Bing’s Souvenir Poker Cards

Bing is a strong Chinese woman in her late 2os, and she has been a traveller for many years. She is from Heilongjiang Province and came to UK to study in 2010 and went back to China this year. Her plan is to run a youth hostel in Harbin.

Her story with souvenirs were started by a set of poker cards she bought in the Forbidden back in the winter of 2006.

Li Bing's Forbidden City Poker Card

Bing’s first set of souvenir poker card. Themed on Forbidden City. Photo provided by Bing, 24/Nov/2015. Same below. 

“I bought this set of poker cards because each card of it has a thorough and detailed introduction of an ancient building in the Forbidden City. It is a souvenir comes with knowledge of the place I have visited – it can help me understand the place better. Also, it is quite small so easier to carry home than other souvenirs. Not so likely to be broken and it is easier to keep.” Bing said.

After nine years of collection, Bing’s poker cards have reached a certain number. Most of them were bought at the site of interest, but some of them came from some special shops which only sell cards.

“I don’t might where the cards are produced. It would not affect my opinion and feelings towards them.” Bing said, “I’ve never used them as normal playing cards, they are my precious souvenirs. I store them in a safe place and take them out to have a look when I remember them or when I am in the mood.”

Li Bing's Poker Cards

Bing’s collection of souvenir poker cards.


Beside souvenirs, Bing also collects cards in other ways, like in instant noodles (in some certain era, some brands of instant noodles would put cards in the package for customers to collect. Those cards might come from pop TV dramas, novel illustrations…e.g. Pearl Princess, see below).

Cards of Pearl Princess

Bing’s card collection of TV drama, Pearl Princess. 

After collecting cards, Bing is interested in  collecting other souvenirs. When she travels to a new place, she would buy a set of poker cards, a fridge magnet and send herself a postcard.

It is possible that one of them is missing or she forgets to buy one of them, but she would not buy place souvenirs online. “Missing is missing, I accepted it as part of the place experience. I understand some people buy collections online because they want to have a ‘completed’ collection. But for me, I only want to keep the ones I take home from the places I have been to. Even I forgot to buy, I would not look for them online. It means different.”

Bing started collecting fridge magnet only 1 year ago, so “my collection is not many”, she said.

Li Bing's Fridge Magnet

Bing’s fridge magnets collection. 

Li Bing‘s postcards 2

Bing’s post cards collection, the text side.

Li Bing‘s postcards

Bing’s post cards collection, the pictorial side. 

Bing’s plan is to run a Youth Space – her own youth hostel – in Harbin next year, and she would display all her souvenir collections in the Youth Space.

Best wishes to Bing and I would update here when her Youth Space is open and continue following her souvenirs’ life.

The biography of a souvenir, a biography of a person: Victoria’s blanket with badges

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

The blanket

Souvenirs collecting is a time-consuming hobby. Among all the souvenirs for collecting, badges are unique. It is not in the condition of display or storage – it is designed to be sewed on other things, it is a souvenir to be dealt with, requires extra action before the final touch. Several steps would be gone through for collecting badges as souvenirs. First is to find it and bring it back home from a trip, secondly to sew it on other material, and finally is the storage and displaying of the piece of material with the badge on. Given all these efforts, I know I am going to see a piece of art work today.

Victoria is a female PhD student lives in London now, and she started collecting badges when she was younger. The souvenir she is presenting to me, is a deep blue blanket with lots badges with different colours sewed on the surface. The deep blue blanket is nearly fully covered by badges with bright colour and the visual impact is massive.

Victoria started to give me an introduction of her blanket with badges.

“This is a camp blanket. When I was younger, I was in the Guides and Scout. One of the things they do, is when they go camping, they have a particular blanket they take to keep them warm near the camp fire. So this is a camp blanket made by the Guides. So somewhere……”

Victoria started looking for something on the blanket.

“Ah, here we go”, she find a logo whose colour has faded away in a corner of the blanket then she continues to tell the story how she got her blanket. “You can’t see it very well anymore, but there is the Guide’s logo. So this is like an official Guide in UK camp blanket. And that was the name of my guiding group when I was younger.” She pointed to another faded logo.

“I bought this blanket when I was about 10. First of all I only put my guide badges on there. This corner is my Guide’s badges.”

