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The Lotto King of Beaufort
6/18/2012 10:07:58 AM

COLUMBIA, SC (June 18, 2012) – Henry Martin is a collector. He collects a lot of things, but is particularly proud of his used lottery tickets.

The fun colors, themes, and even the memories behind the tickets attracted him to the hobby, and the retired Beaufort resident is hardly alone. Though Martin is not a member, the Global Lottery Collectors Society has about 200 followers passionate about buying, trading, and, yes, even scavenging for old lottery tickets.

Martin, 58, admits he’s cut back on trips to the local Pantry stores, prime spots for collecting previously-played tickets, and the Oxford BP to sit and scratch a few tickets over a hot dog. Martin misses playing, but has given it up for a little while to save money for a cruise his family is taking this summer.

He still likes to reminisce about the Lottery, and Martin knows his stuff. He’s been collecting since the Lottery started and has some of the first tickets issued in South Carolina.

In today’s market these tickets are worth little more than the paper they’re printed on, a quarter at best. Martin is hopeful one day that will change. Perhaps a hidden gem exists in his collection that at its height was thousands of tickets strong. He’s been thinning out his stock since tickets started over taking a room at home and the space behind the seat of his truck.

He held onto a few nostalgic ones, like the centerpiece of his collection, two $500 winning tickets he feels are special since they were bought from the same roll of tickets. He’s going to frame those two. Others he’s planning to use to create a shrine to the “Lotto King of Beaufort.”

Martin’s collection is small potatoes in comparison to guys like Steven Gilbert, the Vice President of the Global Lottery Collectors Society. He has amassed over 50,000 lottery tickets in his Philadelphia, PA, home.

In Woodstock, GA, outside of Atlanta, Stephen Tuday has tens of thousands of old tickets. He is the Lottery Collectors Society ticket “complier” for South Carolina, since the state lacks representation. Tuday travels here to buy tickets for himself and others.

“I will be forever chasing tickets to get them all,” Tuday said.

Presently, 43 states along with Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have lotteries, as do countless countries around the world.

The South Carolina Education Lottery alone issues about 65 new instant games a year.

Martin’s not after every ticket like these self-proclaimed “lotologists.” He doesn’t have that kind of time. He puts God first and is active in his church where he helps out with sports programs and teaches. His family is a top priority, and when his wife asked him to cut back on playing the Lottery for a while, he did. He plays for fun.

Martin started collecting tickets when his accountant suggested he save losing tickets to offset his winnings. When it came time to throw the tickets out, Martin had second thoughts.

“I’m a collector of much and get rid of little,” Martin admitted.

Besides lottery tickets, he also collects Coke bottle caps to enter in contests online.

His wife is supportive to a point.

“She doesn’t care about me saving the tickets, it’s more of the buying that upsets her,” he said.

Martin’s found a way to keep the peace. Instead of purchasing tickets, he takes abandoned tickets and enters them into the Lottery’s second-chance drawings.

“I get the excitement of playing without having to buy,” he said, figuring he’s won about $450 doing this. He’s even found a few $25 or so winning tickets amid those he’s rescued from the garbage, no big bucks to speak of.

The most he’s ever won playing the Lottery has been $500, but he’s hit that figure a few times. He’s paid off bills and even taken a cruise to the Bahamas financed with lottery winnings.

Unlike some collectors that prefer their tickets pristine, Martin thinks it foolish to buy and not play. South Carolina’s most expensive scratch-off is $10, in Texas you are looking at upwards of $50 for a single ticket.

“I’m not one to save an unscratched ticket, because it would be my luck it would be a $1 million winner,” he said.

Tuday feels differently. He has a mint ticket of every Georgia lottery game introduced. His prize possession, a Georgia ticket that went on sale a couple of days before it was pulled due to an error. He also has a 99 cent ticket from Iowa that you scratch with the penny in change, worthless to a non-scratcher like Tuday.

Last year, an elderly man in North Carolina auctioned his mint lottery ticket collection. The face value was a little over $90,000, and he was asking $51,000. With no offers, he’s selling it off one ticket at a time.

“The trend with collecting in general is down,” said Tuday, who also prizes porcelain license plates.

“My dad belonged to a beer can collectors club. Now most of the people that collect are older. Younger people are into gadgets and not collecting things. I hate to say it, but I’m one of the youngest out there and I’m 42,” said Tuday.

From time to time, the South Carolina Education Lottery receives letters and emails from ticket collectors from as far away as France, requesting sample tickets for their collections. As trends go, interest may be light now, but true collectors have no problem waiting for the upswing.

“I collect because it is something to do, doesn’t hurt anyone, and it is entertaining,” Martin said. “There’s value in that.”

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