In 1982 I attended a friend's wedding at a home in the country where the owner had assembled an incredible collection of just about everything old. As I was also living in the country, I thought the feel of old stuff would fit right in so I started going to flea markets and buying old bottles, tools, signs, and insulators, which treasures I instantly spread throughout the house.
When I got to 17 insulators, I thought I had them all (they were clear, aqua, and one was green.) One day, while at my favorite swap meet, I saw two guys with a bunch of insulators and I asked how much. They replied that each was a different price from $3-$10. Well, being an expert at 17 pieces, I quickly pointed out to them that I had only been paying 25-50 cents each for the same things. They replied that theirs were different. While I stood thinking that they were nuts, I listened to them talk about shows, books, CD #'s, etc., etc. at which time I knew I was in the process of consuming a rather large foot sandwich.
Not too long after that, I ran into Bill Heitkotter (Fresno, CA) at the same swap meet. Bill had purple, cobalt, Australian, and many other insulators I had never even dreamed of. I bought a CD 214 in 7-up green and a purple piece whose CD and brand I can't recall and learned of a show coming up in Chico, CA a few months later. Bill also told me about Crown Jewels magazine. After attending the Chico Show and getting the magazine I was hopelessly hooked forever.
In the 14 years since that time I was successful in purchasing over 100 collections of insulators from coast to coast. Through the massive purchases I built a collection that at one time numbered over 9,500 different specimens, the largest collection ever identified. My porcelain collection was approximately 4,500 pieces including several hundred foreign, 175 multi-parts, over 100 radio strains, 150 suspensions, etc., etc. I had to build a 35 x 20 ft. metal building just to hold the porcelain portion of the collection.
I also had a collection of non-glass, non-porcelain pieces which numbered nearly 200 specimens.
The glass collection was over 4,000 pieces including every imaginable type of insulators from bushings to multi-part foreign pieces. I had 262 different North American CD's in threaded glass, and 54 CD's in foreign glass. Included were over 200 different radio strains and over 100 bushings, spools, LRI's, and other oddball stuff. Every piece of my collection was displayed but space was getting scarce.
From the peak of 9,500 insulators a variety of factors including one divorce, retirement, and two moves has resulted in substantial downsizing. I now have about 295 pieces in a general color collection as well as my one remaining specialty, about 40 early telegraph insulators (refer to the Early and Unusual Telegraph Insulators section).
I recall with relish the days of cross country buying trips and umpty-six consecutive NIA National Conventions but those days, as they say, are history. The memories will always remain, however, as some of the greatest adventures in my life.
Below are some photos of my collection at its peak:
In addition to the many cross country trips, sixteen NIA national shows, countless local shows, and sale of over 50,000 insulators, I found time to collaborate on a number of books. Through embossing data, photos, and line drawings of new CD, "U", and "M" numbers, I assisted with McDougald's, Albers', and Gish's books. I wrote an article which was published in a German collector's magazine which introduced several European collectors to the hobby. I also wrote a handbook on Fake, Altered, and Repaired Insulators in order to educate the collecting world about many of the unethical specimens which have found their way into the hobby. (A copy of the revised version of this handbook is available for a nominal fee on request.) In addition, I wrote the "Early and Unusual Telegraph Insulators" section and the article "Packing and Shipping Insulators" found at www.insulators.info
In some of the 'free' time, I served as Information Director, President, and Treasurer of the NIA spending 14 consecutive years on the board of directors, the second longest in history. I have found every moment of collecting, including the work, to be extremely rewarding. I count as my dearest friends insulator collectors from literally around the world. My fondest memories are of trips and shows and digging in basements and late night story telling and looking in barns and ... you get the idea. I have always believed that you get out of something what you put into it. I have put a lot of time and energy into this hobby and it has been well worth it. I have also learned, however, that too much of a good thing is still too much. So, now I do things in a lot more moderation than in the heyday, but it is still lotsa fun!
I thank all of my many friends for being friends and thank God for giving me the opportunity to enjoy them all (along with all the neat stuff!)
If you ever have a question that I might help you with, please don't hesitate to ask. If I can't give you the correct answer I'll make one up :?)
Mike Guthrie (the original "NSL8RGUY")
Written by Mike Guthrie,
Last updated Wednesday, August 29, 2001
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