I never considered myself a “sticker collector,” but looking back, I guess I was. They were all over my school notebooks, all over my headboard, all over my bedroom door – I was a sticker nut, junkie and all around maniac. In terms of the things guys of or near my age grew up with, I collected pretty much all of the big ones – even the geeky stuff, like coins and stamps. With stickers, though, it was always a little easier. Because everyone had stickers on their stuff, you never looked like a dweeb or a fanatic. At worst, hardcore collectors were only looked upon as people who had more stickers than everyone else. Not freaks.

Perhaps the root of it lies in the fact that – during our formative years -- stickers so often served as rewards for our good-doings. If we spelled 10 out of 10 words correctly on a pop quiz, bam, there’s a happy face sticker next to our letter grade. If we didn’t cry at the dentist, voila, free “I’m In A Rush To Brush” tooth-shaped stickers for our foreheads. Later, we’d realize that pretty much everything we loved – cartoons, movies, video games, sports stars and beyond – had all been immortalized as adhesive treasures. And even way way later in life, we’ll depend on stickers to tell paramedics if we’re diabetic or allergic to peanuts should we ever faint in the downtown mall. In short: Hooray for stickers!!

Can’t say that I’m any kind of sticker expert, but if there are trends to the phenomenon, I certainly remember which kinds were the most desirable during my childhood. Obviously, Colorforms’ Lazer Blazers were the end all, be all. Silver, holographic beauties based on everything from Transformers to Gizmo Cackah. They’ll always be the bestest, but others were also shiny happy thoughts: Puffy stickers, a technology usually reserved for sets based on something from the pop culture realm, always felt extra special. With high quality printed images gracing each spongy sticker, they turned any marble notebook from droll to Vegas Strip instantly.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the might of the “scratch n’ sniff” phenomenon, spearheaded by the still-in-business Mello Smello company. The legend has grown larger than the reality in recent years, but surely the fad was engrossing enough to persuade at least one late night talk show host to incorporate the madness into his nightly routine. I’m not telling which one -- it’d help someone prove that I’m just making this stuff up as I go.

What’s all this a segue to? One of the greatest little sticker collections the world ever did see. I picked it up at a yard sale several months back, fawning over the heavy-stock cardboard pages every hour since. The collection is rather androgynous, with stickers suggesting both strict male and female interests – but since I just can’t imagine any boys going buck wild with so many “Little Lulu” stickers, I’m placing my bets on puddy. Take a look! Take several! And then more!

NOTES: The Gremlins stickers are a-okay, but the nonchalant penguin makes a strong bid for Coolest Sticker On The Page. The weird alien dude is a Freakies cereal premium from the early 1300s.

NOTES: Why does Gizmo look so sad? Snowmen, owls. He’s in crappy company.

NOTES: This page makes me want to get up and BE ACTIVE. The Noah’s Ark set is religiously fab, containing several pairs of animal stickers – even a pair of elephants with a frontways male and an ass shot of his slut bitch. The cardinal resting on the “Virginia” sticker is obviously wondering how it managed to fly to Alpha Dimension X without getting tired.

NOTES: Oh Hell yes. Lest anyone think the ol’ scratch n’ sniffers weren’t all that we make ‘em out to be, take a look up above. Some of them were just absolutely great – the personification of everything a sticker should be. Some were perfect even without the Power of Smelling – they were big, colorful and full of passion. Factor in the scent, and you’ve got yourself a fine wine batch of eye and nose magic.

Now, these stickers are old. Real old. Real real real old. Yet, their smell is still super intense – especially the “baby powder” sticker (noted by the kangaroos being all lewd), which quite literally brings forth the same aroma as would sticking your god damned face in a giant bucket of baby powder. Amazing. The “bubble gum” version is equally pleasant, but even fruitier. I’d say more, but I don’t think there’s anybody there!

BOATS: I spent a lot of time at my old best friend’s house growing up – not because we really had all that much in common, but because he lived across the street, and for better or worse, we were going to grow up together. Occasionally, his mother would sit us down on the couch with salted sliced apples (?!!) for a few hours worth of instantly-babysitting “Little Lulu” episodes. Other than my friend’s younger brother shitting himself, nothing made me call Mommy faster to go home. Michael Knight’s all sulky and shit.

MOATS: More Knight Rider stickers, this time including the car and the mechanical essence of George Washington Feeny. I think the random pastel bird stickers represent this particular mystery child’s progression from casual sticker enthusiast to batshit sticker crazyman. He/she couldn’t have really wanted those. Nobody really wants stickers of pastel birds. When you buy stickers like that, it stops being about the art and starts being about the power. He/she had to have more more MORE. It wouldn’t stop at Little Lulu, and it won’t stop at pastel birds. Where will it stop?

