Michael Popek is a 31-year-old used and rare bookseller in Central New York. He says, "The first time I opened a book and discovered something that wasn't supposed to be there. It's impossible not to wonder about the history and people behind some of these items. Sure, it is likely that the real story is mundane, but without further evidence, our imaginations are allowed to run wild. I've been sorting and pricing books for nearly ten years, and I've been saving these forgotten bookmarks for nearly five. The idea for the bookmark website came later when I mentioned that I had found a marijuana leaf in a Betty Crocker cookbook to a friend, they wanted a picture, and things happened from there."
Michael explains that he never set out to collect these items, but he "didn't have the heart to throw them away. I thought they were interesting, and that was good enough."
He's started a Web site to give the collection purpose. A few of his favorite posts include:
"Scarcity is the biggest problem," says Popek. "For every 100 books I sort, I might find one item, which is why it's taken me so long to collect all these. Luckily for me, most of these bookmarks are pretty small. I have the entire contents of the website in a small box. I had to make a decision early on not to keep the original books as well. I am a bookseller, after all. The most important thing I've learned is that other people like this stuff as much as I do, and that the original owners are not really interested in getting their stuff back, no matter how personal it might be."