Unfortunately, many were unbranded, and over the years I have forgotten who owned what – It’s a shame that Angus Young and George Benson both favoured identical picks! I do have a few nice ones though; Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick, JY and Chuck from Styx, and a cool one that says “misplaced by Mick Jones” from Foreigner.
Here’s the article…
If youâ€™ve ever wondered what all those guys were doing, eyes cast down, shuffling their tired feet, milling about at the front of the stage after Van Halen were safely in their buses and on the way to the next cityâ€¦ well, they were probably looking for guitar picks. Collecting custom imprinted picks is a collector craze that is still in its infancy but growing. Scott Roderick from www.swag.com, the biggest pick retailer in the world, thinks itâ€™s catching on quicker than James Hetfieldâ€™s pick-clutching right hand.
â€œGuitar-pick collecting started off as a very cult-ish hobby and probably started gaining credibility somewhere around the mid-80s,â€ said Roderick. â€œA lot of stuff isnâ€™t documented. Once again, itâ€™s still somewhat a new hobby. But actual signature guitar picks, from bands, really started probably in the late â€™70s, with bands like Van Halen. These old white on tortoise, or block black print on white are some of your earlier styles. And there were a few, Ted Nugent, I believe, had one, J. Geils; there were a handful of acts. But generally theyâ€™re block-type prints, very plain-looking. Itâ€™s the same as with backstage passes. You look at the old backstage passes, and there arenâ€™t a lot of graphics. Basically itâ€™s somebodyâ€™s stamp; not very graphically pleasing. But those are some of the first ones.
So generally they were white print or black print with the name of the band. But yeah, one guy looks at another and says, â€˜Oh man, youâ€™ve got your name printed on a pick; thatâ€™s cool.â€™ And one picks it up and then another picks it up, and before you know it, there are a lot of picks out there. And then some time in the early â€™80s, you started seeing different colors, band logos, signatures printed on them, different materials.â€
â€œThere are really just a handful of companies who actually make these for the bands, one being Jim Dunlop, also Dâ€™Addario, Dâ€™Andrea,â€ explained Scott, when asked about print runs of something like a guitar pick. â€œThose of the three major players. There have been others whoâ€™ve come and goneâ€¦. plus Ernie Ball was in it for a time. They donâ€™t even have records or samples of something that they printed 20 years ago. Nobody ever thought â€” and Iâ€™m speaking for them; they would be the ones to really ask to get the best answer â€” but they didnâ€™t even think that this would be something people would think about collecting.
Itâ€™s really been since the mid-80s that somebody really started to go for this. I always like to use the analogy: Remember when we were kids and we took baseball cards and put them in the spokes of our bikes, or glued them into our books? Exactly. Well, now, nobody would ever think of doing that. So thatâ€™s my analogy with guitar picks. Nobody thought of these things as collectible. So there werenâ€™t good records kept.â€
Emphasizing the fact that the history can be lost, Scott said, â€œThere have been times where you go backstage and you show an artist 60 different picks. â€˜Look, Iâ€™m a collector, and here are all your picks.â€™ Sometimes they donâ€™t even remember some of them. A lot of them grew up in the â€™70s and â€™80s. [laughs] And a lot of times, the guitar techs are responsible for specifications, and if that particular guitar tech is no longer with the band, some of the history goes away with that person.â€