Michigan Man Has $9,000 Collection Of Guitar Picks

May 6, 2005

Joe Guy Collier of the Detroit Free Press has issued the following report:

Phil Gajewski spreads out a trio of three-ring binders filled with guitar picks on the dining room table of his Ferndale home.

To the casual observer, these guitar picks are just little pieces of plastic with names stamped on them. To Gajewski, they're as good as gold, precious connections to the lords of rock: Eddie Van Halen, Ted Nugent, the Edge from U2 and Ozzy Osbourne.

"I try to handle them as little as possible," says Gajewski, flipping through his collection. "I probably should use gloves."

With the summer concert season kicking off May 13 with a show by GOOD CHARLOTTE at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Gajewski and other pick enthusiasts will be battling to add to their collection. They snag picks in crowds at concerts, pester roadies for handouts and trade them online.

Gajewski plans to hit Ozzfest on Aug. 4 at DTE for an event that could yield picks from dozens of heavy metal bands.

Picks of popular artists like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and PAUL MCCARTNEY can go for $20-$50 through online auction sites. That's a decent markup when you consider that a pick costs less than a quarter to make.

Gajewski estimates his collection of more than 1,500 picks used by everyone from Johnny Cash to RUSH is worth about $9,000. But he's not interested in selling.

"I'm a rock fan," says Gajewski, 37, a former guitarist who now works at an insurance company. "It's my way of saying I was involved and, maybe, I still am involved."

For most of their history, guitar picks have meant little to anyone other than the musicians, says Will Hoover, author of "Picks! The Colorful Saga of Vintage Celluloid Guitar Plectrums" (Miller Freeman Books, $12.95).

The modern pick was born in the late 1800s with the invention of celluloid, a hybrid material known as Frankenstein's plastic because of its half-natural, half-man-made components and unstable nature. Celluloid is perfect for plucking; it bends back to shape. But it also can burst into flames when introduced to fire.

Pick manufacturers turned these tiny creations into works of art, fashioning tortoise shell, rainbow and striped color schemes. There's even a pattern known as clown barf that's a mix of colored specks.

Read more at Detroit Free Press.

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