You may have one in your pocket. They only cost about 25 cents. But if you have always used one to play guitar, you are lost if you don’t have one. They are picks! Skinny little bits of celluloid, plastic, nylon, or any of a hundred other substances. There really isn’t anything special about picks except that you probably use one every day.
Picks finally got some respect back in 1995, with the Miller Freeman publication of the book Picks!, by Will Hoover. It’s a cute book, and it’s informative in an area where little knowledge had previously been gathered.
“Picks are fun,” says Hoover. “Fun is the word.”
Indeed it is, ask anyone who collects them. The hobby of pick collecting got a real shot in the arm when the Hoover book was released, because there was finally a written reference work that created a common language.
Why collect picks? “Why not?” say collectors. Picks have attributes that make them collectible. There are endless varieties, lots of vintage makes, and your favorite guitar player probably uses one. Wouldn’t it be nice to own one of his (or her) picks? They don’t take up much space, a ready trader market exists to meet your needs, and vintage picks are cool case accessories for your old guitar. We talked to some pick collectors to find out what inspires them.
“I really like the vintage picks,” says Chris Gaylord, a South Carolinian who has collected picks for 18 years. Gaylord has acquired a well-deserved reputation as a plectrologist. His interest in and knowledge of vintage picks has spread beyond the picks themselves and into pick display items such as cards, boxes, and pouches from the vintage era.
“My collection is broad and showcases picks made by several companies, starting with D’Andrea in the 1920s, to Gibson in the ’30s and ’40s, to the Herco and Fender picks of the ’50s, along with a lot of forgotten names like Coast, H&F, and Wabash.
“I have many discontinued sizes and shapes represented in an array of colors and materials such as ivory, tortoiseshell, glass, stone, horn, metal, leather, and celluloid.”
Harry Anderson has many vintage picks, but takes a different approach to collecting. Beginning in the mid ’80s, Anderson began collecting picks with store logos on them. Now his collection contains picks from 49 states (only Idaho isn’t represented).
“I like to describe mine as a general collection” he says.