“Then I have also got a corner sewed on my old Branny badges. So when you are in the Branny, you have material satchel, which is part of your uniform, and you sew your name badges on to that. When I finished with the Branny, I took all my badges off my satchel and when I got my Guide’s blanket, I put them on here

“When I was 13, I got bored of Guides and moved to Scout. So in this corner, I got the badges came from my Scout career. “

My eye got caught by a piece of material sewed on the blanket which is not a badge. Victoria saw my eyes and started explain. “This is a piece of material from a theme camp we once had. It was a cow-boy and Indian theme, and this is my Indian head dress. So when I finish with it I sewed it on my blanket because I thought that was a nice reminder.”

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

The collecting of badges

Victoria moved to another corner. “My non-scouting and guiding souvenirs started in this corner. Obviously you know I didn’t stick with Scouting and Guiding, but I did stick on collecting badges. So they start taking off the whole blanket now.” Victoria seemed pleased with her achievement and spoke with pride and smile. “I don’t have a whole lot of space left you can see that is all I’ve got left. Whenever I travel, I try to find myself a badge and I’ve got pretty good at knowing the kind of places in souvenir shops they store them.”

But it is not always as easy as that. “I went to Spain on an undergraduate fieldtrip and I just couldn’t find one. When I went to Bristol recently, I was able to get one for XXXX AASS Britain which is a particular toy attraction. I went to have a look around but I couldn’t find one for Bristol generally. In some places you just can’t get them. But I will look when I travel, and keep looking in all the souvenir shops until I find one.”

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

Badges as presents and non-place-related badges – Representing Relations

Some of the badges are given to Victoria as presents. When her friends went on holiday, they bought badges as presents and brought them back for Victoria. “I don’t know how I feel about it,” Victoria comments, “sometimes I like the idea sometimes I don’t, because it feels like I am cheating a bit since I haven’t been to the places.”

When asked to show me one badge given to her as present, Victoria chose one without hesitate. “There is one from Florida, from the Everglades in Florida. It was a present from my ex-boyfriend. I myself have never been to Florida.” According to Victoria, what this badge reminds her is her ex-boyfriend, instead of Florida the place.

Victoria showed me another badge. “This one, the Grand Canyon. I have been to the Grand Canyon, but that was bought for me by somebody else in a different occasion. I feel better about that one because I have been to the place, but it is still different. ”

Also as we moving on, I noticed there are some badges which are not related to places. There is one saying “Staying in the house, Carl” is referring to the Walking Dead Zombie show. Victoria got it as a Christmas present, as well as the angry birds one. These souvenirs do not indicate a place (neither have a picture of a place not have a name of a place on it) and are not place-specific (do not remind Victoria of a place). But some of her souvenirs do not indicate a place but are place-specific souvenirs. “For example this Hello Kitty, I bought it I Camden Market. It reminds me of Camden Market although it does not its name or picture on it. For me, it is a souvenir of a place.”

Victoria’s badge collection started souvenirs for events (Scouting etc.), expanded to travelling souvenirs, took off with place souvenirs, and now is an ongoing project of collecting relations.

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

Badges’ before-life and after-life

Before being sewed on the blanket, Victoria’s badges are stored in her sewing box, a very good place to indicate their fate to be sewed on the blanket. And some of them will end up in her sewing box. “I have a compartment here,” Victoria lifted the upper compartment and the lower one revealed itself. “These are the badges I’ve got to sew on. They are on my waiting list. I also got some old badges here. Like this one, I have more than one of these. And I have got some buttons here as well. Sometimes I have a big gap on the blanket I will sew some buttons on, because they are pretty, haha.” Space for souvenirs is not just for souvenirs. “Oh but these buttons I got them when I went to Banbury on holiday last year, oh, now is the year before last year. Again they don’t have place name on it but they remind me of that holiday, in Banbury somewhere in Oxfordshire.” In the button’s case, souvenirs and non-souvenirs are sharing one space: the lower compartment of Victoria’s sewing box.

Collecting badges and sewing them on her blanket needs time. When she was an undergraduate and a master student, it was hard to sew the badges on, according to Victoria. “Because I need a big flat area like this to lay the blanket out on it, and then sew on my badges. I didn’t have a space like that in halls. When I was in university, I got a little bit behind on my badges……oh…. I have got a huge tangle here.” Victoria was sewing on a badge while we having the interview. While she is untangling the thread, she continued, “When I move to London, I have a chance to catch up.”

