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the magical world of airsickness bags

Welcome. This is what my wife calls "a bunch of stupid jokes and pictures of paper bags." She's right about the jokes. She's wrong about the bags: some of them are plastic.

What the critics say: "Utterly unnotable" (Wikipedia editor). "Ridiculous collections #4" (Buzzfeed). Other comments: "As complete wastes of time go, it's a very high quality complete waste of time... An entirely dispensable source of inane comments about a truly trivial subject... A monument to the planet's worst corporate design... An unwelcome reminder of some of the more unpleasant moments in our lives."

Donations (unused, please) of bags not represented in the bag gallery are welcomed -- please mail to this address, and I'll credit you on this site! I am happy to trade any extras that I have. Check out the links to other bag sites, find out how you can use your spare bags, and explore the fascinating world of bag manufacturers

Highlights: The design features page reveals the secrets of professional baggery, and the logos page analyses the enigma of airline corporate identities. Search for your favourite bag, browse the bag gallery by country and airline, and check out the biggest, best and worst bags!


Bagsurvey reveals rift in world baggery

Baggists were quizzed about their habit

A rift has emerged in world baggery between modernists and traditionalists, a study has revealed.

And it's increasingly a rift between the baghaves and the baghavenots

Earlier this year asked baggists how they had acquired their bags during 2007. A total of 11 baggists replied - that's 15% of the worldwide membership of the exclusive barfbags egroup of collectors. Not a bad response rate from a group who deal primarily in stolen goods.

The survey asked the baggists to say how many bags they had acquired from each of these seven categories:

  1. Stolen: Collected yourself from aircraft or airports
  2. Requests: Requested from bag manufacturers, airlines, etc.
  3. Donations: Donated by friends, relatives, etc.
  4. Swaps: Exchange or donations other collectors
  5. eBay: Purchased via eBay
  6. Bought: Purchased by routes other than eBay (eg at collectors’ conventions)
  7. Other: Other (please specify)

The 11 respondents reported they had acquired a total of 1863 bags in 2007 - ranging from an impressive haul of 420 for the most prolific baggist, to a meagre 6 bags by what my wife might call a "mickriger Kleinsammler" (a miserable small-time collector).

Where do bags come from?

The most important source of bags - accounting for an impressive 755 bags, or 41% of the total, was swaps. Yes, the barter trade is still alive and well in bagdom.

A close second, with 683 bags or 37% of the total, was purchases from eBay. Barter may still be king, but cash is about to dethrone it.

The only other significant source was gifts, which accounted for 14% of the bags acquired.

Baggists stole surprisingly few of their bags themselves: only 4% of the total. Perhaps that is because they tend to fly on the same airlines, so have little opportunity to acquire new bags in this way. That doesn't mean that flying is a waste of time from a bagging point of view: many baggists harvest multiple bags from a single aircraft, so generate large numbers of bags they can swap with other collectors.

Treating baggists as equals

The figures above are based on the total number of bags acquired, so give more weight to collectors with large baghauls. What does it look like if we treat all baggists alike - from Superbagman with his 420 new bags, down to the 6-bag weakling?

Swaps now dominate the picture, accounting for 42% of the typical baggist's acquisitions. Gifts from relatives, workmates, friends, friends-of-friends-of-friends and casual one-flight-stand partners, are a major source. eBay drops to third place, supplying only 19% of our typical baggist's hoard.

Are you an eBay junkie?

But is there such a thing as a typical baggist? Some baggists are eBay junkies, scouring cyberspace for hot items and diverting all their disposable income to fund bidding wars against fellow addicts. One confessed to spending a four-figure euro sum to finance his habit, and pleaded with researchers not to inform his wife.

Other baggists eschew eBay altogether, preferring to rely on barter and smuggling to boost their collections. Their only cost is the postage needed to ship bags around the globe in plain brown envelopes.

As might be expected, the two groups show markedly different bagacquisition patterns. The junkies first:

This group of five of our 11 respondents netted some 1349 bags in 2007. Over half came from eBay, while another 5% were bought at collector conventions. Swaps and gifts were also important sources.

Ignoring the market

How about baggists who resist the temptation to splurge their hard-earned income on secondhand paper bags? As expected, swaps were by far the most important source of supplies for this group, accounting for 70% of their accessions. Gifts were also important - these baggists clearly cultivate their friendships carefully.

But these six respondents managed to acquire only 514 bags between them in 2007 - less than half the haul amassed by the eBay crowd. Turning their backs on the cash-for-bags trade clearly carries a price: a smaller stash of bags.

And take the eBay slice out of the junkies' pie, and it looks pretty similar to that of the non-market-oriented subsistence baggists. It looks as if baggists who support their habit with cash are able to build their collections faster than those who rely on traditional collection mechanisms. That points to a growing rift in world baggery - between a market-savvy, eBay-oriented elite, and a persistent underclass of subsistence baggists - a lumpen proletariat toiling away in the nether regions of the bagleague tables.

Thanks to all baggists who responded to the survey. Watch for more surveys on!

Thursday, May 08, 2008 


What do Latvia, Liberia and Lesotho have in common? Yes, they all start with an L. What else? They're all missing from my barfbag collection.

What's the biggest country not represented? Chad. In terms of population? Burkina Faso. Other prominent absentees (coloured red in the map): Georgia and Rwanda. 

Major underrepresented portions of the globe are a swathe of Africa and chunks of Central Asia and Central America.

Donations from these areas especially welcome!

Centres of megabagdiversity are the USA (though many US bags are distressingly plain), China, the UK, Canada, Germany, Brazil and Indonesia. 

Click here for details.

For new baggists only


New to the world of bag collecting? Want to get a head start on your collection? Then send me an email, and I'll send you a randomly selected free starter pack from my surplus bag stock. There won't be anything rare, and you may end up with some duplicates, but at least you'll be able to show your friends a few more of these lovely cultural artefacts. Make sure you include your mailing address in your email. Offer good as long as stocks last.

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