Oviedo's Becky Martz treasures tiny works of art that most of us just throw away. Her hobby of collecting banana labels has taken her around the world and back again.
Have you ever noticed the colorful little stickers on the peels of your bananas?
Oviedo resident Becky Martz never fails to spot them. She’s been meticulously collecting and cataloging banana labels from around the world for the past 29 years. So far, she’s amassed 21,395 unique labels, and the perpetual search for more continues.
“I like that the labels are ephemeral,” Becky says. “They’re meant to be thrown away, but to me they’re tiny works of art. The labels can be informative and entertaining. Nowadays, they’re used a lot for promotions. They can come from different countries and are designed to capture your attention. It’s fascinating to me. I never dreamed I would have such a collection.”
Becky first started paying attention to banana labels while restocking her fruit bowl at home. The differences in brands and countries of origin piqued her curiosity. At the time, Becky was living in Houston, Texas, which proved to be a prime location for her new hobby as many bananas travelled straight from Central America to the Lone Star State. Becky recalls the first-ever banana label she kept from Chiquita that humorously said “The Perfect Stocking Stuffer.” She was amused – and hooked.
Over the years, Becky’s passion for collecting has not waned. She is always on the lookout, whether she’s trying to complete a set of labels from various brands or find an infamous and elusive two-label set from 1980.
“That year, Chiquita printed some labels with the mascot of the Summer Olympics – it was a bear named Misha,” explains Becky. “The U.S. withdrew from the Olympics though, due to the Soviet-Afghan War, so the labels were never used. A few are still out there, though. I don’t have any, yet, but you never know. I always take an opportunity to mention it in case anyone can help me get my hands on one!”
Becky’s patient and persistent search for new labels to add to her collection is never-ending, but one thing is for sure. When a banana label finds itself in the hands of Becky Martz, it will find a happy home. Her collection is so impressive that the Library of Congress has expressed interest in obtaining it.
Each label in Becky’s archive is painstakingly preserved, attached to graph paper, and placed into a large three-ring binder notebook alphabetically ordered by brand name. Becky says that this kind of eccentric hobby is well-suited to her detail-oriented nature. She does not buy or sell labels but is happy to trade or send to new collectors. Becky keeps boxes full of duplicate labels and will never turn away a label if someone sends it her way.
“I’ve collected labels in all kinds of ways, but I can’t bring myself to weed them out,” says Becky.
Becky keeps an eagle eye on banana labels in need of rescue and admits she’s done some unusual things to save them from ending up in the trash. She’s swiped labels off rotten banana peels and once asked a neighbor she visited at the hospital if she could take the label from the banana on his dinner tray. In addition, road trips with her husband Bill sometimes doubled in length if Becky wanted to stop along the way and search for labels at different markets.
“Sometimes, bananas leave the store with an extra sticker or two on them,” Becky says with a crafty chuckle. “I don’t think anyone else is going to miss them!”
Becky is not alone in her banana label quest. She’s part of a small, global community of collectors and has travelled abroad to meetups in countries such as Costa Rica, Germany, and Ecuador. Membership in the intrepid crew has helped Becky form incredible and lasting friendships.
Her favorite label was given to her as a Christmas gift from a fellow collector and friend in Sweden. It is her rarest banana label, the blond Jacko label featuring a little boy whose hair is made up of tiny bananas, which dates back to the 1960s.
“My husband says that I used to collect banana labels and now I collect banana friends,” Becky says with a laugh. “My best banana friend is from Slovenia. We initially connected online, but since then he’s visited a few times. We went to his wedding, and he named one of his children after me.”
Though Becky and Bill no longer travel to collector gatherings due to Bill’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, they’ve been keeping busy at home. Bill is in the process of updating Becky’s website, which he created 20 years ago. Perhaps most exciting of all was Becky’s recent invitation by Chiquita to visit its Florida headquarters in Fort Lauderdale in March.
“It was very fun, and I learned a lot more about the company,” says Becky. “I brought my binder full of Chiquita labels to show them, and they were fascinated. They had never seen so many of their own labels, all so different. I was surprised that they were so surprised!”
To learn more about Becky’s banana label collection, check out her website, BeckyMartz.com.
Want More Information?