Friday, April 4, 2014

Filling in Gaps

Either you are a collector or you aren't.  It's an irrational tendency disguised by order.  Some of us simply derive deep satisfaction from grouping items until they seem to create something complete.  In its healthy forms it's admirable (as in assembling collections of art or insects, etc. for learning and appreciation), and in its unhealthy forms it's a sickness (as in hoarding and obsession.)  Any of us with the desire to collect must struggle with what we think we want vs what is reasonable (in terms of space and expense and sanity).

I remember one of my brothers telling me he blamed Bert from Sesame Street for his own bottle cap collection as a child, because there was an episode where Bert placed the last bottle cap in the gap in his perfectly mounted collection and was happy.  It looked so simple!  So my brother began collecting bottle caps, hoping to achieve that same perfect sense of accomplishment when he had them all, only to discover that you can never have them all.  He had many bottle caps before he realized there would be no perfect sense of completion to that project, and he let that collection go.

I grew up in a home of many collections.  My husband whose home had more limited space did not.  He's content to read everything on a Kindle, but I prefer real books that I can then add to my shelves.  He doesn't crave physical reminders of places and events the way I do.  His needs require far less storage than mine, and there are days I envy that.  Especially as I watch my children attempt to save everything from everywhere and it becomes harder and harder to organize the clutter.  I don't have much of a leg to stand on when I find my own rocks or Rubik's cubes impossible to part with, but find their bottle collections or piles of perler bead creations hard to bear.

But collecting, when managed properly, is fun.  Our family Mold-A-Rama collection is fun.  And when a collection reaches a certain size it becomes less about amassing things and more about filling in gaps.  We'll never reach that perfect Bert moment of popping that last piece into place, but as we focus in on finding the things farther out of reach there is real satisfaction to placing figures on our shelves that are odd or harder to get.

Our best local source for finding new Mold-A-Ramas is the Brookfield Zoo down in Chicago.  They have 13 machines but they rotate their molds frequently enough that we already have 24 figures from there.  Our most recent acquisitions from the Brookfield Zoo we picked up the same weekend we returned from our Mold-A-Rama Road Trip to Florida.  (The kids laughed at how short the drive to Chicago felt after having done the drive from Florida to Wisconsin in one straight shot.  The amount of snow we had to tromp around in after a week of sunshine and beaches was not as amusing.)

We picked up a lion, a polar bear, a giraffe, a sea lion, and a panther.  All figures we already had from elsewhere, but it was nice to know we had more of what the Brookfield Zoo had to offer.  While we were there we also caught the dolphin show.  After visiting the beaches in Sarasota where the researchers in Chicago go to do their dolphin work, it was funny to watch a dolphin show while in winter coats and boots only a few days later.
Filling in the Brookfield Zoo gaps

On that same trip to Chicago we also swung by the Museum of Science and Industry where they recently installed a fifth machine!  They now have a fighter jet there.

Another interesting aspect about starting a collection is meeting people who collect the same stuff.  In the world of the internet this has created whole communities and means of tracking down what interests you that takes things to a whole new level.  Turns out there are many people who collect, buy, and trade Mold-A-Ramas.  One woman in Tennessee recently contacted us to see if we wanted to trade Mold-A-Ramas we can get here for ones we weren't able to get when we were in Knoxville.  We told her we plan to return to Tennessee someday for the Jack White guitar at Third Man Records and to try the Knoxville Zoo again, so we weren't interested in a trade, but we'd be happy to send her things from the Midwest to help her fill out her collection as long as she reimbursed us.  We already plan to pick up doubles for her when we get to the Como Zoo sometime this summer if we make it to Minnesota.

But just because we prefer to get Mold-A-Ramas for ourselves when we can doesn't mean we aren't happy to add gift Mold-A-Ramas to our collection.  After learning of our Mold-A-Rama adventures through this blog, the operator of generously sent us a box of unusual figures simply to delight my children.  Most of them glow in the dark!  Oh, the squeals of joy from my kids when they opened the box and discovered the Space Robot that we'd heard about but never seen, and the large dinosaurs that we didn't have, or the Space Needle, the Unisphere, the tank....  Most amusing to us was that the pumpkin was helpfully labeled "Pumpkin."  All of these now have special places on our shelf.
Moldville also does a weekly giveaway on its Facebook page, and when a friend of ours happened to win a Mold-A-Rama of naked mole rats, she was kind enough to send it to us.  That figure used to be available at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, but they no longer have any machines there, so my kids had lost hope of ever seeing the naked mole rats figure, let alone having one for our shelf.  But now we do!  (Thanks Emily!)

