Supply and demand may have increased one "art" museum's value.
Toilet paper, of all things, is making headlines during this COVID-19 health crisis, with people hoarding, stealing, bartering, standing in line for, and rationing it in their homes. Toilet paper-shaped cakes are flying off bakery shelves, plumbers are handing out complimentary TP rolls when making emergency service calls, and the nation mourned when a truck filled with toilet paper crashed and caught fire on a Texas highway.
Throwback: A German baker created cakes shaped as toilet rolls after sales for the product shot up in supermarkets. The cakes were a big hit and the bakery is now making 200 a day and can barely keep up with demand pic.twitter.com/b2CiMwXfRO
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 5, 2020
In Washington state, this run on toilet paper is causing one man to tighten up his home security.
Bobj Berger, a 74-year-old model railroader, train manager, and seasonal Santa Claus, has more than 200 rolls of the now-hot commodity. The vintage, odd, and unusual rolls of can be found at the Toilet Paper Museum, which he’s been curating in his home since the 1960s.
We can’t disclose the museum’s exact location, but we were invited in for a virtual tour.
The First Roll
After spotting two novelty rolls—a Mexican one wrapped in orange cellophane with an elephant on it and one that looked like a roll of money—on a table at a friend’s house, Berger started to get ideas.
He finally started his own collection with a bright pink roll of Canadian toilet paper that featured French writing on one side of the wrapper and English on the other. After his sister brought home samples straight from both first and tourist-class restrooms on a German train, Berger says toilet paper began rolling in from all over the world.
“I don’t even know the color and consistency of some of these rolls because I can’t bear to take off the wrappers,” Berger told us.
Today, the collection includes circa-1969 “Krapp” toilet paper from Austria and a roll of “Doudou” toilet paper Berger acquired while visiting a Club Med in Martinique in the late 1970s.
There are celebrity-themed items, including a roll bearing the likeness of Mickey Mouse and several toilet paper rolls bearing the likeness of actor John Wayne, with the slogan, “It’s rough, it’s tough, and it don’t take crap off anyone.”
The politically-themed section of Berger’s Toilet Paper Museum continues to grow and currently includes novelty rolls that encourage users to wipe up with presidents, ranging from Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Jimmy Carter and, of course, Donald Trump.
The museum includes some regionally-significant artifacts, a good selection of sports-related rolls, four-packs of the pastel-colored toilet paper that was fashionable in the 1960s and ’70s, and a charming selection of miniature toilet paper rolls that includes a set that imitates a box of gift chocolates. There is also a rare glow-in-the-dark roll created in late 1999 to mark the Y2K fears that electrical and other systems would shut down if computers worldwide couldn’t handle the date change from 1999 to 2000.
As a nod to curator Berger’s long-running gig as a seasonal Santa Claus, there’s also a Christmas-themed section of the museum that includes a roll emblazoned with the warning, “He sees you when you’re pooping.”
And you can’t have toilet paper without toilet paper dispensers, so the Toilet Paper Museum includes an extensive selection of toilet paper holders. Several are shaped like the rear ends of cars, while others are shaped like toilets.
It Won't Take Long When There's a Song
And how could one forgot the teal-colored holder that’s also an AM transistor radio and a Swiss Chalet-shaped holder that plays “Whistle While You Work” each time some toilet paper is used.
As news of toilet paper shortages continues, Berger is making sure his collection stays safe. He says he keeps parts of the collection displayed behind glass and, for now, is keeping the rest in, “nondescript containers in an internally accessed subterranean storage area,” that may or may not be his basement. If that’s not enough, “our property is enclosed completely by high chain-link fencing, with appropriate ‘Beware of Dog’ signage,” said Berger.
And as the shelter-in-place advisories continue, Berger isn’t worried that he or wife will be tempted to break into the museum’s TP collection in a pinch. “We made sure to a do a Costco run early on,” said Berger.