Fewer things can be more fulfilling than a well-loved hobby. Whether it's crafts or fishing, or cheering on your favorite sports team, the personal labors of love that people choose to devote their time and energy to have the ability to transport them from a day or environment that's stressful and unpleasant to an impassioned state of being. And for many music lovers in the world, a popular pastime is pick collecting. As most band's have guitar picks printed up for their tours (often times even the drummer and lead vocalist) guitar picks are little treasures for concert-goers lucky enough to have caught one thrown from the stage and into the sea that makes up a concert audience. And another pastime that many find rewarding is charity work of any kind - helping to raise funds for various groups and organizations that help others who are ill or less fortunate. So what could be better than a combination of the two? What if there was a way to raise money for one of the villains of society, like cancer, while also engaging in the exciting world of pick collecting? Well, actually there is!
Founded just this past May by pick collector, Lee Hutchinson, the Pick Collectors Against Cancer organization has been doing phenomenal work in raising money to combat cancer, and it's been getting the attention of some noteworthy musicians too who are more than willing to take part. Offered exclusively on Facebook, thus far, in the short time that Pick Collectors Against Cancer has been in existence, there have been a slew of musical groups willing to help out, bands like Anthrax, Mastodon, Hed PE, and New Found Glory - just to name a few. Sadly, cancer is one of those diseases that strikes indiscriminately, and eventually everyone will eventually know someone personally who has fought it - and some who lost the battle against it, so it's only natural that people from every walk of life are willing to do what they can to help out, including some of music lover's favorite rock stars.
Hutchinson sat down with AXS recently to talk about this exciting new group that's bringing joy to the other pick collectors of the world, and all while helping a really great cause in the process.
AXS.com: You've incorporated your hobby into this great opportunity to raise money to combat cancer, which is awesome! How long have you been a collector of guitar picks?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer/Lee Hutchinson: I sort of fell into pick collecting, I am a huge music fan and I have been going to gigs since 1988. Back in 1991 I caught a Slayer pick and thought it was brilliant having the band logo on it. I've never worked in the industry so I have had to catch/find/ask for picks, and I have had picks land on my shoe, down my shirt, hit me in the face. I built up a collection of just over 100 and I thought that was really good until I found out pick collecting was an actual thing and joined the pick collecting Facebook groups and learned that some people have over 20,000. My collection is now just over 800.
AXS.com: What made you want to use this hobby to begin raising money to help fund cancer organizations?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: I really enjoy fundraising, I went to the Mount Everest base camp in 2009 to raise money on behalf of a friend that died whilst trying to climb the mountain. Between 2007 and 2009 my best friend and I raised over £13,000 for two children's charities here in the UK. Since then I have done lots of fundraising events (Parachute Jump, Treks, Meals, in June I swam to the Isle of Wight from the mainland). A few years ago my mam was diagnosed with cancer, luckily she beat it, but I promised her I would raise money for the cancer center that helped her and continues to support her. I was telling a pick collecting friend about this and we got talking about his battle and it sort of popped in to my head. Sell a few picks, give some money to charity. As the idea came whilst talking to him, I told him I would split the raised money 50/50 between a charity he supported and the one my mam supports. To be honest, if i wasn’t doing this I would be doing some sort of event. I am in talks with a school friend about doing a climb in 2016 to raise money for something (Mont Blanc Summit Climb Charity Challenge is an idea). The difference now is I don’t think PCAC [Pick Collectors Against Cancer] is going away soon so this will be ongoing.
AXS.com: You initially contacted six pick printing companies asking if they'd help, and then various pick collecting groups as well. Were you surprised that so many people were on board with this idea and willing to help participate for this great cause?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: I was originally only going to sell 100 picks made by one company, then an idea was put forward to do a few designs and I thought about trying to get the companies (EgoPicks, InTune, PickWorld, Pick Guy, NoLogo, Grover Allman) to agree to stand together to support the project. I guessed I would get support but the level of support some people have shown is amazing, there was no hesitation with the companies they agreed straight away. I thought I may have to try sell the fact they would all be seen together but that wasn’t the case at all. Everytime I got a 'yes' I got more and more excited. I had no doubt about the pick groups to be honest, I know all the owners from pick trading circle and trust them. They were there to ask advice if I thought of an idea. I couldn’t have done the project if they hadn’t have let me promote the group on their pages.