This makes me rethink about doing an interview while my interviewee shows me how they deal with their souvenirs. They are easily cast away into memories the souvenirs intrigue. My methods needs to be improved.

When asked about what she is going to do when the whole blanket is full, which is not far away from now, Victoria hesitated a little bit. “Well, that is a good question. I have to decide what I am going to do. Hmm. I won’t stop collecting, obviously. I think what I am going to do is, get another blanket, I will try to get one of the same size, ideally. So when both of them are full, I can sew them together, and have it double-sided.”

Victoria's sewing box

Victoria’s sewing box

Authenticity of the badges

This project is interested in the authenticity of souvenirs. When asked about the making site of her souvenir badges, Victoria seems paying less attention to their authenticity. “Actually I don’t know… I would guess they are not produced locally, but I am OK with it. For me, the fact that they represent the place and they remind me of it is what is important. So they help me remember it. That is what matters for me. So it doesn’t matter where it comes from because it has got you know a picture or the name of the place.”

Further more, we talked about other souvenirs on their authenticity. I asked about Victoria’s opinion on badges of Finland, France etc. being sold in the souvenir shop Great Britannia in Piccadilly Circus, she said “I think it is a little bit odd, if I am honest. But I have seen it quite often. We can buy badges for other countries in souvenir shops in London, and we can buy badges for London in Brighton and Oxford… Personally I would not buy them myself.” But in other situation, Victoria is more open about it. When she couldn’t find a badge in the place she travelled to, but see one in the souvenir shop in London, “yes I will buy it. But not if I have not been to the place.”

Links of Souvenir Object Analysis Form

Data collection is a ongoing process: I am interested in your souvenir collections even the even the project’s fieldwork is finished. Share your story with your souvenir with me by filling in the souvenir survey forms.

I hold a free account on Survey Monkey which means limited questions are allowed ( 10 questions this time), so the form is stretched into two parts.

The two links of souvenir survey forms:

Part 1.

Part 2.

The Isle of Wight Souvenirs

Joined a outdoor group Maji Hiking to Isle of Wight (4 miles from the south coast of England) in August. This was my first hiking and camping trip ever!  We spent 3 days hiking on the island and slept in tents at night. It was an amazing trip: the wild landscape, the beautiful scenery, the calming seaside, the astonishing sunset, the challenging hiking and new-to-me camping were imprinted in my memory since then. I wrapped all the experience and beauty of Isle of Wight home with me by installing them into souvenirs.

The paper souvenirs of Isle of Wight

The paper souvenirs of Isle of Wight

I have an free Isle of Wight  Attraction Map taken from a bus stand in Ryde, where we got off the boat from Southampton. This map gave us a general idea of the island and the hiking route we were going to take in the following days. I remember when the hiking leader showed me the hiking route on this map, I took a very deep breath!

We took a bus from Ryde to Newport, and on the bus I got a free Isle of Wight Activity Pack, which has a thoroughly introduction to Isle of Wight, from history to geography, from economy to tourism, from activity to birds found on the island.

After arriving Newport, we got some food and drinks and started walking towards our camping site in the southwest.  We passed the Carisbrook Castle, and arrived at Freshwater camping site. The first tent made by us (below, left):

Camping on Isle of Wight

Camping on Isle of Wight

Sunset on Isle of Wight

Sunset on Isle of Wight

Finished making our temporary home, we went to the Needles to admire sunset (above, right) and then walked back to camping site in darkness…….    I was afraid we might get lost in the darkness, but it still fell safe with so many hikers around. We arrived at camping site at 9.10 pm.  After taking a shower, I fell asleep immediately,  too tired to join the star watching which was happening outside the tent.  T.T

The next day, waking up at 7, can’t feel my eyes and my legs…     After breakfast, we walked to Alum Bay to see the Needles from east side (yesterday we were above the Needles on the chalky soils) and enjoyed the rocky seaside (a friend took one rock with him as souvenir).  Had a great time in the Needles Park and got a souvenir: the Isle of Wight fridge magnet mug in the Needles gift shop.

 Isle of Wight map fridge magnet mug

Isle of Wight map fridge magnet mug

After lunch we took bus ride (can’t remember how long it was but pretty sure it was very long!) to Feeth Bay in the southeast, and then started walking again. It was 1 o’clock. Half an hour later, we arrived at St Catherine’s Lighthouse, which was hiding in some woods near seaside. I got my their souvenir here: the St Catherine’s Lighthouse compass.   Had an interesting conversation with the shop keeper from  St Catherine’s Lighthouse gift shop.

