Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Masonic Collectibles

Me and Blackjack Pershing
One thing I think many Freemasons have in common is we tend to collect Masonic stuff--at least I know a lot of Masons that do.  It's not hard to find these items in garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, etc.  Our fraternity has been around a long time, has millions of members today and millions more in the past, and it's not hard to find.  Some (like me) collect the junk--lapel pins, chapter pennies, pocket knives, ashtrays, old temple postcards and coffee mugs.  I'm notoriously cheap--just ask my wife.  There's not much in my collection I've paid more than a few dollars for.  But others collect the higher-end items like antique Masonic rings, swords, old pocket jewels, etc.  They take it a little more seriously than I do.  But all collectors seem to like something in particular.

I've been writing about Famous American Freemasons for years, so a lot of the things I collect have nothing to do with Masonry, but they have to do with the more famous members of our Fraternity.  I have a portrait of Uncle Joe Cannon as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  I have an old cast iron piggy bank I use as a bookend--it's WWI General Blackjack Pershing.  My pencil cup is a ceramic coffee mug bust of W. C. Fields (you can see it in the picture)--probably a 4-H art project from some kid thirty years ago.  Even the coaster under my beverage on my desk has John Wayne on it.  I even own a couple old Victrola ceramic records recorded back in the 1920s by Al Jolson.  And I have one of those U. S. President collector spoons people used to collect--you'd find them back in the day in truck stops and novelty stores--I remember seeing them at Stuckey's back when I was a kid in the 70s.  Mine is President William McKinley, and I'm determined to find and acquire all those old spoons from all the Presidents that were Masons.  There were 14 Mason Presidents, and that could set me back . . . like $20.  Just a bunch of junk the "Pawn Stars" on History Channel wouldn't give you anything for, but I love it.

No matter what you collect, there is nothing more exciting than a new acquisition--when we make a major find for our collections.  Think Indiana Jones without the danger of being in an old tomb, and probably with a Venti Mocha from Starbucks as you search the cases of the local pawn shop--we're always looking for our "Holy Grail."  And we all have a couple items in our collection that mean something very special to us.  Maybe it was a lucky find.  Or maybe it's the hat or gavel we used when we were Master of the lodge.  Or perhaps it's a lapel pin or cuff links given to us by a Brother Master Mason--or a relative.  While these items may be worth little to anyone else, they are priceless objects to us.

My 82-year-old Tennessee dues card
and my rare W.C. Fields 4-H project
I received a new acquisition to my collection a few months ago--it's not worth 2 cents, but it's one of my favorite items, and it commands a spot on the corner of my desk.  It's only value is because it's personal for me.  My Aunt Sarah Creason sent it to me.  It's the 1929 dues card that belonged to her grandfather J. M. Earnest--it had been in her family for decades.  He probably carried it in his wallet for a year proving he'd paid his $6.50 to Omega Lodge No. 536 F & M in Tennessee.  He paid that sum (which wasn't a small sum back then) in December of 1929--just two months after the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.  It's amazing to me that it survived all these years, remained in his family, and 83 years later wound up framed on my desk as a prized possession because his grand-daughter happened to meet and marry my uncle.

We collect because its fun--it's a challenge to find these odd and unusual items we are attracted to.  The things we surround ourselves with tell a lot about us.  Years ago, a friend of mine told me he'd learned more about me in ten minutes looking at my bookshelf than he had in ten years of knowing me as a friend.  And over the years I've talked to a lot of Masons, and the things they collect sometimes astound me. 

So tell me . . . what do you collect?  Please share!

~TEC

4 comments:

  1. Fraternal greetings, Brother!
    I was raised in July of this year, and I started collecting shortly after. I don't have much of a focus yet. Generally it's lapel pins and watches, but I did manage to get my hands on a Masonic Bible from a lodge in CT (it was presented in1954 and signed by several brethren). My favorite find is a 1951 edition of Morals and Dogma. I just received the 14th degree, so it is very exciting to read while I progress in Scottish Rite.

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    1. Welcome to the Fraternity! And I wouldn't worry too much about focus--as I said, I sure haven't managed to establish one yet either. As long as you're having fun, you're doing it right. And it sounds like you are.

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  2. Hi brother a few years late. I joined in January 2015 and collect most anything my favorite is family heirlooms. I have my great grandpa's Masonic Bible and am on the trail his and his brothers rings.

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  3. Legacy items are the best. I wore my mentors hat when I was in the east. I'm about to wear it again. I have his ring too. I have a pin that belonged to another Brother that I cherish. It doesn't have to be worth anything to mean something. I gave the gavel I used to my friend when he took the East. He's to give it away too. One day you should give those items you've collected away. Believe it or not, they'll mean even more to a child, or a grandchild, or a friend. Thanks for commenting my friend.

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