Frisbees Unleash Neuroresponses: The Science of Collecting

February 09, 2022  •  2 Comments

Frisbees Unleash Neuroresponses: The Science of CollectingFrisbees Unleash Neuroresponses: The Science of Collecting
—by Lightnin' Lyle Jensen—


I think the first time I ever put pen to paper with regard to collecting flying discs was in 1975 when I wrote Dan "Stork" Roddick a simple letter of introduction with an arm's-length query about a deep purple, first-period (most collectors I knew back then used the term period or generation; now style is the taxonomy du jour) Wham-O Pluto Platter, and the rest (as the ubiquitous they are inclined to say) is his...story—neither Stork's nor mine, really. Of course, by comparison, my personal tale would likely be of marginal interest to all but a handful of discophiles anyway. The fundamental question, I suppose, is why—some 45+ years later—you'll still find me regaling hapless readers, especially those endowed with sympathetic souls and venturesome spirits, the virtuous pleasures of collecting flying discs and select ephemera? And that, my friends, is really no mystery by any stretch of the imagination. Pourquoi, mes amis? Because collecting is Sandy Point Resort—Innova Wraith—White—Metallic BlueSandy Point Resort—Innova Wraith—White—Metallic Blue Envy, Plasma—Tiger—Grey-Blue Burst, Green—Orange, Black, WhiteEnvy, Plasma—Tiger—Grey-Blue Burst, Green—Orange, Black, White Lion, Luster Champion—CFR INNcolor—Red—INNColorLion, Luster Champion—CFR INNcolor—Red—INNColor fantastically fun for myriad reasons, not the least of which is every flying disc in every collection has its own unique story to tell—filled with an immeasurable mix of molding mystery, hierarchic history and a prolific profusion of polythermalized plastic phantasmagoria! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! What is this? The Jungle Book! For heaven's sake, release the bloody hounds and let's get on with it!

Pic 4 Japanese Tea Cups & Saucers—Courtesy of the S.E. Strom CollectionJapanese Tea Cups & SaucersCourtesy of the S.E. Strom Collection RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

Now it would seem the path of least resistance when writing about collecting is to proffer up— more like dredge—all the historical, anatomical and psychological reasoning for why men, women, children and some 70-odd other creatures that roam God's green earth collect stuff. Okay, but I'm not about to waste your time and my word count yammering on and on about  the similarities of refractory rodentia, recalcitrant ravens, or even Gramma Betty's predilection for pre-war Japanese tea cups and saucers, all driven by some pre-frontal, sub-cortical region of the brain—regardless of its size, shape, folds, smoothness or species.

So, does this mean that we're all destined to encounter takeover by some Borg-like disc collective where resistance is futile? Unlikely, but science does tell us that there are neuropsychological forces that come into play—more inwardly derived than a hostile, full-body assimilation, I guess. Net net, neuroscientist and avid collector, Dr. Shirley Mueller in her book Inside the Head of a Collector posits some 40 percent of Americans collect something. So, don't sweat the small stuff, it seems a fair share of us come by collecting quite neuro-naturally. It's all cool, unless of course, you just signed off on a second mortgage to buy a mega-monster collection from some guy in Calgary you met over the worldwide interwebs!


1974 Official Frisbee Freek Shirt1974 Official Frisbee Freek Shirt Way back in the day (think the '70s), far out flying disc collectors were kind of a sub-culture of the greater, groovy FRISBEE FREEK family sub-culture—loosely connected by proximity, landlines, slips of crumpled paper, friends of friends, names and numbers scrawled on the back of throwing stock, an ever-growing network of local, regional, national and world tournaments, and last, but surely not least, the Postal Service. Closing a disc deal back in the pre-digital era with the arrival of a buy, sell or trade package from the then mighty USPS was the original, the progenitor if you will, of all of today's Facebook MAIL CALL postings! PIC 6 Disney Postage Stamp—Phil KennedyDisney Postage Stamp Back to the Future Frisbie's Pies Tin propBack to the Future Frisbie's Pies Tin Prop Yesirree Bob's your uncle—"I love it when a plan comes together." Of course, that anachronistic statement wouldn't be uttered by the A-Team's John "Hannibal" Smith for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, I "pity the fool" that questions the veracity of that assertion. Yup, the world of collecting was so very, very different back then, but fundamentally the basic elements of buying, selling, trading and collecting discs were pretty much the same. Sure thing, most all the what's are the same, but a slew of the holier than holistic how's are nothing like they were back in the day! Climb aboard Marty, we're heading back to the future.

