J.D. Crowe, a man that knows something about flash once stated, "Flash is the stainless steel of the tattoo business". This would be a hard point to argue, seeing the current interest in tattoo flash from collectors both inside and outside the tattoo business.
Of all the collectibles in our business, such as machines, business cards, catalogs, and personal correspondence, to name but a few, flash has the biggest appeal to the outsider.
A few years ago when I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin visiting the Dean Jensen Gallery, I was invited to view a collection of flash that had been assembled by a CEO of a local company. This collector was neither tattooed nor had any real connection to the tattoo world, other than his appreciation of tattoo flash as an art form unto itself. In the sitting room of his condominium overlooking Lake Michigan, he had displayed one of the finest-looking collections of flash I have ever seen. Beautifully framed and mounted, these antique sheets were hung with great care in a well lighted room.
As one sheet was signed on the back, the frame had been designed to show the signature when flipped over. It would be safe to say these sheets of flash had never see such care. In their past life, they had spent years hanging in smoky tattoo shops, and some of them had thumb tack holes on the corners where tacks were pushed thru them into walls.
Many people would say collectors like this are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Certainly the folk art collector has elevated the price of flash out of sight for many would-be collectors. But you do have to admire the care given these items. Often these collectors seem to have more respect for our artifacts than we do. How many times have we seen people in our community with a collection of flash piled in cardboard boxes in the back of the shop? There is something we can learn here!
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