How to enlarge your bag collection?
Here are some ideas. No, I haven't tried
all of them, so cannot guarantee success. Any other ideas? Email
me and I'll credit you!
Efforts to enlarge your collection fall into seven categories:
get, swap, bid,
buy and find.
here for a scientific analysis of how other baggists acquire bags.
Collecting your own bags is much the most
satisfying way to build a collection. Indeed, some bagologists limit their
collection to mementoes they have stolen themselves. But unless you work
for the CIA, it takes time to build up a decent collection.
Booking your flight
Travel on obscure airlines and "harvest" their bags.
Choose an indirect flight. Got to go from Cologne to London? Then
fly via Helsinki and Minsk, on as many different airlines as you can.
Already got bags from that airline? Pick up some bags anyway. You never
know - it could just be a new variation of an old design, subtle changes in
the wording, a different shade of ink. And you can always offer them as
swaps for bags you really want (see Trade below)
Before you board
Wear the right clothes.
I've found that a pullover and a loosely buttoned jacket is the
best combination. This enables you to stuff bags unobtrusively under
your jacket during harvesting forays. You can then transfer them to
under your pullover (tuck the pullover into your trousers to prevent
loose bags from spilling out) or better still, into your hand luggage.
There are few things more embarrassing than dropping a dozen stolen bags
on the floor while rummaging for your passport at immigration control.
Ask the ground staff. In smaller airports, go to
the airline offices in the check-in area. They sometimes have a stack of
spare bags in a cupboard. They may even be willing to go out to the
plane to pick up a sheaf of bags for you. This technique doesn't work in
larger airports: there bags are handled by firms who do the catering and
Choose your seat carefully
Ask for a window seat: not only do you get to see the view
outside; you can also remove bags from your neighbour's seat pocket
after he or she has got off.
Checking in late, and no window seats left? Middle seats
(on narrow-bodied planes) are a poor choice, as the person in the
window seat wants to get off too. Aisle seats let you go for
frequent walks around the cabin in search of bags (see "While
on board" below).
Seats over the wing experience less turbulence than at the back
of the plane - so the bags are less likely to have been used.
Downgrade to economy.
There are more seats in economy, so more bags to steal. Plus,
business class passengers deboard first, so there's less chance to
swipe bags while you're queuing to exit.
Getting on the plane
Be at the front of the queue.
Elbow your way to the front of the queue, then remove bags from
still-empty seats as you move up the aisle with your cabin baggage. Be
careful, though: on one flight, my seat neighbour caught me red-handed
rifling his seat pocket. I mumbled an apology and shifted to another
seat, where I was able to remove bags unobserved.
Sit in the wrong seat. I discovered
this technique by accident on a flight to
Nairobi. Sit in the wrong seat when you board the plane - preferably one
in business class. Try using the gate number (e.g. F07) as your seat
number - it helps you look blameless if you're caught, as you can
plausibly point to the number on your ticket. Quickly purloin the bags
from your row, settle down and wait. If you're lucky, the plane will be
empty and no one will claim your seat. If the rightful occupant does come
along, profess innocence, apologize profusely, and move to your correct
seat (where you will find a fresh batch of bags to swipe).
several bags, not just one, especially on a weird-and-wonderful
airline. You can use these extras as swaps: because of its scarcity
value, an Air Mandalay is easier to trade than a Lufthansa or British
Empty the seat pockets from the whole row.
Check the toilets.
Some have a stack of spare bags in a special compartment.
However, it's rude to take them all: someone might actually need to use one.
On a flight with several stops? Change your seat at each stop
so you can harvest a fresh pocket.
No bag in your seat pocket? Call the cabin attendant and ask
for one. You can either pretend to be ill, or you can be honest and
explain that you collect them. She may not believe you, but will
probably get you a bag anyway: gives her something to tell her
colleagues during the inflight movie. Once you've overcome the
embarrassment, take the opportunity to ask for several bags, not just
Wait for the right
moment. On long-haul flights, wait till everyone is asleep. Get
up and walk around the cabin to stretch your legs. While you are doing
anti-deep-vein-thrombosis exercises, you can pilfer bags from in front
of sleeping fellow-passengers.
Don't be in a hurry to get off. You're
going to have to queue again anyway to go through immigration, collect
your suitcases, and report your missing baggage. A far better way to
invest this precious time is to harvest bags on board.
Use your cabin baggage as cover. Wait till the
row across the aisle is empty before taking your cabin baggage down from
the overhead compartment. Put it in the seat opposite, then raid all the
seat pockets within reach.
Keep your hands free. As you move up the aisle,
grab bags from seat pockets and stuff them under your jacket.
Collecting other stuff?
Considering swiping other stuff from on board? Remember, there’s a
difference between "equipment" and "consumables":
Equipment, such as bowls, cutlery (silverware, to our American
friends) and safety cards, are meant to remain on the plane, or are
cleaned and reused. Swiping them is equal to stealing. By doing so you
are smoothing your path to hell.
Consumables, such as salt-and-paper packs, magazines,
paper napkins and
barfbags, are meant to be used up. Removing them from the aircraft is
providing valuable assistance to hard-pressed cleaning crews. You are
guaranteeing yourself a place in heaven.
