April 16, 2020

Into View – Fredrik Tigerstrom of Picks Of The Past

Still a spellbinding universe, the magic of vintage collecting holds an immense fascination for me. Among the collectors out there in the Plectroverse, one of the most interesting accounts is that of Fredrik Tigerstrom from Picks Of The Past. We knuckle down for a good chat about the collecting scene, excitement, and the joy of plectrums.

HR Thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! For those who don’t know, can you introduce yourself?

FT – I’m a 30 year old swede living in the southeast of Sweden, in a small coastal town called Oskarshamn. Now and then I post pictures of vintage guitar picks on my Instagram-account ’Picks of the Past’.

HR What started you collecting picks?

FT – I’ve always been a collector of things. When I was 10 years old I started collecting football kits, and it wasn’t those cheap copies that you bought at a market – we talk about official shirts for like £60. Pretty expensive hobby for a kid.. I remember telling my parents that one day I was gonna have a ’football kit museum’. That all changed one day a couple of years later.
I have two siblings, a brother and a sister. My brother is 3 years older than me and he used to play in bands and listen to a lot of music.
One day I snuck into his room with a friend of mine and grabbed a CD from the shelf, threw it in the CD player and pushed ’Play’.. BAM!A wall of sound hit me like a fist, straight in the face.

”Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go!
Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go!
They’re forming in straight line
They’re going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The Blitzkrieg Bop”

I was sold.

I took another CD from the shelf..

”Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games
We got everything you want honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey we got your disease”

That day I sold my soul to rock and roll.
I also sold all of my football kits..

A couple of months later I looked like some rocker from the Sunset Strip in the 80’s..long hair, leather jacket, skintight jeans and bandanas.
I started playing bass guitar and Duff McKagan was my hero, I even got myself a black Fender Jazz Bass Special.
I found out that he used the yellow .73 Dunlop Tortex picks, so I bought a bunch of those aswell.

One day it just crossed my mind that guitar picks is a really cool piece of memorabilia..they’re small..doesn’t take too much space (yeah right, back then they didn’t) and they come in all sort of colours and shapes.
I got myself an authentic UYI-tour Duff McKagan Tortex from Swedens answer to Ebay. Well how about that..once again I was a collector.

A selection of vintage Hagstrom, Landstrom, Beltone and Hercos.

HR What was the story being the first pick you got your hands on?

JT – After I bought the Duff-pick I started collecting all kind of artist custom picks from bands that I liked at the time. I tried to catch them at shows, wrote to bands on Myspace and I searched all over Google for specific picks that I wanted to add to my collection.
And I guess it was around this time that I learned to go that extra mile to find the picks that I wanted, but I’ll get to that later.

So for many years I collected artist customs, the 80’s Sunset Strip-look with long hair and leather jackets were long gone and I had found new bands and genres that I liked better. Punk-acts like The Clash, The Gaslight Anthem, Hot Water Music and Chuck Ragan had catched my attention.
But one day I got a Gene Simmons custom Herco pick, I really liked the look of it! A nylon pick made in a custom mould, no print that could wear off..,so once again I turned to my friend Google for information.
I found out that several artists had custom Herco picks: Steve Jones, David Gilmour, Graham Nash, Billy Duffy – even goddamn Madonna had one?!
I had to collect them all – even those pink Madonna Hercos.

Up to date I still don’t have all of them..but I’m getting there, even though it’s not my main focus anymore. But the custom Hercos did lead me to my main focus: Vintage guitar picks. I found out that Dunlop had bought the rights from the Hershman Bros in the early 90’s and that a lot of people were still trying to find the originalHercos, even Mr. Jimmy Page. Once again..focused had changed and I went all-in!

HR When did you know you were starting down a serious collecting path? What plectrum was the turning point?

FT – In the beginning of my vintage guitar pick collecting I really grabbed anything that I thought looked cool or had some kind of connection to artists that had used them back in the days. But I soon understood that it would be smart to have some kind of era or material to focus on, and for me it was nylon. As with the Hercos I really liked that nylon picks were made in custom moulds. Sure they weren’t as beautiful as a sunburst celluloid from the 70’s, but neither were they as unpredictable as a celluloid pick.
And with unpredictable I mean warping or cracking from age and humidity. Nylon heyday’s were between mid 60’s to late 70’s and during this era some of my favorite bands and artists had their breakthrough.
I’m talking about The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Ramones, to mention a few.

Not too long after starting collecting vintage guitar picks I got to know the legend from Lake Arrowhead, California, Mr. Joe Macey.
All of a sudden my collection felt like a drop in the ocean, compared to his museum-like collection. But Joe encouraged me to keep focusing on a specific material or era, so I did. A lot of my knowledge I really have to thank Joe for. Not only he knows everything about guitar picks, but he is also an amazing person with the biggest heart! Always there for you when you have a question about something. For all newcomers I really recommend you to check out his Youtube-channel..like..right now!

The famous Sharkfin and the unreleased version

HRWhen do you think the most exciting picks were made, given some of the incredible things in your collection?

FT – Some of the picks that I have I’m lucky to have spares of so a few times the temptation have just been to strong..guilty! A few of the old ones, (won’t mention manufacturers) actually feels a lot better. Maybe it’s just in my head..but there’s significant difference in quality. How quickly they wear down, stiffness and tone. I guess that’s why Mr. Page tries to find vintage Hercos.

