I don’t think of myself as a pack rat. But somehow I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. My desk drawers and file cabinet, and even some closets at my house contain a curious assortment of promotional giveaway items and swag I’ve received at the countless optical industry meetings and events I’ve attended over the years. I’ve actually gotten rid of a lot of it while preparing for an office move last year. My brass Orcolite coaster went into the trash. (Remember their polycarbonate lenses?) So did my SOLA Smart Seg T-shirt, along with my collection of VM Top Labs pins.                                                                                                             
However, I confess there’s some stuff I can’t seem to part with. Like this Pentax letter opener I got in 1991. (I haven’t gotten a letter in eight years, but you never know.) It’s part of my “Office Collection,” pictured here along with a Transitions pen, a CooperVision clariti notebook (both loaned to me by my VM colleague, Mark Tosh) and a true collector’s item—a Hoya calculator that advertises 1.71-index lenses, which Hoya doesn’t even make anymore.

There’s more. Feast your eyes on this handsome “Mugshot.” Note the two Vision Monday mugs, left and center, both rare and out of production, alongside the Essilor hot and cold drink container.

These types of items can be obtained by anyone who attends a meeting or event where they’re being handed out. But optical journalists sometimes get special promotional items intended only for us. Take these three nifty items, for example: a Ray-Ban sunglass lens-keyring, a cute plastic eyeglass from Essilor and a miniature typewriter from Persol. Upon closer inspection, though, they are really flash drives containing press kits. Clever, fun and practical.

Some of the most creative items the VM team has ever gotten were gifted to us by Shamir, who sent a “Writer’s Block” with inspirational writing snippets from famous authors, a “Writer’s Remedy,” word game in a pill bottle (both borrowed from Marge Axelrad), and, best of all, a Shakespeare finger puppet which I wear when I’m stuck for ideas. (It works!)

I suppose we keep these things because they constitute a record of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. They’re souvenirs from the journeys we’ve taken throughout our careers. The longer the career, the more souvenirs we collect.

What’s the best optical swag or freebie you’ve ever gotten? We’d love to see it and share it with other VM readers. If you email a photo of you and your favorite swag to me at akarp@jobson.com, we’ll post it on Facebook and Twitter. Please include a brief description of the item and where and when you got it. Show us your swag!