It all started on the school bus.
That’s when then 13-year-old Ryan DeVries acquired his first business card.
“There was a kid with about 40 or 50 business cards; he was going to throw them out, but asked if anyone was collecting them,” said the Nova Chemicals employee. “I said, ‘I’ll take them.’”
Fast forward 30 years later and DeVries now boasts one of the world’s largest collections of business cards – nearly half-a-million and counting.
“I just started asking around, and sorting them into piles,” DeVries said of his early collecting years.
At 16, he even designed and printed his own business card – for collecting business cards — that he’d hand out to friends and family.
But the dawn of the Internet opened the floodgates for this local hobbyist, who joined fellow business card enthusiasts from across the globe seeking and exchanging highly sought-after cards.
“Some people only collect certain types of specialty cards, so I‘ll go through mine and send what they need,” said DeVries, who belongs to a number of groups, including the International Business Card Club, and the Tennessee Business Card Club. “And I have people all over the world looking for cards for me.”
At his Sarnia home, some 500 binders house DeVries’ collection of 300,000 cards. Another 200,000 cards are in boxes waiting to be sorted.
“I have a photographic memory; someone could hand me a card and I’ll know if I already have it or not,” he said, adding that he’s even able to pinpoint which binder it’s in.
Specialty cards – particularly sports related – are his favourite, DeVries said, pointing to business cards from Cal Ripken Jr., Darryl Sittler and Evander Holyfield.
“I chased down (Chicago Cubs president) Theo Epstein for about eight years, and he finally sent it last year,” DeVries said.
Another favourite is his collection of tattoo business cards – some 2,000 from around the world – because of their eye-catching artistic designs.
But DeVries said he isn’t looking to break any world records.
“I’m a hobbyist, and I just really enjoy this,” he said. “Thirty years later, it’s still interesting to me.”