HR You’re based in Sweden – what’s the collector scene like there, or is it mostly online?

FT – I think that most people in Sweden collect custom band picks. But I have made some new vintage pick collecting-friends that have visited my Instagram or by selling picks to them. And that’s really fun! I try to encourage them to keep up with their collecting or to answer any questions that they have about vintage picks. Like Joe use to say, Europe is virgin territory when it comes to vintage guitar picks and Sweden is no exception Sometimes that’s a good thing..but sometimes also a bad thing.

Some music stores that I’ve reached out to in Sweden are just happy to sell their old picks that just been collecting dust for years and years..and they can’t understand why I would be interested in them. While some other stores understand that they might be able to do some profit, so they head over to Ebay, check out some picks that looks almost the same, then they reply with some ridiculous price.

And that’s the thing that is dangerous about places like Ebay, especially for new vintage guitar pick collectors. A lot of sellers doesn’t have the knowledge..they see some pick that looks ALMOST the same like the one that they have..and that’s the case a lot of the times when it comes to vintage Fender picks. A 60’s pre-CBS Fender should never, ever be listed for $80. I could understand the price if it would be a 50’s Fender pick, but not one from the 60’s. I’ve even seen modern Fender celluloid picks listed on Ebay for $80. Let me tell you one thing…a pick isn’t necessary VINTAGE because the logo has worn off.
Don’t let words in the title fool you!

’50s Japanese Herco

HR What do you think of the pick community these days? Do you collect modern makers as well?

FT – I think that the pick community is really interesting! A lot of new companies, new materials and ordinary people starting to experiment in their basement. I have a lot of respect for dedicated people that delivers a great craftmanship. These people are the ones that are setting the standards of tomorrow, making sure that the big manufacturers won’t get to comfortable and so that they stay on their toes. You gotta love the underdog! I think that the last ”modern” or ”newcomer” picks that I bought were picks made out of vespel from Charmed Life Picks, owned by an awesome guy called Scott Memmer.

HR Which plectrums do you use when you play?

FT – I mostly use the pride of Sweden, Landström Sharkfin Picks – The original Sharkfin! But I always wondered if the had made any picks in the ”standard” 351-shape, and last year when I had one of my ”Breaking Google”-hunts and I stumbled over some 351-shape Landström prototypes, but only to find out that the store that sold them had closed a couple of years earlier.. I went from thrilled to devastated! A couple of weeks later I bought some picks from a person on Ebay and when I received them they came in a envelope with that Landström prototype-stores logo on it.
I asked the seller if she knew anything about that store and it turned out that she had been working there for years, and kept the stock in her house.
She had the prototypes! I bought them all. She also had rare ebonite picks from the 60-70’s, and much more. Let’s just cut to the chase, I bought a couple of thousand picks.

I guess that sometimes you get lucky. As soon as I started to make profit I could finance new picks by selling from the stock that I had. I try to sell picks for fair prices. I’ve put down a lot of work and hours on research and finding picks so when valuating picks there’s a small percentage added to the price. I think it’s just fair.

HR Which of the old, discontinued picks would you like to see make a comeback?

FT – That’s a tough question..I would love to see the classic Sharkfin GP 102 (white with gold print) in a three gauge-selection as it was back in the day. Thin-Medium-Hard. Nowadays the whites are about .50-.53 mm.
Sure they do have the ’Relief-series’ that varies from ’Extra Soft’ to ’Super Hard’, but I prefer the whites.

Also I know that a lot of people would like to see the classic Mel Bay/G&G picks available again, used by Allen Collins and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd. All I can tell is that somewhere in the world, most likely USA, they are still being produced, but in a small scale.

Some years ago I saw that Bono from U2 had a custom pick with the exact design but with U2-logo where the ’Bullseye’ is on the Mel Bay/G&G picks.
So they are absolutely operating somewhere..the question is ’who?’ and ’where?’.

Wicked ’70s Triplet

HR What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the collecting scene?

FT – Try to find an era or material to focus on, at least in the start of your collecting..it’s just too many picks out there. And don’t ever give up your search for a specific pick that you want..they are out there. ’The Hunt’ is probably the most fun part of collecting. You’re just gonna have to search every single corner of google or your town, ask a lot of people and of course have the luck to find the right people to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions..you might receive 99 ’no’-answers but on the hundred you get a ’Yes’. A lot of my collecting friends have traveled across America, visiting hundreds of music stores in their hunt for picks.
I’ve chosen a different road because sadly most of the family owned music stores here in Sweden, where you might have a chance to find vintage picks in, has closed.

But it has worked out pretty well, you just gotta think outside the box.
At the moment my main focus is tracking down every single Landström Sharkfin pick ever released..and I’ve got the chance to speak to the current owner of Sharkfin and made some great finds. Sometimes the interest of collecting goes up, and sometimes down. But every now and then you find something, a new path or clue..then you’re all over it again. That’s the charm with collecting. And last but not least, I’ve made friends for life.
Crazy what small pieces of plastic can do.

Follow Fredrik at @picksofthepast !