Collect It! Merit Badge, Beginner Level

he adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,962 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,905 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Make It Easy/Collect It! Beginner Level Merit Badge, I had to stop and listen the next time I was out at a tag sale/estate sale/thrift shop/antique mall. Which is, you know, like, frequently.

Did you hear it?

That soft, soft cry?

Almost like the plaintive siren call of something just a little other-worldly? A bit ghostly? A haunting and beckoning song?

Janey, you want to buy me … you want to collect me … take me home with you …

You can’t make this stuff up. Seriously, I could hear the sound as plain as the nose on my face.

(Well, you get the drift.)

After all, the badge said so right there in the requirements: “Find something that speaks to you.” So stop judging me already! I don’t make the rules.

This particular siren call came after a weekend of yard sale-ing. My feet were tired and my arms were sore, and it had been all day on an empty stomach with nothing but a water bottle and six tacos to fill my belly, but then I heard it. The item that spoke to me, to my very heart and soul. Do you know what it was?

It was a … a … a bedpan.

Yeah. Like an antique, vintage one, but still.

So, I picked it up (gingerly, I admit) and realized what was really calling out to me was underneath said bedpan: a piece of what I thought at first was folk art, but after buying it and taking it home, realized it to be something else entirely …

Trench art!

Didja know there was such a thing? Nor did I, until it reached out to me and took me under its wing.

No, not trench-coat art, although that would make an interesting collection as well, I ‘spose. But trench art: as in art made in the trenches of war. Pretty neat, huh? I did a little research into it, starting with the basic description over at Wikipedia:

“Trench art is any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. It offers an insight not only to their feelings and emotions about the war, but also their surroundings and the materials they had available to them.”

trench art, circa 1914-18 via Wikimedia Commons

Not wanting to stop just there, I researched further and found another super-interesting website:

I was officially obsessed. My little treasure (an engraved bullet) needed friends (Like a lamp made from a helmet. Or a picture frame made from a clock. Perhaps a matchbox fairy house? Or a sugar scoop made from the salvaged pieces of a crashed zeppelin?). Who has a collection of one, is my point. That’s hardly a collection.

the Europeana 1914-1918 collection via Wikimedia Commons

After all, I’m doing all this collecting for the badge. Ahem.

Anyway, after upteen hours a responsible amount of time spent on eBay, I had a sweet collection of inexpensive, but history-laden, gems. And I had found others like me, “art detectives” we call ourselves. And even better? Finding ancestors and relatives who had been soldiers who had made and saved their own pieces of art. I’d say this badge earned me a lot more than I had thought it would, back in the beginning.

You know, back when I thought a bedpan was talking to me.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Wow, this is fascinating! Who knew such a thing existed? Those bullets from WWI are truly treasures as well as art. I too love to search through antique malls and stores by the roadside. There is something very rewarding about uncovering a piece of history that tells an interesting story. It seems to me that the best places to uncover some real treasures are off the beaten path and not in air-conditioned stores. It take grit to dig through random junk but when you stumble on a treasure, it makes the hunt all the better.

  2. Amy Cloud Chambers says:

    What an interesting collecting idea! I ‘ve always admired people who have the interest and patience to collect unusual things. Actually, I think it’s more like a passion. And it’s wonderful to give new life to almost forgotten treasures, just wonderful!

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