My first regular job was cashiering at a thrift store. There were many aspects to that job I actually liked. Literally, there was never a dull day. I worked with learning disabled people who I found to be surprisingly normal and in many ways more likable and interesting than their "fully functioning" counterparts. The clientele were a dynamic flow of shoppers ranging from collectors, to conniseurs, to bargain shoppers. In some ways, working in a thrift store is more rewarding than regular retail. It is a more laid back environment free of the commercialism and snootiness of other retail businesses. However, despite my love for the thrift store workers and clientele, the greatest perk had to be that I got first pick of what came out on the floor.
If you think about the junk that fills a thrift store as carrion, then I was top vulture. Amongst my best finds were an 18 karat gold class ring dated 1949, and an authentic antique cameo. However, thrift store shopping, like any hobby can become addictive and the more one surrounds oneself with thrift store rummage deals, the more kitsch seems like invaluable treasure andthe more glass beads look like pearls. In short, as the months passed and as I carried home my "irresistable finds," the more my room took on the appearance of multi-family garage sale.
Thankfully, the thrift store job only lasted a year and it only took a couple of months of detox for me to realize that my room wasn't bohemian chic like I hoped, it was more like my great-grandmother's spare bedroom. And so little by little, I pared down my "collectibles." I decided that I probably wasn't that into Asian souveniers and that the hand sewn pink flowered bed spread was doing nothing to establish my reputation as a modern career woman. And little by little, I "returned" the treasures from whence they came. I even got gutsy enough to purge my shelves of a few of the books I had amassed (Twelve Criticisms on Goethe's Faust- not even on my most erudite days. And Deutsche Gedicht? Who was I trying to kid?)
I had to admit that perhaps I had a wee bit of a tendency (and if you know my family you know that I come by it honestly.) And so I decided that unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life talking around the (white) elephant in the room, I should probably try to curb my desire to collect. Though instead of abandoning my tendencies wholesale, I deemed it best to choose a single collectible, my one exception to my mantra that open space was more valuable than clutter. It would have to be good. I wanted something reflective of my personality, something easy to maintain, inexpensive, and easy to store. I found my ideal collectible in pop-up books.
For those who may not be aware, pop-up books have come a long way since our childhood days. Mainly because of pioneers in paper-engineering, Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, pop-ups have transformed from child's play to vertical works of mutable sculpture. In addition to scenes that stand up over a foot off the page, the new pop-ups also feature movable parts (no lever reqired) as well as flocked and metallic papers. There is one that has, as its grand finale, light up weapons (Reinhart's Star Wars.)
In my personal (small though growing) collection, my favorites are Reinhart's The Jungle Book and Greenburg and Sabuda's The Pop-up Book of Nightmares. My most unusual piece to date is a pop-up adaptation of Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (how such a gem made it to the Border's $3.99 clearance shelf is beyond me.)
So, in pop-up books I have found a way to sate my inner pack rat, my inner child, and my inner adult sophisticate simultaneously and all for under $29.99. Now if Neil Gaiman would release a pop-up Coraline even my inner high school Goth might (for once) be satisfied.