World's Largest Ball of Stamps
Boys Town, Nebraska
To people of a certain advanced age, the term "Boys Town" may call to mind Spencer Tracy in vestments and towheaded lads kneeling in prayer. Others may remember an overblown Hollies song based on the Boys Town motto, "He ain't heavy, Father, he's m'brother."
But even the most pop-culture-savvy Boomer may not know that this 900-acre child care facility has its own philatelic museum, and that within it resides the World's Largest Ball of Stamps.
The ball is a relic from a time when people had more hobbies and less entertainment. And people mailed things to each other affixed with postal stamps. The sphere is 32 inches in diameter, weighs 600 pounds, and contains a reported 4,655,000 canceled stamps. It was stuck together, layer upon layer, by the sticky tongues and fingers of the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club starting in 1953.
Why did they do it? Mary Huard, a Visitors Center manager, speculated that "It must have been an exceptionally cold winter." Mary also volunteered that the Ball was originally thought to have been started around a pencil stub, but is now believed to have been wrapped around the core of a golf ball.
By July 1955 the Ball had just about reached its current size, and it was featured in the syndicated newspaper column of Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
"The next day," according to a sign next to the Ball, "crowds of people came to view the unique artifact, some traveling over one hundred miles." Work on the Stamp Ball essentially ceased at that point, and it has remained as it was, still the World's Largest Ball of Stamps after almost 60 years.
Unlike most rare objects, even very large balls, the World's Largest Ball of Stamps is displayed in the open. You can touch it if you want to; no alarms will go off. But adding to it, or picking off stamps, is forbidden (A close look reveals that people have unsuccessfully tried to pry stamps loose in the past). The Ball sits on a low pedestal in front of a colorful wall mural, also made of stamps. The mural gives the Ball a sunburst diadem when it's viewed just right.
A few feet away from the Ball is the "penny bin" of Boys Town, where philatelists of all ages can rummage through boxes of loose stamps to their hearts' content. It's a shrine for the stamp-happy, but all are welcome within the orbit of this Orb.