A stash practically in his backyard focused his efforts. "I was just on the outskirts of Toledo, Washington, and I see this pump sitting alongside this closed-up auto shop. It had a Gilmore globe on it," he explains. As the story went, the shop was once a Gilmore station that closed when its owner decided to join the Army Corps of Engineers. What made the find especially compelling was its completeness: "Inside his shop it was just like 1943 because he'd just closed the doors and left," Alan reveals. And best of all, newfound retirement in the '70s inspired its owner-the guy who shut the shop decades before-to clean house. "I ended up getting a lot of that stuff," Alan admits. "It took several years but most of everything he had in there I ended up with."

Though inspired to collect more Gilmore, Alan admitted he still bought whatever he could find. "I kept picking up other West Coast items with the possibility that I'd have to trade something to get a Gilmore item," he notes. "It was just a lot of wheeling and dealing; I used to keep a notebook of all the collectors who had Gilmore stuff. A lot of these guys ... had only one or a handful of items. Well, for whatever reason, something would turn up and they'd want to turn part of their collection into money." In one instance a collector wanted to bankroll his granddaughter's wedding. He just happened to have a globe. As Alan instructed, "You gotta get it when you can."

And get it he has, which is why I couldn't keep my mind from drifting as the interview proceeded. I learned a few things as the experts put a finer point on the line that differentiates a collector from a mere hoarder. For one, a common theme ties a collector's stash. That's Alan. A collector also gathers objects of relative worth. Yep, that's also Alan.

It's when they specified that a collector knows exactly what he or she has, knows precisely where to find it, and willingly shows it off that I started sweating. I wring my hands at the prospect that someone may see the disheveled contents of my garage. God forbid someone like Alan stumble upon my divine mess: it's a space bigger than his yet won't accommodate more than one small car due to the randomness that stuck to me over the years.

That's when the gravity of the interview struck me. "Forget Alan," I thought to myself. "They're talking about me," or more specifically, about the way I'm not.

Needless to say, I bought the book. I know it's here ... somewhere.