Me: Oh, they are nice postcards.

Shopkeeper: Indeed!  Very beautiful.

Me (looking at the compass): You have compass here!  Were looking for one.

Shopkeeper: Yes we do, there are many hikers here and they like outdoor products as souvenirs. And they are not expensive. Just one pound.

Me: Right, of course.

Shopkeeper:  Where are you from?

Me: China.

Shopkeeper: Ha, then it probably will go back to China with you.

Me: Is it made in China? It has got the name St Catherine’s Lighthouse printed on its back.

Shopkeeper: Yes it is, and what else isn’t?  You know China have produced most of the products for the world. But this is a very good compass. It is oil filled which makes it move freely.

Me: And it has the place’s name. Ok, I will take it.

Then I paid one pound for this compass:

St Catherine's lighthouse Compass

St Catherine’s lighthouse Compass

St Catherine's lighthouse Compass

St Catherine’s lighthouse Compass

we spent 10 hours on the way and arrived at camping site at 11 pm.  10 hours walking and sightseeing, I fell in love with this beautiful, lovely little island. At 8 pm, after 7 hours of walking, we were hungry and nearly gave up. The idea of catching a bus or calling a taxi came up and then finally killed by our spirits.  23-25 August on the island was a great time.  I have the magnet mug stick on the fridge in our flat among with other magnets from other places.

One month passed, whenever I looked at these souvenirs, I remember the great times on Isle of Wight and want to go hiking again!

Came across an intersting video, focusing on the family bussniness of making Staute of Liberty figurines in Queens factory, NYC. Here is the link.

These Lady Liberty Figurines Are the Only NYC Souvenirs Still Made in NYC

In this ‘era of mass-produced’, we are facing a paradox. On the one hand is the convenience the machine-made products offer us, on the other hand is the call for authenticity, the post-Fordism / hand-made ideology.

Staute of Liberty fingurines line up in Queens factory ©Rebecca

Staute of Liberty fingurines line up in Queens factory ©Rebecca


On Chinese people buying London souvenirs which are actually made in China

Been thinking about saving money recently, and got a post box money box in a gift shop / souvenir shop after the Landscape Surgery today.


It is a lovely money box, representing part of my life in London: saving money and will get the money ‘posted’ to somewhere when I need them.  This thought looks cool, right? 🙂

I wanted a money box, as well as a souvenir from London, so I bought it in the central London, in the gift shop at the corner where Tottenham Court Road meets Oxford Street.  But  I found this at the bottom of the money box:


It is ‘made in China’.

It is unavoidable that many crafts are made in China and transported to London, and many of these crafts are sold in the souvenir shops.  So what do you think of Chinese people buying London souvenirs which are actually made in China? Is it as stupid as it sounds like?

First of all, it needs to be defined what is a ‘souvenir’, and why people want to buy it.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a souvenir is ‘a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event’ (, accessed 28/11/2013).

(To be continued…)

Five kinds of unusual London Souvenirs

1. Tourist Bus Teapot / Telephone Box Teapot

A city’s tourist souvenirs are representations for the city. There are some interesting souvenirs for London. These souvenirs can be practically useful, by making them into our daily things, e.g. the Tourist Bus Teapot or the Telephone Box Teapot. They appear as things we can use in our everyday life, but how many tourists will use their ‘precious’ (mentally and literally – some souvenirs can be very expensive as well)  teapots to make tea is a thing I am not sure about.



2. The Scent of Departure Eau de Toilette LHR

Souvenirs from airports/ big stations (mainly non-places) is a unique area to explore in Souvenir Geographies and Cultural Geographies.

Perfumes as souvenirs mix the sense and the scent of the place/or situation (although the ‘scent’ of a place is a imaged one – we don’t know the scent of an airport, do we?)


3. Wills and Kate ashtray

Well, I will interpret this as a ‘cultural’ souvenir. We don’t have a Royal Family in my country, so it is new and something can be picked up as a unique element if I were travelling to London.


4. Tube map ladies’ thong

Tourists are looking for unique elements to take away home, but sometimes these unique elements are combined with more unique basement/material/foundation/holder…….


Some times these more unique basement/material/foundation/holder can be out of control………

5. Crown Jewels condoms…




Picture Source: Google image.