Front view
And just as naked and mole ratty from the back!
It sits proudly on our shelf where the Mold-A-Rama count has grown to 132.  (That dignified looking man behind the sign is not, in fact, a Mold-A-Rama, but Sr Misterioso, whom we leave to curate the collection when we're not home.)

So that's where our collection stands at the moment.  Interesting plans afoot!  Can't wait to share what's coming next in our weird Mold-A-Rama world.


  1. Oh, that's too bad there's no Mold-A-Rama machines in Seattle anymore. I was going to look for them next time we go to the Science Center. I love that it was a naked mole rat figure though. The naked mole rats are pretty weird looking, I remember seeing them the last time I went (years ago!).

    And I'm so glad your collection has a curator. Every good collection needs one. :)
    -Lisa K

    1. I was bummed about the Seattle machines when I heard. We were looking forward to collecting those when we went to visit my brother there someday. They supposedly had an astronaut and a butterfly, too!

      Sr Misterioso is an excellent curator. He's lived on that shelf for years so he knows his way around.

  2. I feel like I'm living vicariously through your mold a rama adventures. I love that it's an activity that you do as a family. My boys are collectors also and we've gone through many phases (rescue heros, thomas the train, pokemon cards). The only ones that have stuck have been baseball cards with Damon and book series with Aidan. A has to have EVERY book in a series even if he read one of them from the school library. He even calls his bookshelf his "library." It was his books that were stuffed into Molly's bed which created oh so much drama around here on April fool's day (this led to the underwear on the ceiling). Anyway, love that you guys collect. I think it's way cool.

    1. It was not really a planned thing at the start, but turns out there is something really nice about having a family collection. When I was a kid we would all go together to bookstores or the gem and mineral fair, etc., but we always got things for ourselves. All of us working together to contribute to one collection has been really enjoyable in a whole different way. Makes us a team! I love it.

  3. Hey, this is Julie from Nashville! Awesome that you got that care package! I got one a couple of years ago from the man who runs the Florida machines, and it was better than the best Christmas present ever :-) My collection is currently at 292, with 115 unique mold types (meaning I've got lots of gorillas and giraffes and kangaroos, but all with different inscriptions). Keep up the great work with the blog!

    1. Hi Julie from Nashville! 292 is A LOT of Mold-A-Ramas! The pictures you sent me of your displays show everything to be so neatly organized, I was impressed. We keep changing how ours are displayed. We've done it alphabetically, by height, by color.... We were thinking of setting them all up at some point like a circus, with Frankenstein's Monster as a ticket taker, and the giraffes all together, and Henry Ford can be the ring master, and the gorillas can hang out by the Willis Tower.... Looking forward to sending you a box this summer!

  4. I think your ROY G BIV organization is my favorite, merely because it caters to my OCD. ;oP I truly LOVE your collection. I'll repeat myself, it makes me happy to see it--ROY G BIV'd or not. The new additions are marvelous. :o)

    I love how organically your Mold-A-Rama collection has grown and how it has led you to some marvelous adventures.

    Lily collects bottle caps (mostly beer and cider bottle caps) and rocks and books and goodness knows what else. She says she's a "collector". I say she's a pack rat. ;o) Of course, none of *my* collections of items are junky in the least...;o)

    1. Every time I get exasperated with the amount of stuff my kids are collecting I think of the George Carlin routine on "stuff"

      (Then I contemplate getting rid of everything.)

    2. Oh Kory--Ha! I hadn't seen his "stuff" routine. Oh I'm rolling! Time to get rid of my "stuff"!

    3. I think of that routine all the time. That, and a routine I only heard once, where in a hushed voice he did "The Secret News" which was just this sad string of truths, and the one that stuck with me was, "Your house will never be clean." (Which makes me feel both sad and strangely relieved.)

  5. I enjoyed reading about the new acquisitions! Thanks for keeping us up-to-date!
    Love the Mold-A-Rama Saga!!!