Aussie Stories, 2011
It all started in a shopping complex, before I was a teenager. I was looking through a rubbish bin to pass the time with two of my cousins - who probably don’t want to be named at this point. We were bored and decided to look for winning scratch-off lottery tickets in the rubbish bin (did I mention we were bored?). After scrounging tens of tickets, we found a winner! Fortunately, at this time one cent coins were still in circulation in Australia, so I could faithfully pay out 66 cents to each cousin after cashing in the ticket.
I kept a set of the different losing tickets we found that day as a memento and a few weeks later my cousins gave me a different ticket they’d found on another outing. It’s about now a light turned on in my head. I’m not sure how bright you’d say this light was, but I got the idea of collecting these tickets in the same manner people collect stamps.
This seemed like a reasonable item to collect. I mean, others collect pieces of paper that have been bought and licked, so why not collect pieces of paper that have been bought and scratched. (Historical note for kids: you had to lick stamps in those days to make them stick to an envelope - which is what you once had to send text messages in.)
The big benefit of collecting scratchies over lickies, is that you have the hope of winning some money, and at the same time avoid any diseases spread by saliva.
Very soon after this collectable decision, I found a thrown away ticket that had not been completely scratched. I was excited at the prospect of being able to play for the $100,000 at no cost. I’d never held a ticket with any unscratched area before as I was too young to legally buy a scratchie, and my church had informed me about gambling being an unproductive past-time. To put it simply, lotteries take advantage of people who are bad at maths.
Anyhow, I scratched this ticket, heart thumping, dreaming of how many lollipops I could buy for $100,000. And wouldn’t you know it - nothing.
WOW! I now knew I was really onto something. While I knew I could find a winner on a ticket that had been fully scratched, I now also knew there are tickets out there that are unscratched. All I needed to do was find as many tickets as possible, at no cost, and I would not only end up with an impressive collection, but have the hope of finding winning tickets too.
After about a decade, and more than 20,000 scrounged tickets later, I stopped collecting as it was taking up too much of my time to check and catalogue all the tickets. I did find tens of winners, as I’d hoped for, but nothing over $25 on a single ticket.
What I did win, from having one of the largest losing ticket collections in the country, is recognition as being one of Australia’s biggest losers.
Other lotologists around the word (yes, that’s our official name) actually collect mint tickets. No, not scratch-and-sniff mint flavoured tickets, these are tickets that are bought and never scratched. They do it with the hope that they will be worth more in the future unscratched than what they would have won after scratching them, due to the low odds of winning. They’re probably right, but only their grandchildren will truly know when they scratch all the tickets as they lay them to rest with their grandad in a six-foot deep storage facility.
I recently heard that some of these lotologists now have more than a million scratchies. So I guess I’m not as big a loser as I thought I was. One thing I am glad of, is that I didn’t take up collecting lollipop sticks. I could have been Australia’s biggest sucker!