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From cool to just weird, collector has it all

  • Story Highlights
  • Andrew Novick has collected things -- most everything, actually -- for 20 years
  • Lunchboxes, board games, wigs, masks, hair, strange foods among his items
  • Museum came calling when it wanted to showcase "Weird Denver"
  • Many who see exhibit say they can identify with lots of the items
  • Next Article in Living »
By Jim Spellman
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LAKEWOOD, Colorado (CNN) -- If it's true that one man's junk is another man's treasure, welcome to the treasure chest of Andrew Novick. He's been collecting just about everything that has entered his life for the last 20 years, and now his objets d'junque have become a hit in the art world.

Many people who see Novick's items say they identify with at least one of the objects, like this ceramic fawn.

Andrew Novick says he sees "an art project" in every item he collects.

Barbies, lunchboxes, board games, cereal boxes, clowns, wigs, dental molds, medical filmstrips, Halloween masks, human hair, strange Asian foods, old driver's licenses -- Novick collects just about everything.

"I think of it as my personal landscape," says Novick, 39, who works as an electrical engineer for the federal government. "If you had to pinpoint why I saved some old game or whatever, it is art. Someone had to develop and design this logo, this character, all the text on the cereal box and the salesman.

"That, to me, is a design project -- an art project." Video Watch the collector talk about his items »

Enter Michelle Baldwin, a curator at the Lab at Belmar, an art gallery outside Denver. She has known Novick for a decade, and when the gallery was looking for a way to showcase "Weird Denver," she convinced Novick to move about 5,000 of his prized possessions out of his packed house and into the gallery.

Baldwin says several thousand people have come to the gallery, and many of them have made a personal connection with some of Novick's cultural artifacts.

"It's Andrew's world, but it's also our world," says Baldwin. "Every single person who comes in identifies with at least one and probably a lot more of the objects. Everyone who comes here finds little things from their history, things they remember seeing on television that they wanted their mom desperately to buy them, but they never did."

Novick agrees.

"A lot of people say, 'I had this' or 'I had that,', and some people say, 'How did I miss that? This is from my era exactly,' " says Novick, who enjoys hanging out in the gallery and chatting with people who drop by.

Novick says some people have even left behind artifacts of their own amongst his goodies. Photo See some items from Novick's collection »

It looks like the world's coolest garage sale, though you won't find a price tag on any of Novick's treasures.

"For me, the value is in what I get out of it, not what someone will pay for it later," says Novick. "I'm investing in my current aesthetic."

So what exactly is this collection of stuff?

"I would call it a collection of collections," Novick says, "with the caveat that there are very loose categories." Japanese toys, dinosaurs make up collection

That caveat can lead to quandaries with which most of us never have to deal.

"I like the idea of categorizing, but if it's something like a TV show-themed sleeping bag like a 'Dukes of Hazzard' sleeping bag, do I put it with TV shows, 'Dukes of Hazzard' stuff, wacky sleeping bags like my 'CHiPs' sleeping bag or my 'Pink Panther' sleeping bag? It's an impossible task. To me, that's the astounding problem."


Another problem is what to do all with all this stuff when the exhibition closes this weekend and he has to bring it all back home. Novick is busy building shelves and trying to get organized. He says his wife and most of his friends are supportive of his obsession. Man collects beer cans

"I guess I don't have the voice-of-reason-type friends. I have the enabler-type friends."

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