DeLorean vs The Tardis—Black Ace DesignsDeLorean vs The TardisBlack Ace Designs “IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT, YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING." DR. EMMETT BROWN

True that, even if those words were spoken by a crazy-haired, fictional inventor of a time machine housed in an ever-so-slightly modded DMC-12 DeLorean. Overstated perhaps, but it's difficult to downplay the impact technology has had on collecting...anything...not just flying discs. For me the ex-factor game changers were exposure and expediency, all made possible with the advent of personal computers, the internet, eBay, Facebook, and other social media outlets, to name just a few miracles of the imagination that changed the collecting world since the '70s.

Headrick Memorial MuseumHeadrick Memorial Museum Headrick Memorial MuseumHeadrick Memorial Museum For decades large-scale flying disc collectors have tried to figure out a way to build a substantive, world-class collection of flying discs housed in a brick and mortar museum-like facility for connoisseurs, collectors and the common citizenry to enjoy. Unfortunately, none of them ever gained enough traction to overcome the barriers of start-up costs and sustainability with the exception of the Headrick Memorial Museum at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, Georgia, which opened in 2007.

Flying Disc Museum HomepageFlying Disc Museum Homepage That same year, long-time player and collecting enthusiast, Mike "Hubee" Hughes started thinking about "building" a full-scale museum that would house all things flying disc. He envisioned an unexpurgated, historically accurate, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know—available to anyone—sustainable museum. In 2015, he began contacting a handful of other like-minded collectors who shared his vision to preserve the history of the flying disc. Three years later, the Flying Disc Museum (FDM), a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, opened its digital doors, and today it houses over 30,000 flying discs and other related artifacts, complete with high-quality photos, full descriptions and other ancillary historical data and preservation materials, including an ever-growing collection of disc golf galleries and accompanying  memorabilia. Accessible 24/7 at, the FDM has quickly established itself as the reliable "go to" resource for novice and seasoned collectors alike. [Of course, most of you already knew every jot and tittle of the previous 100 words, but for the sake of those beautiful souls who may have unwittingly wandered in like a stray kitten or just happened to hop aboard a hyperlink of some sort, maybe just maybe they'll sleep a little better tonight knowing the foundational groundings of the FDM. Thx, LL]

MFA—1st Style—Wham-O 40 Mold—Yellow—RedMFA—1st Style—Wham-O 40 Mold—Yellow—Red TOY STORY—ZEALOTS & THE CLAW

Back in the early '70s, right out of college, I met up with a bunch of Frisbee-minded souls in the Twin Cities. By the summer of '75 we upped our game and founded the Minnesota Frisbee Association, and in turn I got really serious about collecting. I went to flea markets, garage sales, auctions, thrift stores...and yes...TOY SHOWS! My similar-aged cousins, who were all too familiar with my now public penchant for Pluto Platters and all things plastic, would lovingly needle me about my pursuits with queries like, "Did you score a Pluto Platter in the wrapper?" with just enough sarcasm to make it sting a skosh, but never enough for me to question my passion. But why is that? What is that indefinable connection between one's heart and one's head that says, "I gotta have it. I don't care what anyone cares or thinks, and I'll go to infinity and beyond to get it." Seriously, why do collector's collect?

WPP Package 2— Bag B (Angled FRISBEE on White Bar)WPP Package 2— Bag B (Angled FRISBEE on White Bar) WPP Package 4—Bag C (Angled FRISBEE on Yellow Bar) + Header A (59¢ Red-on-White) HeaderWPP Package 4—Bag C (Angled FRISBEE on Yellow Bar) + Header A (59¢ Red-on-White) Header WPP Pkg. 9—Bag E (Angled Frisbee® above Blank Yellow Bar) + Header (88¢ Red-on-Yellow)WPP Pkg. 9—Bag E (Angled Frisbee® above Blank Yellow Bar) + Header (88¢ Red-on-Yellow)

COLLECTING: PSYCH !0! [not a 101 typo, merely a Munchism]

Buzz Lightyear Remember that neuroscientist doc I mentioned some 750 words back, turns out she's also a physician who's board certified in psychiatry as well as neurology and an internationally recognized collector and scholar of Chinese porcelain. Well, according to the good doctor, collecting flying discs can give you a little buzz, Mr. Lightyear, and it ain't attributable to the outgassing of the poly-ethylene or -propylene of your precious plastic collectibles, neither. Nope, my friend, turns out it's all in your head—specifically, in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental (SN/VTA), which is a long string of Latin words describing the area that responds to the new, the novel, the different, or what some research scientists refer to as the Oddball. So, when a disc collector on-the-hunt finds something "new" for his or her  collection, this brain center gets a healthy dose of dopamine and voila, the pleasure center says, "That feels good, let's do it again." And so it goes, a flying disc collector is born or a seasoned veteran of the collecting ilk is rewarded once again and duly re-charged! And the beat goes on...

