Steve Clayton Blog

Guitar Pick Collecting

I found this amazing article on Guitar Pick collecting that was done by The Ottawa Citizen. It incredible how popular and lucrative pick collecting has become. I love how they mention a $1,000 Johnny Cash pick going for sale on ebay. I love that since we worked with Johnny Cash for several years making him custom Black Acetal Custom guitar picks with his signature on them a long long time ago…. Read more here at a past blog posting. 

A Pick from our Archives – Johnny Cash

You can read the pick collecting article below (original source The Ottawa Citizen):

The Guitar Pick Collector

In 1986, Alex Golota picked up a Pat Travers pick from the stage at Barrymore’s. Today he has more than 700 picks from rock’s biggest names.

By Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen January 16, 2011
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Guitar+Pick+Collector/4116340/story.html#ixzz1BbYwO2AY

The first guitar pick that Alex Golota recalls picking up — off the stage at Barrymore’s Music Hall, back in the mid 1980s when he did lighting at the Bank Street club — belonged to Pat Travers. The picks were initially an accompaniment to the 8×10-inch promo photos of musicians Golota collected as reminders of the shows he’d attended or worked; he would glue the picks to the photos and then have them framed. If he could, he’d get one or both autographed.

As the years passed, Golota’s collection of picks grew. Some, like Travers’s, he picked up after a concert. Guitarists would sometimes give him one of their picks, or he would ask one of their technicians for one. Friends in the sound and lighting trades, aware of his hobby, would acquire picks on his behalf. He has picks from some of the biggest names: The Rolling Stones, with their trademark tongue and lips; ZZ Top (both); one from Prince, via Jon Bon Jovi’s guitar technician and instantly identifiable by the unpronounceable “Love Symbol” he adopted as his stage name in 1993; a metal guitar pick from Def Leppard; Eric Clapton; Stevie Ray Vaughan; Buddy Holly; The Edge; a yellow pick that bears Alice Cooper’s name and likeness; and Avril Lavigne and Steve Earle, who each have skulls adorning their picks (his in green, hers in pink).

“I recently got Jeff Beck,” says Golota, 51, “which is really hard to get because he doesn’t use a guitar pick. But I managed to catch up to his road manager on stage, and he has a bag of guitar picks that Jeff had 30 years ago, and he keeps them for real true fans. It actually says ‘This pick was stolen from Jeff Beck’ on it.

“I have that.”

He keeps his collection — 726 picks at last count, but growing all the time — in a pair of binders, one carrying the monogrammed and autographed picks, the other holding picks you’ll just have to take his word that they’re from who he says they are, like the Fender pick used by Bruce Springsteen.

“I found it right beside his guitar stand, and I know he uses a plain white Fender pick and I know it’s Bruce Springsteen’s pick.”

Curiously, perhaps, he doesn’t play guitar himself. But growing up in Old Ottawa South, his idols included Jimi Hendrix and Procol Harum’s Robin Trower.

“I started keening on guitar players,” he recalls. “They’re the heroes in the

rock ‘n’ roll field.”

The first show he attended was an April Wine concert at the Civic Centre when he was 16. As he watched the roadies and technicians set up the stage be-between acts, he decided that was what he wanted to do for a living. Currently a lighting designer with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where he’s worked for the past 18 years, he started out with Wall Sound, then moved to Barrymore’s. In between, he toured for two years as Stompin’ Tom Connors’ stage manager, and spent six months on the road with Charlie Pride.

He takes his summer holidays during Bluesfest, where he does lighting and, with the help of the other techs, collects more picks. Last summer, he added 17 to his collection. The year before that, a record 48.

“That’s my vacation,” he says. “The museum is so corporate — I have to wear a suit there most of the time.

“And my roots are in rock ‘n’ roll, so I want to go back every year and make sure I can still do lights for rock ‘n’ roll.”

Some of the picks in his collection are definitely rarities. A pick used by Gene Simmons bears the KISS bassist’s thumbprint in theatrical blood. One that belonged to Jeff Smallwood — guitarist for Roch Voisine and Luba — is fashioned from a hotel room key card. He has a Spinal Tap pick used during a Canada Day show in St. John’s, as well one used recently by Crash Karma for a concert for Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Golota even has a pick used by NDP leader Jack Layton.

Then there are the ones missing from his collection. He’s resigned to the fact that he’ll never own a Hendrix pick, while an online search for one used by Johnny Cash uncovered a $1,000 price tag, too steep for Golota.

“These are actually rarer than stamps and coins,” he says, “because stamps and coins they produce hundreds of thousands or millions, but when a guitar player goes out on tour, he may only take 1,000 picks — a bagful. Over his career he may not buy another bag. So the rarity of these things is crazy.

“We had an insurance adjuster come in and look at the stuff, and he said ‘You’re sitting on a dream home here. There’s somebody out there who’s interested in buying it, somewhere, somehow.'”

But he’s not interested in selling. “It’s not about making money,” he says. “It’s just trying to get it all in one place. I’m a curator and trying to keep it all together, and if people can appreciate it, that’s great.”

Through profiles here and online, Bruce Deachman uncovers the people who bring Ottawa to life, people who exhibit and unusual passion or obsession. Do you know someone who is one in a million? E-mail the details to

Visit ottawacitizen.com/million to see more photos and listen to Alex Golota, or to see past stories.

bdeachman@ottawacitizen.com.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Guitar+Pick+Collector/4116340/story.html#ixzz1BbYrAd6M


A Pick from our Archives – Johnny Cash

johnny_cash1Every once in awhile when I am looking for something in my office I come across a custom pick we did from a long time ago. Just today I happened upon this Johnny Cash pick that we made. This exact pick is probably about 18 years old! Yes, very old. It is our Rounded Triangle Acetal (in Black) Johnny’s signature color, with his signature on it in white, gauge .50mm. Johnny loved our Acetal so much, but didn’t want it in white, so we had our Acetal material made in black just special for him. This pick is pretty hard to come by now a days because Johnny didn’t use them as his toss out picks. They are the true picks he played with and loved. I have often seen this pick go for over $100 on ebay. So if you ever come across this pick or already have it in your collection, It was made by Clayton! johnnycashFrom what I know most other Johnny Cash picks are either newly made fakes, or were his toss out picks. Johnny ordered 1,000’s of picks from us until his passing in 2003. He actually ordered so often from us that we would pre-make the picks a head of time. So when Johnny passed we were left with about 2,000 of his printed picks that were made in advance. People who knew we made the pick have called and begged for at least one of them, but sorry we will not give or sell the picks. They were only meant for Johnny.