Stop the collectible madness now…

Collectibles are completely out of control in these United States.Really.I’m not sure exactly when the national collectible craze began to snowball – perhaps it started with decorator thimbles or commemorative Elvis whiskey decanters – but it’s got to stop now before we all pass the goofiness point of no return.

Admittedly, America has always been a nation of collectors – coins, stamps, baseball cards, cars, boats, even firearms. No problem there, amigos. I think that just about anybody would agree that if you’ve got a couple of ’65 Mustangs, a vintage Chris-Craft and a brace of single-action Colt .45 Peacemakers, your life is about as complete as it can get.

No, it’s the most recent wave of collectibles that’s got me worried.

Sometime way back in the late 20th century, crazed consumers thought it would be cute to collect readily available pieces of commercial schlock with little or no intrinsic value.

And suddenly Cabbage Patch dolls were major lifestyle items – not just for kids, but for otherwise stodgy adults. As a consequence, production of Cabbage Patch Kids couldn’t keep up with demand and they became “rare” and “sought after” and “collectible.”

Then along came Beanie Babies and the whole country went into a hopeless tailspin of collectible cuteness.

We might have had a chance as a society if this new national obsession had stopped there, but “collectible” rapidly became the second-most-used word in the English language.

I thought we’d hit bottom when a national fast food franchise began offering limited edition, collectible Dale Earnhardt Jr. fried chicken buckets.

Uh-huh.There’s nothing like a wall-to-wall collection of used fried chicken buckets to impress your friends and give your home a truly unique ambiance.

Of course, there were some questions people had to resolve before deciding whether to become serious chicken bucket collectors – should one collect a variety of fried chicken buckets, or just celebrity buckets featuring NASCAR drivers? Will the buckets be more valuable empty or if one leaves the contents undisturbed for a decade or two?Decisions, decisions…

Unfortunately, I was being overly optimistic when I assumed the madness would stop with collectible Dale Earnhardt Jr. chicken buckets.

In fact, I was painfully wrong.

Wandering through a local supermarket last week I came upon the latest wave of must-have collectibles – celebrity catsup bottles.

Heinz, one of America’s oldest purveyors of premium catsup products, is now offering limited edition catsup containers featuring celebrity quotations on each label.

For example, William Shatner of “Star Trek” fame says the popular condiment “Fixes burgers at warp speed.”

Sports commentator and football great Terry Bradshaw declares that Heinz Tomato Ketchup was “Served at the immaculate reception.”

Heinz, of course, urges everyone to “Collect Today!” and get all four of their limited edition celebrity catsup bottles before they’re all gone.

Oh, maaaannnn…