Friday, March 17, 2000  

While most of us are in awe of people who collect Les Paul guitars or vintage Spider-Man comic books, Steven Silberberg's bizarre collection might make some of us a bit nauseous. His collection has little monetary value, and strangers are more apt to snicker at his obsession instead of giving him a congratulatory pat on the back.

Silberberg collects airsickness bags. In fact, his collection includes motion sickness bags from airplanes, trains, boats and oddly enough from the "Vomit Comet," a vehicle which trains astronauts to withstand weightlessness.

So why would any normal person collect an item people usually use and throw away in disgust?

"Why do people collect stamps? Or Barbies? Or safety pins?" Silberberg explains. "I think it's because people need to somehow differentiate themselves from others. Most people are indistinguishable from others, so they collect dental floss and say, 'Hey, look at me.' Of course, others just like to be around the stuff they collect, like dental floss."

He says he started collecting airsickness bags because his former collections, of "Styrofoam wig heads and sardine keys," all looked the same to him. He needed a change something new to intrigue him.

"One can tell a lot about an airline's image from their airsickness bags," Silberberg says. "Some bags are no more than a baggie with a twist tie, while others could win international design competitions. Are they art? I think so."

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