You don't have to fly in order to partake of the delights of
airsickness. Here are some ways to get bags direct from airlines or
suppliers without having to part with the price of a ticket.
Talk to your travel agent. They might have contacts with insiders
who can feed bags to you.
Visit airline offices. In smaller airports, the airline offices
are often in the passenger check-in area. I visited several offices in the Kathmandu
domestic terminal to beg for bags. The ground staff thought I was strange, but they gladly
opened up their bag cupboards for me.
Write to the airlines and ask for examples of their bags.
Who knows? -- your message might be opened by someone with a sense of humour.
Write to the bagmakers. Click here for a list of
these fine firms. If you're in the area, visit their factory to
raid their stocks.
Get others to collect for you. Normal people think bag-collectors are
either amusing or sad. You can play on both emotions.
Tell your friends, relatives,
neighbours and officemates that you collect bags (makes
good conversation over dinner). They are often willing to collect bags for you. Express
deepest gratitude and credit them on your website, and they might even do it again. Make
sure they pick up several bags at a time, not just one.
Talk to a tour guide. Someone who leads tours round China gets his
participants to collect bags for me: gives them something to do during those
long plane and boat trips.
Poach someone else's list.
Desperate for bags? Trawl through other collectors' websites and write
to all the people they name as sources of bags. Several of my friends
and relatives have started getting begging letters as a result of my
acknowledging them on this site. Note: I've removed all email
addresses of donors and other collectors from bagophily.com in order to
Do another collector a favour. They might feel grateful enough
Get a Starter Pack. I offer a free package of
spare bags to new collectors. There won't be anything rare, but it's
better than nothing... and it's free.
Contact me to ask for one. Several other collectors also offer a
similar service to newbies.
There are huge numbers of closet baggists
out there. A bag common in Europe may be as rare as bird's teeth in Latin
America, and vice-versa. Opportunities for mutually beneficial trade
Swap with other aficionados. The World Bagtrade
Organization specifies one-for-one swaps, but
a rarity may collect a premium. Most deals are done nowadays by email. Convinced? Click here to see my swap
Put your bags on a website. That makes yourself known to other
collectors, who may be interested in swapping with you. Try to make your site different so
it attracts visitors. Register it with search engines, and publicize it to other
Put together a list of your collection and your swaps (a
spreadsheet is good for this). Send this as an attachment to other collectors, who can
then browse it for items they don't have.
Send a boxful. It can be hard to tell from a
picture - still less a mere description - whether a bag is different
from others already in your collection. One way of trading, pioneered by
German baggist Gerhard Lang, is to send a boxful of extras to your
trading partner. The partner picks out any he or she wants. He or she
then sends you a boxful of spares for you to sift through.
Subscribe to the barfbags
email group: exchange messages with other collectors, seek out
those hard-to-find bags, and offer your own extras as swaps.
An increasing number of bags are
being offered for hard cash on eBay. For some collectors, particularly
those on bag-benighted North America, where every airline seems to carry
plain whites, this is a major way to acquire bags. Bidding can be
fierce, so be prepared to part
with wads of cash for rare items: up to €200 for a
Many of the vendors on eBay are not baggists themselves:
they are collectors of other "airline memorabilia" (i.e., stolen stuff),
or perhaps have found a stash of old bags in their uncle's attic and are
out to make a quick buck.
Sadly, many people who might once have looked for a
baggist to donate their uncle's collection to have discovered there's
money to be made by selling it instead. On the other hand, the prospect
of cash has meant that more bags are now appearing on the market (so are
available for serious baggists) rather than disappearing into the
If you are bidding for bags, you may find
yourself competing with non-baggists for a particular item. Lots of people
collect airline memorabilia - indeed some airlines (e.g., Virgin Atlantic)
have gained a reputation as "cool", and even seem to encourage people to
purloin their property. So if Virgin Atlantic comes out with another
Limited Edition set of bags, expect competition to be fierce. If you are
first to buy such a set, you get bragging rights, but you are probably
paying more than you should. Wait a few weeks until more come on the
market, and the price is likely to fall.
Note: I don't buy or sell bags (OK OK, I did buy some Virgin Atlantic Limited Edition bags, but they were must-have
items and didn't seem to be available in any other way...).
See Gerd Clemens' quarterly eBay report for
a summary of prices paid.
When it comes for the tawdry bags-for-cash trade, eBay is
not quite the whole world. It's possible to buy bags from other sources
This is a rag-bag category of methods that don't fit into
any of the classifications above.
Inherit. So it was your uncle who flew on the
first transatlantic passenger flight and told you he had picked up a
barfbag on board? But can't remember where he put it? Now all you have
to do is search that attic. Hint: bags of this vintage were made of
coarse brown paper.
Lurk. No aging relatives? You can also try lying in
wait for passengers as they emerge from Arrivals. In their alacrity to
greet their loved ones, they sometimes drop the barfbag they have saved
from the flight. You have to be quick, though: other baggists may also
be lying in wait, and you don't want to become part of an unseemly scrum
pouncing on a stray bag as it flutters to the floor.
Check the litter bins around airports. But be
warned: the bags they contain may carry a significant bacterial load.
Marry another collector. A bit drastic, but an excellent way to
build a collection quickly. Make sure you get written agreement beforehand
on how to split the collection if you break up.