In her book On Collecting, author Susan Mary Pearce estimates that one out of three people in North America and Europe collects something… and that something can be just about anything, as long as the collector believes it’s worth collecting. From the traditional—stamps, coins, maps, sports cards, dolls and the like—to the unusual—condiment packets, traffic cones, toasters, subway tokens and antique medical devices, to name just a few—collectability is always in the eye of the collector.

So why do we collect? Once again, the why is as varied as the what. For a lot of us, it began in childhood. Some collect for money or profit, others to connect to a sentimental past. For some collectors, it’s as simple as a basic interest in the topic at hand. But like so many things in life, the why can’t always be explained, it’s just something we do—one of those things that makes us uniquely human.

We went on the hunt for some of the more unique collections in central Illinois—and the stories behind them. Here’s what we found!