The Strange World of Guitar Pick Collecting

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09tipdrop logofacebook481I found this interesting little article yesterday; A subject close to my heart as I have a fair few “famous” guitar picks from my time working at Wembley Arena in the early 1980’s.

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 you’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 city… 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, the biggest pick retailer in the world, thinks it’s catching on quicker than James Hetfield’s pick-clutching right hand.

“Guitar-pick collecting started off as a very cult-ish hobby and probably started gaining credibility somewhere around the mid-80s,” said Roderick. “A lot of stuff isn’t documented. Once again, it’s still somewhat a new hobby. But actual signature guitar picks, from bands, really started probably in the late ’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 they’re block-type prints, very plain-looking. It’s the same as with backstage passes. You look at the old backstage passes, and there aren’t a lot of graphics. Basically it’s somebody’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, ‘Oh man, you’ve got your name printed on a pick; that’s cool.’ 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 ’80s, you started seeing different colors, band logos, signatures printed on them, different materials.”

“There are really just a handful of companies who actually make these for the bands, one being Jim Dunlop, also D’Addario, D’Andrea,” explained Scott, when asked about print runs of something like a guitar pick. “Those of the three major players. There have been others who’ve come and gone…. plus Ernie Ball was in it for a time. They don’t even have records or samples of something that they printed 20 years ago. Nobody ever thought — and I’m speaking for them; they would be the ones to really ask to get the best answer — but they didn’t even think that this would be something people would think about collecting.

It’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 that’s my analogy with guitar picks. Nobody thought of these things as collectible. So there weren’t good records kept.”

Emphasizing the fact that the history can be lost, Scott said, “There have been times where you go backstage and you show an artist 60 different picks. ‘Look, I’m a collector, and here are all your picks.’ Sometimes they don’t even remember some of them. A lot of them grew up in the ’70s and ’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.”

9 replies on “The Strange World of Guitar Pick Collecting”

There’s a nice but short book out on the history of guitar picks, called ‘Picks!’, by Will Hoover. It comes – nice touch – with it’s own pick, and also has a chapter on collectors.

i started collecting picks about 2 years ago.its an addictive hobby. mostly aerosmith picks in my collection few acdc,the who,stray cats,guns n roses. ive seen some picks sell for £300.

That’s me – looking at the floor rather than the stage because I’m obsessed with collecting guitar picks and catching them at shows. If you wait til the show is over, there won’t be any guitar picks left on the ground to find…unless it’s a Cheap Trick show, where there are literally 100s of picks.

I’ve collected LP’s for over 35 years & picks for 25+. All the picks I have, I have either got my bumps & bruises getting them or the ones I have bought have certificates of authenticity. I don”t just take COA lightly. A good example would be Craig Hopkins with his collection of not only picks, but lots of other rare items from the late GREAT Stevie Ray Vaughan. I also am the type that wants a pick that has been used to make music. Cheap Trick throws them in the crowd by the hand full. Last pick I got from Warren Haynes, he had used for over 45 minutes. That’s the one I want. In between songs he started rubbing the edges & I knew he was about to toss it. He did & I was right there. Also know ahead of time what side of the stage YOUR MAN or WOMAN is going to be singing, since the picks are sometimes stuck to the mic stand, I feel that is the best place for a score. Be cautious what you buy & always carry a couple of bandades in your pocket to get to your treasures. Good Luck.

nick lucas was the first personalized pick back in the 50s, the oldest i ever got was a 60s ventures mosrite nylon pick, had the logo molded in. this guy is pretty clueless, bands been doing it since the 60s