Refrigerator Magnets, Your Way

Compared to Louise Greenfarb, who lives in Las Vegas, I’m a piker. I have 10 refrigerators magnets, which seems like plenty to me. The Guinness Book of World Records credits her for  29,000 and counting. That’s nuts — but who am I to judge relative nuttiness?I’m sure Louise didn’t spend an hour today making pompoms to top car antenna sleeves.

I don’t remember any magnets on my mother’s Frigidaire when I was growing up. It turns out that I was in college when William Zimmerman from St. Louis  took out the first patent in the early seventies.  Forty years later 80% of fridges in developed countries sport a magnet or six.

Here is my collection, minus one that hangs on the front door to hold down the postcard from the Purple Hearts reminding me to get that box of old paperbacks and bag of my redundant Dress for Success togs onto the front porch on the right day.

I don’t as a rule keep magnets on the fridge — the fridge sits near the stove and it’s a pain to shuffle them around when I wipe it down. I hang them on the garage door that opens from the dining room. As you can see, my magnets are utilitarian — they either hold something up or provide information  : my sister-in-law’s work number, or the dates of the ‘Ville farmer’s Market (tractor.) My faves are the four stainless jobbies, which I pickled up at a housewares shop in Ottawa. Their force fields are so strong that thet leap out of my hand and onto the  metal with a thunk. The two clip style magnets could hold a two hundred page manuscript, and  I could slip a five pound bag of potatoes over the hook — its brawn is being wasted on that potholder.

This cunning little tart is my favorite. Not only does it take the guesswork out of pan size conversion, it hides a tape measure, and it’s plenty strong.

The Guido Reni Santa Cecilia and Rembrandt’s portrait of his son Titus are happy memories of a visit to the Norton-Simon Museum in Pasadena. And isn’t that why we buy magnets? We never go out to the hardware store with “Buy refrgerator magnet” on the list between the masking tape and the tomato food. We buy them as souvenirs, to keep or to give away when we get home. They’re cheap, they’re cheerful, and they’re a tiny snapshot of a beloved place or a happy time.

Lloyd and his coworkers have a tradition: at the beginning of the year they start with a blank canvas of a fridge door in the break room. When they go on vacation they must bring back a souvenir magnet, and the collection grows as the year marches on. What fun! Maybe it would be cool if I collected magnets of paintings only by Guido Reni — that could be a lifetime museum pursuit.

How many magnets do you own? What are your favorites? Is your collection carefully curated or all over there thematically? Do you color code them? And are there uses for them that I haven’t thought of?



Filed under Art, Collections, Five bucks or fewer, Home, The Great Outdoors

9 responses to “Refrigerator Magnets, Your Way

  1. So, we diverge at last.

    At “utilitarian,” and also sheer #.

    I have, conservatively, 800 refrigerator magnets. OK maybe not quite that many but a LOT. So many that what we euphemistically call the “beverage refrigerator” in the barn is encrusted, and there’s still plenty (my best beloveds) for the kitchen fridge.

    Some of ’em, LOTS of ’em, date to my early childhood. The newest was bought last week at the Bowers Museum’s Silk Road exhibit, a tiny print of one of the paintings in the installation depicting two small boys, one holding an Early Technology Pekingnese Tricki-Wooish dog.

    It shan’t be the last, I predict with confidence.

  2. I have about 16. My husband and I collect them whenever we visit a new place. We used to have a lot more, but the humidity in Japan did in a bunch. We have a stuffed platypus from Australia – useless at holding anything, but fun for amusing our cleaning lady; a couple that feature cartoons of grinning WW II-era Australian and Japanese soldiers from a fort in Singapore (who could resist?), an awesome, un-ironic state photo of President Obama in front of an American flag; A Shanghai cigarette girl; One of Li Feng exhorting students to study for the motherland; some beautiful tiles from the beautiful and information Islamic Arts museum in Kuala Lumpur ( now I finally understand what “arabesque” means), a lucky doll from Takayama; one from the Hanoi Ultimate Frisbee league; and my favourite – a head bust of Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit fame. Bit of cheese, Gromit?

  3. Probably fifteen at any one time—as Mammaw used to say, “I take spells.” Not “have them,” you understand—TAKE them.

    As in I’ve had little sayings-in-squares for a time—my favorite features a little blue sofa, with the motto: DULL WOMEN HAVE IMMACULATE HOMES. Another: My Idea of Housework is to Sweep the Room with a Glance. GAAAH! A THEME! No wonder it took me so long to get ready for company.

    Lots of places and clips and a take-apart Babar portrait AND frame, serving all uses. Perhaps four partial alphabets and enough numerals to write out the National Debt. Our Little One spells on the fridge all the time—yesterday’s moment was after she’d named each and every letter and number over and over, and I proffered the “?”. It took her a moment, and then she said, “MYSTERY!”

    I’m not familiar with the portrait of dear little Titus, but before I read it, I was about to say my favorite is the Rembrandt self-portrait-as-a-child.

  4. Priscilla: You know, I have a dim memory of your fridge in your great kitchen being tagged with molto magnets. Keep the faith! Make up for my magnetic Calvinism.

    Erin: You flat out get the prize for coolest collection. Damn, Girl!

    Rachel: Teaching kids words on the fridge — awesome! Actually, I’m sorry I threw out my magnetic poetry set.

  5. Gretchen

    I am a closet magnet freak. I have hundreds ( not thousands sadly) and have asked Daryl to hang a large sheet of metal in my home office ( a.k.a the storage room/fitness room) so I can display them all and keep the fridge clean and clear. He has yet to hang one for me, and my new fridge is already starting to collect too many again (the original ones all boxed nicely waiting for their new home).

  6. Alex

    Interesting. Just a few days ago I remarked to Ms. Alex that I thought our fridge could stand a bit of pruning. Right now we have 54 magnetic items, mostly on the front, plus half of one side. We appear to like spring-loaded clips (9 of them), funny stuff (8), and mementos (7).

  7. Kim Shook

    Oh, I have dozens of the damn things. Decorative, mainly – a few clips for recipes and one amounts conversion one, but mostly Oz stuff and frames for school pics. We have drawersful of extras, because God forbid you should throw one away. I have them from businesses that I will never need to call. Most are holding up obscure phone numbers without any ID – I’d need to call the number and ask if they know anyone I know before I could toss them. I do have a cute collection of ‘Funny Face’ drink mix ones. Does anyone remember them?

  8. absurdoldbird

    I like the look of some fridge magnets but I’m afraid that with magnetic tape still around the house (in the form of old audio cassettes with my mum and dad’s voices on them) I’m terribly nervous about having magnets anywhere that they might get near them… as magnets can erase magnetic tape.

    However, at one time I was given a set of them that were an old sewing machine, a mangle and a couple of other old style things (I forget what). the mangle turned, and so did the wheel on the sewing machine, and I tried my hardest to remove the magnets and failed. Eventually I had to get rid of them… memories of my mum and dad are more important to me…

  9. mic

    A bit of the Berlin wall, a shell made into a crab, a carved wooden flamingo, a mini Avon lipstick & face cream, a storyboard from Hollywood, a kiwi, a mini violin from Salzburg, a Gaudi lizard, and more.

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