TOTES: Where will it stop? At duplicate sets of “Noah’s Ark” stickers, hopefully. Yes, it’s more clean Christian fun with Noah, Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe and the rest of the gang! No one is more amazed by this holy turn of events than Cap’n Crunch, except maybe that blushing sun in the upper right. He can’t believe it!

EGG YOLKS: See? The young collector we’ll never meet has just about gone completely crazy. Not only did he/she grab at every sticker out there, but here the maniac has taken to putting the border sheets (technical term) in the album – and Frito Lay stickers ripped off of junk food bags! My best guess as to the collector’s current whereabouts? Hell. Also, the note on the dentist sticker (“Stick on Mirror as a Reminder”) makes me want to break a mirror into many sharp pieces and stab the person who came up with that copy a hundred thousand times.

SLOPES: I’ve decided to pass on mentioning every sticker on this page except the “Be Cool” penguin, because any penguin willing to wear novelty glasses and an ugly bowtie for effect deserves more attention. The pastel birds from page six should take a lesson from this guy: That’s how you grow from mere fowl to most desired. Contradicting myself, the other stickers on the page seem to have been given away in Wendy’s version of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. They’re dated 1984. Shit, I was getting freakin’ pull-cars with figural Birdie torsos in the front seat from McDonald’s in `84 – what kind of pitiful excuse of competition was this?

COKES: I dig this page. Nothing in particular stands out, but the complete ensemble of wacky stickers is worth more than the sum of its blah blah blah. The googly-eyed freaks are neat, especially the rare Floridian yellow-clawed crab, top delicacy in only the fanciest Japanese restaurants. The foodstuff puffy stickers are also worth making out with, even if it did take me twenty tries to realize that that’s an orange wedge in the glass and not something more alien and/or futuristic. The “Hooray for Decay’s” merits speak for themselves.

POPES: For everyone who wondered where the beef went, it’s right here on a couple of filthy pages of some dead kid’s sticker album. The old lady looks straight outta Mad Magazine, providing an interesting contrast against the assorted Popples/My Little Pony stickers. Snoopy’s shown closing his eyes, wishful that everything currently hanging out with him is only a dream. Really awful luck of the draw here for poor old Snoop. Now he knows how Ax and Smash felt in 1989.

APPLES: Wooo, pre-toon stickers of Garfield and Odie! Odie’s tongue got longer as the strip aged, and last time I checked the comics section, it unraveled all the way down to those lousy Far Side rip-offs the papers rotate in and out like yard sale notations. Charlie Brown is shown in the lower quadrant rocking is rarely worn green shirt, obviously donned on this day to help him better stand out from Linus’s aggressive usurping of Chuck’s usual colors.

ORANGES: What would appear to be the worst page in the album is saved by that messed up bee sticker in the middle. The bees are playing tennis! Where else…in the entire world…can you find bees…WHO PLAY TENNIS?

CARS: The bear stickers are only interesting for where they come from, and of the family, only the little brother seems to understand that. Elsewhere, the pillaging extraterrestrials from Freakies cereal find a cozy place in Stickerland, where they drive sweetened oats around to the delight of bears and two circles-in-a-square.

JACKPALANCES: Kid’s gone all buck wild with the shiny foil stars, but I cannot fault him/her for it: I used to go nuts with those, too. Lord knows why any kid’s parents needed sheets of those things if they weren’t teaching, but strike me down if every house in America wasn’t fully stocked with 20,000 foil star stickers. We used to use them as currency here. Before your eyes are drawn to the obviously top-billed Family Circus stickers, check out that bear in the upper right. Can’t put my finger on any good reason, but he is absolutely demented. Billy and Dolly remain happily oblivious to his inevitable reverting to type, but Jeffy knows the truth: As soon as he falls asleep…bear will come. Must stay awake. Must keep reading. Must keep parts private.

MOREJACKPALANCES: Hey, guess what I was? Now you know why I walk with pride.

DIGDOGGER: The My Little Pony stickers are composed mostly of ponies wearing birthday hats, but as they don’t identify any pony as a present birthday celebrator, it’s easy to imagine that they’ve banded together to throw a party for the now three-year-old blue jay. That Snoopy band-aid better not be used. I don’t want the disease.

PAINT: Fitting that the final page boasts the biggest celebration. You’ve got bears dancing, fluoride monsters prancing, candy trains trancing and even lady toes lancing. The fluoride says it best: Wait thirty minutes, for food + drink. That’s the lesson I want you to take home today.

Wait thirty minutes. For food + drink.

-- Matt (3/25/2005)