Collections are both public—meant to be shown off—and private. There are the standards—baseball cards, coffee mugs, miniature figurines from inside tea packages—and then there are the truly unique, the ones in which only the collector could find meaning. Exhibit A: this Texas man’s fascination with coffee lids, which he’s now turned into a book.
Austin architect Scott Specht has been collecting and analyzing disposable coffee lids since at least his college years. He tells the Austin American-Statesman that he began collecting all types of mundane, disposable objects when he was younger, but gradually realized that coffee cup lids were his true focus: “I began to appreciate the often-over-the-top attempts to engineer a solution to the problem of ‘coffee slosh,’ and this led to a curiosity about why there is such a profusion of lid types.”
Quirky? Yes. But it turns out, Specht wasn’t alone in his preoccupation. At Yale, he met Louise Harpman, a fellow student who shared his love of lids. She, too, had her own collection! They merged their lid libraries—which eventually was deemed important enough to be acquired by the Smithsonian Institute—and coauthored the new book Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture.
“When we realized we had the same interests, we began to compare items and traded lids almost like trading cards,” Specht tells the American-Statesman. Even after passing some lids to the Smithsonian, the pair still retains a solid catalogue, which resides in acid-free boxes under Harpman’s bed in New York.
The two live in separate states but do meet up to conduct further coffee-lid recon missions, one of which is charmingly detailed here in this whimsical New Yorker piece. After reading as much as I can find online about this pair, I’ve paused to ask myself: Why have I become so transfixed by this duo of lid-loving nerds? Maybe because it’s evidence of a cliché my mom used to repeat to me when I felt lonely: “Kate, there’s a lid for every pot.”