Once a Collector … Always a Collector

Okay, I admit it. I guess I’ve always been a collector. For the past thirty years I’ve been pursuing and collecting family history documents and heirlooms. Further in my past, it has been other things – some now with monetary value and some kept only out of sentiment.

I suppose it started as a kid with sports cards – hockey and baseball in my part of the world. I wish I had held on to all those mint condition ‘original six’ NHL cards but sticking them on my bike to make noise as the spokes of my wheels snapped them just seemed at the time to make a lot more sense. I moved from ‘bubble gum cards’ to stamps, taking up a hobby that my father had pursued. I did well with the stamps but bored easily while waiting for the post office to ‘release’ the next commemorative stamp.

By the time the early 80’s rolled around I had started collecting autographs. I’m not sure as to why, I just did and now, thirty years later I own some pieces of history like an original report from around 1806 penned by Henry Erskine, twice Lord Advocate of Scotland. It started with sending blank file cards, the kind of index card you might use to write a recipe on, to a variety of celebrities. The folks who received my file cards with a politely written autograph request were from diverse backgrounds – politicians, scientists, entertainers, etc. To my amazement, they signed the cards and sent them back to me.

Emboldened, I decided to send photos, mainly clipped from magazines, to celebrities and again, they graciously signed and sent the now autographed photos back to me. I wrote some months ago about one such autographed photo, from author Alex Haley. One of the more creative autograph collecting endeavours I used, and I cannot take credit for thinking it up, involved obtaining a ‘signed’ copy of the World War 2 surrender agreement.

It involved obtaining the wording of the “Instrument of Surrender of all German Forces” that was signed at Rheims, France on the 7th of May, 1945. I hand-wrote a copy of the agreement and sent it to an address I had found for Karl Doenitz, the Grand Admiral of the German Navy and who as Adolf Hitler’s successor instructed the surrender of Nazi Germany. To my amazement, Karl Doenitz lived at the address I had found in a volume of “Who’s Who” and he signed the agreement and mailed it back to me. I followed up with Mr. Doenitz who subsequently sent me an autographed photo of himself wearing his Admiral’s uniform (above).

Some pieces of history I can leave to my descendants – not now but some day.

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