Altered Perception—Buzzbee—Blue—Metallic RedAltered Perception—Buzzbee—Blue—Metallic Red SURVEY SAYS...SCIENCE MATTERS

In addition to learning what collector/scientist Dr. Mueller and other researchers had to say about what triggers collecting and in turn what collecting triggers, I donned my flying disc collector research hat and sent a 10-question survey to some prominent disc collectors to see what trips their collective triggers in the real world laboratory. Well, toss me a Buzzbee Mr. Dawson and I'll show ya How to Catch A Papa Bear and even spring for a coupla heros down at Hogan's sub shop. Whaddya say? I say let's get back to the collecting network, Newkirk.

Turns out the scientific and flying disc communities pretty much agree on what motivates and facilitates the fun-factor buzz of disc collecting in a number of areas beyond the nouveau novelty, including:

Lemon—61 Mold—Minnesota Frisbee Association—Gold, Metallic Blue/GreenLemon—61 Mold—Minnesota Frisbee Association—Gold, Metallic Blue/Green 1) A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N  The pursuit is pervasive in all of collecting. Dr. Mueller declares that in the unfulfilled anticipation phase of finding an object "the pleasure center burns most brightly" and is "more exciting...than possessing it." FDM Director the honorable Hubee Hughes affirms that "the most exciting thing for me is the hunt. When I know I am missing a certain HDX, IFA or WFC disc, the fun in collecting is taking time to track down that disc. Truth be told it is almost a let-down when you finally find the disc you have been looking for over the past several years."

ATPP/Wham-O—Package FrontATPP/Wham-O—Package Front ATPP/Wham-O—Package, BackATPP/Wham-O—Package, Back 2) One-off, Uber Rare, Best of the Best  The rush of finding one-of-a-kind, rarer-than-rare rarities falls into the good Dr.'s "pride in acquiring exquisite objects" motivational microcosm that "sets us apart from our peers." In the words of Tom McManus, FDM's Innova and Discraft Gallery Manager, "The most fun thing for me is being able to come across something that I know I don't have." There's really nothing quite like the thrill of finding a super swirly, one-off, pre-prototype in experimental plastic with a misprint, double stamp. But for me, when I think of the holiest of holy grails, I think of the American Trends Pluto platter in its original "Disc in Hand" wrapper with three wamo stickers and a two-color insert!

WPP6—Apricot—Des. Pat. No.WPP6—Apricot—Des. Pat. No. WPP5—Double Esker—RedWPP5—Double Esker—Red 3) Price-Value Equation  According to Dr. Mueller, "Other collectors, aside from the rareness of the piece, want to acquire it at a modest price. That is their joy and gives them pride in being so astute. It’s the possession for comparatively little money that excites them." From personal experience I can remember it like it was yesterday when I discovered the first-known Wham-O, Style 5, Double Esker Pluto Platter some 45+ years ago—it was early afternoon and I was at the Salvation Army Thrift Store just south of the University of Minnesota campus. To this day I still have dreams of discovering never-before-seen Pluto Platters! Lightnin' can strike twice, as I held the first-found Style 6 just a couple of miles from that very spot just two years later. There were four more red Style 6 WPPs found over the next 25 years in south Minneapolis. Oh yeah, the double-esker was a magnificently modest 50¢.

Stork's Childhood Flying Saucer with Racing StripesStork's Childhood Flying Saucer with Racing Stripes Stork Flying Saucer bottomStork's Flying Saucer "DR"Bottom 4) Nostalgia, History,  Legacy  Dr. Mueller also suggests that some collectors "feel a sense of history when they assemble precious items." Still others may "hope to build a legacy by passing on special objects to future generations." And for some collectors these objects reflect back on their past and "circumstances of long ago" with a sense of nostalgia. When I asked Stork which of the 20,000 discs he's owned over these oh-so-many years was his favorite, he replied, "My first Flying Saucer. Cool racing stripes and wood burned "DR." That's the true tri-frisbee-fecta answer, from the guy who has had more unique discs pass through his hands than most Frisbee aficionados will have in three (003) lifetimes, the guy who had a front row seat living the legacy of flying disc sports history, and the guy who still cherishes a disc from his childhood. Run credits.

