June 24, 2024
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Binghamton anthropologist has friends in small spaces

Michael Little, distinguished professor emeritus of anthropology, is newly retired after 47 years of teaching at Binghamton University. He has drastically downsized his book collection, moving those he can’t part with to a smaller office that he shares with an archeologist. On this day, he’s also sharing space with Pinocchio, Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, Figaro, Honest John the Fox, Lampwick and other characters from the 1940 film, Pinocchio. On a shelf sits a small, ceramic Pogo Possum; above his head hangs a Pogo mobile.

Like many collections, Little’s gang of Pinocchio characters is rooted in nostalgia but has flourished in the age of eBay.

“I had three figures — Pinocchio, Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket — that I got when I was a child, and I played with them a lot. They had been broken many times; they usually break right around the feet, and sometimes the head comes off,” he says. Glue was holding them together.

Little turned to eBay to find replacements for the three figures. Then he realized there were other characters in the series. Little distinguishes “collecting mania” — buying everything in a category — from “completion mania” — assembling an entire set. He believes he now has each of the Pinocchio characters, but keeps his eye out for the rare surprise.

Pogo, the naïve-but-wise title character of Walt Kelly’s famous comic strip, is a favorite of Little’s.

“I didn’t discover Pogo until I was in my teens and didn’t start collecting until I was in my 50s,” he says.

That collection includes some original Pogo cartoon panels, plus some original panels of Alley Oop and Gordo (his father’s favorite).

“Now my study is filled with cartoon art,” he says.

The intrinsic value of Little’s Pinocchio collection is mostly in the joy it brings him. “If I hadn’t been an adult with a reasonably paying job, I wouldn’t have been able to buy these,” he says. “I thought it might be worth something, but it isn’t a financial investment.”

Original cartoon art does have value, Little says, and in his house it also has influence:

His son, Jason Little, is a cartoonist and teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.​

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