Collecting All Of Life's Details

Thirty-nine-year-old electrical engineer Andrew Novick has one of the country's largest of collections of ... collections.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports Novick saves everything you can think of, like sleeping bags and photos from Thanksgiving relish trays. And, some things you can't - like cereal dust from the bottom of a box of cereal.

Most of it is stuff he should have probably thrown away.

"I even have my old retainer," Novick said.

And some of it, well, he never should have picked up in the first place.

"This is a dead bat in a jar," said Novick as he shows Hartman one of his treasures. "A friend of mine's cat brought it in."

Eight-thousand items, and they are all part of a new cultural exhibit in Dever called "The Astounding Problem of Andrew Novick" - a show meant to make people think about the things we save and why.

"Does anyone else just really want to wash their hands?" asked one visitor to the Denver exhibit.

And this isn't even the half of it. At home, Novick's got 2,000 more items and, most astounding of all, a wife.

"He's a lucky guy, because most women would not put up with it," said Janene, his wife.

So far Janene has survived six years of marriage - partly by rationalizing that there's got to be a worse collector to be married to.

Hartman told Janene he wasn't sure there is a worse collector.

"I don't know," she said. "People collect bellybutton lint."

Like Steve Hartman. Along with his first beer, and his wisdom teeth.

But, there's a little bit of Andrew's problem in all of us -- and more than a little in some of us.

Hartman brought his retainer to show Novick.

"In my defense though, unlike Andrew, I only save my own junk," Hartman said. "I don't covet other people's."

"That's amazing. We're going to have to do some trades," Novick said.

To most people, that's his problem - his sentimentality knows no bounds. But Andrew sees it differently.

"To me the problem is how to display everything," he said.

The way he sees it, all he needs is a bigger house - and perhaps, more friends like Hartman.

Novick collects airline safety cards - and so does Hartman.

"I write captions on them," Hartman said. "I fly a lot. It keeps me occupied. Actually, I'll trade you my retainer for this card."

"That would be amazing," Novick said, making the trade. "I'll do it."

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.