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Becky Martz: Sticker Collector Extraordinaire
November 23 2010
Here at the EatAChiquita.com Blog, we love banana stickers. And so does Rebecca Martz, an avid sticker collector who has traveled the globe in search of these tiny works of art. With over 10,000 fruit labels in her collection, Becky is here to share her adventures in sticker collecting and give some advice to all of the new sticker collectors out there.
How did you get started collecting stickers?
The first labels I NOTICED were on bananas I had just purchased and was putting in my fruit bowl. Their labels were very similar to each other, but one said “Guatemala” and the other said “Honduras.” I wondered how many other country names were on labels and that’s when I first started looking more carefully at banana labels. Then at Christmas time (the year was 1991, I believe) Chiquita put out that label that said, “The Perfect Stocking Stuffer.” I thought that was funny and saved it on a piece of plastic. After that, I kept every label that was different on that piece of plastic (luckily, there was room for more) and when I had accumulated 17 labels, I realized that it was a small collection. I had not thought about it in that way before since I wasn’t going out of my way to find different labels. At that point, a friend of mine started referring to it as my “small but fascinating collection of banana labels” so that’s how I thought of it for a few years.
Then, in 1997 one of my kids looked on the Internet and said “MOM! YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO COLLECTS BANANA LABELS!” This was news to me! I had never kept duplicates to trade because I never dreamed that other people collected them as well. I made a few contacts online, then a guy in Switzerland sent me some labels and asked to trade. I was amazed. Then, when my youngest child was in her last year of high school, I thought that I might stretch it a bit and investigate more trading and collectors. A couple of European guys said that I absolutely needed to have a website. So one of my kids spent his spring break (yes, I know, poor kid!) helping me make a website. That has been invaluable in helping my collection grow.
"I love that they can be little billboards. I love that sometimes they can be quite artistic. Most of all, I love that they are ephemeral - that they are meant to be thrown away. For some reason, that makes them even more precious to me." ~Becky Martz
What’s your favorite sticker collecting memory?
Really, the first big banana event was my favorite. That was in Munich in 2001. There were 18 guys and me. I got so many new labels and met so many great collectors. The Munich event was planned for the third week of September, 2001. And well, I guess you remember what happened in September of 2001. I was getting emails from my European friends asking "Becky, are you still coming?" I said "If my plane goes, I will be on it. If it doesn't go, there is nothing I can do about it." It went, and I was on it. :)
What’s the best part of collecting stickers?
I love it that I don't have to dust them. ;-) I love that they can be little billboards. I love that sometimes they can be quite artistic. I love it that they don't cost anything (my husband begs to differ on this point....he says it was a VERY cheap hobby until I started jetting around the world to meet up with my friends). But most of all, I love that they are ephemeral----that they are meant to be thrown away. For some reason, that makes them even more precious to me.
Your sticker collection is quite impressive at over 10,000! What are you most proud of?
This is a tough question. I think I am proudest of the fact that every week I am adding more labels. People do ask me if I will ever "have them all." HA! As you know, new labels are being printed all the time and old ones turn up in unlikely places. Of course, every couple of years an article comes out that says fruit is going to be marked with lasers in the future, no labels. But, lucky for us, the labels continue.
2001 Munich Banana Label Convention by Becky Martz
Tell us about the sticker collecting community and the conventions you attend. Is there a friendly competition among the collectors?
That is it exactly....a friendly competition. We love it when we are the first to get a new label, but are very interested in helping others get the label as well. We love to complete sets! Some collectors live in areas where the most common labels are the big name labels. They are a wonderful source for completing sets of labels. I think the primary interest in going to conventions is trading. If I have one new label to trade, I might trade copies of it to 20 different people which gets me 20 new labels for my collection. It is also great to meet the people you have been trading with and hopefully to see his or her collection. We usually have other events as well. For example, when we went to Costa Rica, we toured banana plantations and other banana-related locations. At other conventions we have toured the produce markets. It’s a lot of fun.
On your website you mention a weekly chat with other sticker collectors. How can other sticker collectors out there, especially casual collectors who may not even know that others share their passion, participate and get involved?
Come to our chat or email me! I love to hear from other collectors and am always happy to help new ones (as are the rest of the community). On Sundays, we host an online chat that is a great way to let other collectors know about new finds and possible trades but it’s also is a good way for new collectors to get involved. We love to chat and catch up on who has found what labels recently. Sometimes a discussion might center on if a particular label is actually a banana label and what proof we have. We sometimes also discuss the identification or classification of labels and other label information.
How have the internet and new communication tools impacted the sticker community?
As with many other things, technology changed the hobby both for the good and the not-so-good. Many of us prefer not to buy labels, yet there are banana labels being sold on eBay and other sites. It's a personal choice, really. But, if it were not for the Internet, I would never have collected so many labels or made so many collector friends!
What can we do on the EatAChiquita.com blog to support the sticker collecting community?
Get the word out! We love to have new collectors (or old collectors who have not been in touch) join us. The more the merrier!
If you could share one thing about sticker collecting with everyone, what would it be?
ANYONE can do it. Children can collect labels. Elderly people can collect labels. Business people and stay-at-home parents can do it. You can collect just the labels you find yourself or you can go all out and join the trading community! The amount of time and effort you put into it is entirely up to you, and that is what’s great about it.
A big thank you to Becky for sharing her stories and stickers with us. Be sure to check out Becky's huge collection of banana sticker labels from around the world and stop by for a chat! We bet you’ll see some unique stickers that may inspire you to start your own collection. In fact, you could start with the limited edition Chiquita Sticker Contest winners on Chiquita bananas natiownide (only sold in the United States). If you do, leave us a comment and show off your collection. Happy collecting!