobby, cataloging them, digitizing them, working on the website, and communicating with other collectors. “
His dream is to have a museum for his collection.
“I currently keep them in about 30 loose-leaf three-ring binders in my closet, but one day I dream of having enough space to make them a museum.
“There are a lot of empty commercial properties after Covid-19, I would like to share a commercial property to display them.”
“I’m not obsessed and I’m not a hoarder but I just love them like people love ice cream.”
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