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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Collection of collectors in McCully

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

I learned this week that the difference between a string saver and a stamp collector is what distinguishes a Dumpster diver from a rubbish picker. So what? Here's what.

Take Ricke Fujino of Moanalua, who was in the junk business until he retired 10 years ago. Don't, for goodness sake, confuse him with a rubbish picker. Fujino has collected half a dozen Howard Hitchcock paintings over the past 40 years. They're worth a fortune.

You see what I mean? A string saver is a vacuum cleaner. A stamp collector is a connoisseur.

These profound insights into human behavior are available to anybody who has an hour to stand around amid the disorder of McCully Stamp & Coin tucked off a parking lot on Hauoli Street. It's where the collectors of Our Honolulu hang out.

You might ask, collectors of what? Good question. James Browser of Ontario, Canada, collects roadside America postcards. Also postcards of tunnel entrances. He sat all Monday morning thumbing through three cartons of vintage postcards, $1 each.

So far, he said, he has 10,000 cards at home, mostly from the 1950s: diners, cars, motels, roadside attractions, carnivals.

Louise Wildman from Kailua collects stamps. Every three months or so she drives over the Pali to McCully Stamp & Coin to paw through stamps that didn't sell on the weekly bidding board. This takes all morning.

Wildman said lots of women collect stamps. Would she recommend it for a newly retired person looking for something to do? "No," she advised. "It costs a lot to get started. And stamps are complicated. Postcards would be better. Or anything a person is interested in."

She said a friend travels a lot and brings home a spoon from each country she visits. A man she knows brings home coins. He pasted a big map of the world on his coffee table and insets the coins in the countries they belong to.

Bert Matsuura, who has operated the shop for more than 30 years, said there isn't anything that somebody doesn't collect. "Everything has value; you just have to find the right guy to buy it," he said.

The hardcore collectors scavenge old houses for antiques, dig in old cesspools for bottles and rummage in garbage cans for treasure. They are called "Dumpster Divers."

You'd be amazed at what they come up with. Matsuura showed me two 1996 $100 U.S. Savings Bonds that came out of a Dumpster. He said a friend of his found a Kamaka 'ukulele worth $500. "Some guys go for appliances, or paper products, or aluminum cans," he said.

Eleven-year-old Charles Claussen from Kailua came in to buy a Cayman Island silver coin. Eighty-year-old Ray Howard, who built power plants in India, came in to collect for the stamps he sold on Matsuura's bidding board.

They all believe that collecting something is good for the soul. Sorting stamps relieves tension. Digging for bottles is good exercise. And visiting McCully Stamp & Coin is like attending the United Nations.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-0873.