Complete set of Midnight Flyer LidsComplete set of Midnight Flyer Lids80, 80E, 80C molds 5) Intellectual Satisfaction & Organization  The good Dr. Mueller personally identifies with collectors who are motivated by these more academic tendencies. She posits that for some "collecting provides intellectual satisfaction," and the "gathering of pieces in a specific area requires discipline, knowledge , and an eye for the unusual or particularly beautiful." Founding and Steering Committee member of the Flying Disc Museum, Kevin Fuller suggests, " you build your collection, organize and track it. Record what you have both in terms of building a database for yourself and photographs. This will be invaluable as time goes on and the collection grows. And of course, contribute to the Flying Disc Museum so that your collection is preserved forever, for all to see, and to be part of creating the biggest, most thorough catalog of discs on the planet." What he said! Kevin is a man who practices what  he preaches, and his colossal collection of Midnight Flyers is a testament to his discipline, focus and knowledge.

W R Frisbie Pie TinW R Frisbie Pie Tin Flying Disc Collector's Festival, 2021 (3rd)—DTW Fastback—YellowFlying Disc Collector's Festival, 2021 (3rd)—DTW Fastback—Yellow—Black 6) Social Networking  According to the learned Shirley Mueller, "Collectors also gather what they consider treasures to enhance their network of friends; in other words, they have a social motivation for collecting. Perhaps their love of objects came first; then, somewhere along the line, they realize there are people like themselves." Now we're on to something, like-minded people liking similar things—flying discs in all shapes, colors and sizes. If you've ever been to a flying disc collector convention, conclave or charity auction, the love language of plastic in the air is palpable. If you ever have a chance to attend a collecting festival or get-together, I highly recommend it. In the words of the first human to throw a Frisbee over 400 feet in competition, Davis Johnson, "I see collecting as an immersive, rewarding pastime of experiencing the world. The memories you bring home are as important as the collectibles you find!"


So we've barely dipped our toes into the torrential tidal wave of collecting flying discs, and there is so much more to talk about...oh well...and so it goes. I will leave you just as I started with a recent conversation I had with Stork. You see, when he responded to my survey, he added these remarks, "In closing, I will say that one of the things that I think is appealing about collecting in general is the potential for perfection. I think the same is true in restoration projects, be it automobiles or instruments or anything else. Perfection is so difficult to reach in our lives that I think there’s some satisfaction in knowing that what you have done is now complete and essentially perfect. Of course it helps if some other people admire what you’ve done and agree that it is pretty cool."

Tony the Tiger Frisbee Flyer, 1988—Kransco Mini—YellowTony the Tiger Frisbee Flyer, 1988—Kransco Mini—Yellow Pretty cool, yes. Our follow-up conversation ended with a deliriously delightful discussion of how when collectors get together they speak a language that those who aren't as well versed in collecting said flying disc or car or guitar or whatever often find esoteric and marvel at or get lost in the evolved esoterica. We came to the conclusion that it is really great fun enjoying the enjoyment of your fellow collectors who speak that common language unheard of in the "real" world. Well, friends, we've come full circle, so who better than the cowardly Mr. Lahr to chime in with an "Ain't it the truth." And of course, Tony would add, "They're great!"  And certainly the "Oh My" trio wouldn't be complete without the affable Baloo crooning a most befitting, "Forget about your worries and your strife."

Now, ain't that the truth. Something jars our senses, trips a synaptic switch in our brain and we internally shout, "Frisbees (like Frosties), they're great!" The next thing ya know, we're forgetting about our worries and our strife, speaking that oh so beautiful love language of the plastique, and somehow the lowly flying disc magically transforms from a mere toy to an object of elevated status—that's right, it becomes one of the bare necessities of life. Close your eyes, and I know you will hear Mr. Harris' booming baritone belting out Baloo's closing lyric—"the bare necessities of life will come to you." We can only hope and pray. Amen!


A T-Bird with Des Reading at the WheelA T-Bird with Des Reading at the Wheel Allentown Scientific Assoc.—Tee Bird—White—PackageAllentown Scientific Assoc.—Tee Bird—White—Package TeeBird, DX—Swoosh—White—Metallic Rainbow—PackagedTeeBird, DX—Swoosh—White—Metallic Rainbow—Packaged

So, I leave you with these simple words: Go collect whatever discs in whatever manner makes you happy—and have FUN doing it!