AXS.com: So printing companies, the collectors, or bands themselves provide a donation of guitar picks, and sometimes autographed photos or other memorabilia, and then you go about listing the auction. Which have been the most exciting auctions for you thus far?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: The first thing I released was the PCAC custom pick, all 100 sets of six picks sold out, the feedback on them was amazing, I thought they would go down well, it's a reason 2015 was on the pick so next year I can do the same sort of thing in following year. If all else failed every year I could sell 100 sets off and donate to a chosen charity. The auctions really took me by surprise, people have really accepted the group and bid hard and fast. My favorite auction so far has been the Venom Inc one. It started as one used backstage pass, two stickers, one patch, and a wristband (all donated by Abaddon himself), I expected the final price to be $20-30. Abaddon was made aware the auction was taking place so he joined the group, and he kept adding more and more prizes, chatting to the bidders, egging them on to bid higher. The final prize went for over $300 and included passes, signed drumstick, signed poster, custom hipflask, picks, and a meet & greet to any show on the current tour. The winner was so happy as he has wanted to see them since the 80’s, now he's getting loads of stuff and getting to hang out with the band and share a bottle of whisky. [laughs]
AXS.com: How do you decide now which charities to donate the money to?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: The Waterside Cancer Center that helped and continues to help my mam was easy. Steve Lambert chose Make a wish in America as they really helped him during his battle. He wanted a guitar the same as George Lynch, they not only sorted that but flew him to his house where George gave one to him in person, they are still friends to this day. Dave Stauble chose the third charity, he is one of the kindest collectors on the scene, gives without thought of return. He lost his mum a few months ago and I felt it was only right to show the support of the pick collecting community. I understand there are so many going through hell due to cancer, and my plan is in 2016 when I release the next pick set to choose new charities to support for 12 months.
AXS.com: You also offer giveaways on your page as well, what gave you the idea to do this?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: When Josh Rand (one of the first artists to donate to me) from Stone Sour sent me a handful of his and Corey Taylor's picks I thought rather than be greedy and sell them all off, I'd give a pair away as a thank you for the support, and it's a great way to attract new members that may bid.
AXS.com: Your group's page said that you have many other ideas that you'd like to implement in the future. Anything you can share with us?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: [Laughs] One of the questions I get asked a lot...mainly to find out if I’m working with any other bands to create a pick like the New Found Glory pick. Ian from New Found Glory really opened up a whole new direction for the project. The pick/signed photo he sorted sold out in six hours raising $1000 dollars. I have one band that is confirmed to do the same (design is being done right now for them to approve). I have a Grammy Award winning guitarist 90% on board, waiting on confirmation, and I'm in the very early stages with a few other bands. I have PCAC picks in the design/print process that will be used as a thank you to people that donate/win auctions. My main aim is to raise money whilst giving people cool items from their fave bands. I will be organizing a local fundraising evening in the new year, meal, drinks, live acts, and all the money I raise I will throw in to the PCAC pot. I honestly believe once I have a few bands print picks with the PCAC logo on, other bands will see it, hear that good money can be raised with very little effort on their part they will agree. I have a vision of a whole range of band/PCAC picks. If there are any guitarists reading this and think they want to join in then get in touch. I do all the hard work they just have to agree to take part.
AXS.com: Have you ever approached any bands directly or see if they'd donate picks of other items to your group?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: If I go to a gig I will use my contacts to see if I can get a name or face of somebody, I have gotten hardly any picks through the trading groups, they were used to promote and spread the word. I was chatting to Mikey [Demus] from Skindred and he was happy to donate some picks, he went above and beyond and got me some Crossfaith ones as I was unable to get them direct. Last week, a friend of mine that knows Jon [Donais] from Anthrax texted him to tell him about the project. I met Jon before and after the show where he gave me a handful of picks. I have friends all over the world that are spreading the PCAC word, a member of Tenacious D said to one lad, 'I have heard about this project,' he is now donating some stuff to me through a friend. I feel bad not mentioning everybody in this interview but there really are too many and I don't want to offend. It's the members of the group that are making this project work They are going to shows, telling crew, band members about it then sending things to me. I list everything on a spreadsheet so everybody that donates knows where their item is and how much it went for. As much as I'd like to add some of the things to my personal collection I don’t, I would lose all credibility if i started filtering off items for myself. I am talking to quite a few guitarists, band members, crew, guitar techs, and tour managers that really support this and want to help. Only last week I was at a show, I got talking to a member of the crew and he was fully aware of the project. And when I told him who I was he shook my hand, said 'thank you' as his girlfriend is going through treatment right now. I am getting messages everyday from people asking how they can help.
AXS.com: Is there a pick out there by a particular musician or group that you would love to find for your own personal collection?
Pick Collectors Against Cancer: As a collector, I am not one of the ‘big guns’ and I'm not really that interested in getting thousands. If i go to a gig I like to get one to add to the collection, on a perfect night one from each member or a full set, but not being able to get backstage I have to be happy with zero or whatever I can find. It's about the music, laughs with friends, et cetera, picks are just nice to have. I'd rather have a few picks from every band I've seen rather than hundreds of a couple of bands. When I'm old and grey I can have a cool folder full of bands and can say 'I saw them back in...' The only band fully collect is WASP, they really got me in to metal and I got my first guitar because WASP used BC Rich. They don’t have many picks compared to the likes of KISS or Metallica - which have hundreds of different designs. The only problem with WASP is that their fans are dedicated and won't let items go, the picks are old, rare, and never appear in trades. The picks I need go for $100+ each on Ebay. Thanks to pick collecting though I have spoken to several members of WASP, which as a fan is mind blowing. End of the day, I am a metal head that loves going to gigs with mates, having a few beers - the picks are the icing on cake. Thanks to the groups though if I don’t get one at the show chances are I will get one at a later date through a trade.
To date, Pick Collectors Against Cancer has raised $4,000. To learn more about PCAC and see all of the awesome items to bid on to help fight cancer, visit their official Facebook page by clicking here.