C. & W. Plastics Co—Flying Saucer—IT Came From Outer SpaceC. & W. Plastics Co—Flying Saucer—IT Came From Outer Space White—1 Mold—Flamed Band—Des.Pat.White—1 Mold—Flamed Band—Des.Pat. The First Master—Bottom LabelThe First Master—Serial Number 00001 Nate Sexton—2015 Tour Series—Innova Firebird—Blue Glow—Metallic RainbowNate Sexton—2015 Tour Series—Innova Firebird—Blue Glow—Metallic Rainbow

In fact, why not collect every disc or disc-related item that has the word FUN on it. Here are some sample pics from the Flying Disc Museum to get you started. Remember, it doesn't take a Master's Degree in science to have FUN, but the science of collecting is FUNdamental!

ChemToy—Boys' Fun Set—Pink—PackageBoys' Fun Set Ace Race, 2012—Discraft Mini-Star—White—SupercolorThe Most Fun...Disc Golfing WPP Package 8—Bag D (Parallel FRISBEE on Yellow Bar) + Header D ( DAIRYLEA® Red-on-Yellow)A Bargain in Fun Free Wheelin' Park—SportFlyers Mini—White—BlueFamily Fun Park Johnny Roberts—Funometer—Wham-O Mini—Glow—Silver Diffraction HologramFunometer Little Flyer Promotions—Little Flyer Spyral Mini—Yellow—Metallic RedLittle Flyer–Big Fun MFA—Revolutionary logo—Wham-O "no mold" 80—White—Metallic RedMore Than Just Fun...
Paul Thompson—Frisbee Freely—Wham-O Mini—White—Black, GoldFrisbee Freely and Have Fun Free Former Sports Products—Mousersaucer Fun Disc—RedMousersaucer Fun Disc Wright Life—Most Fun Wins—Innova Mini—Blue Glow—Metallic RainbowThe Most Fun Wins Wendy's—Fun Flyer Ring—BlueFun Flyer WPP Package 7—Bag D (Parallel FRISBEE on Yellow Bar) + Header C (Games Are Fun Red-on-Yellow)Games Are Fun "NO WORRIES"—Wham-O Mini—Mold 7—Metallic BlueHave Fun Today Xaipros—XDISC—Radiant Orange—Package BackTons of Fun

Enjoy the journey my friends—be adventurous, get out and play, try something new, challenge your mind and body. You know, all those professional neuro practitioners out there will tell you, healthy non-pharmacologic activities can directly stimulate, maintain and even re-build neuroPLASTICity in your brain. You just can't make this stuff up! Till next time then...

'BEE safe, fly well & HAVE FUN!

Lightnin' Lyle JensenLightnin' Lyle Jensen

P.S. If you get a chance, check out this blog's companion article, Collecting 101: The Fun is Fundamental, that appears in the recent PDGA DiscGolfer magazine, Winter 2022, No. 52.

P.P.S. I would like to thank the following elite collectors for their co-operation, candid conversation, and charitable contribution to the penning of Frisbees Unleash Neuroresponses: The Science of Collecting: Billie Sage Ashton, Bryan McAlees, Charlie Burke, Dan "Stork" Roddick, Davis Johnson, Joe Essman, Kevin Fuller, Marvin Paul, Mike Hughes, Phil Kennedy, Steve Lee and Tom McManus.

About the Author:
Lightnin' Lyle JensenLightnin' Lyle Jensen

Lightnin' Lyle is a creative's creative with a love of language, the arts and two-thirds of a pun, as evidenced in his gonzo style collecting posts—gleefully filled with affectation, allusion, hyperbole and collecting factoids. For over forty years, Lyle has been inking the triumphs and travails of Django Spinhardt and Dr. J as they wend their way through life as anthropomorphic flying discs in the comic strip FLIGHT LINES. Against all odds, Lightnin' surreptitiously became a founder of the MN Frisbee Association, Minnesota's first IFA-certified WCFM, an inaugural inductee of the MN Disc Sports HoF, and a Disc Golf World News "PDGA Master-of-the-20th-Century." By the grace of God and the luck of Lachesis, Lyle amassed a formidable collection of Pluto Platters after his father gave him a root beer, first style in '57. [In real life, Lyle is married to Pamela (former I.F.A. NAS tournament director), has two daughters and two grandchildren, and is the guitarist, songwriter and front man for the band GREYBEARD.]



Mark Powers(non-registered)
A cacophonous collection of convivial conclusions and alliterations altogether astounding! Thanks Lyle!
Brian Hayes(non-registered)
What a wonderful article! Thank you brother Lyle
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