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Collection of skulls and tattoos peaks interest of public

Geno Olmstead has become a collector of all things interesting such as tattoos, skulls and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

For the past 13 years, Geno Olmstead of Kelliher has been a collector. Not an ordinary collector of common items, he collects something more interesting.

What could possibly be more interesting to collect than plates or coffee mugs or cookie jars? Not what you might think when you think of collecting. You see, Olmstead collects skulls. And tattoos. And one could possibly say he also collects Harley Davidsons.

What appeals to him about skulls?

"Death," he said. "Nothing wrong with death. It's coming someday," he said with a laugh.

Olmstead said he was not into Goth and stuff like that. "It's something to collect," he said.

He said he had gotten his first skull from Lenny Jensen. "I figured I would just start collecting them like some people collect stamps, coins, alligators or chickens. Done a pretty good job so far. I find them on eBay or any place. Mostly all the skulls I have are brand new. I usually purchase everything new."

He has no goal as to how many he wants to collect. He said he just keeps adding to the ones he already has.

"I keep arranging them in spots where they look good," he explained. "Now I am looking for a human skull! Anybody out there got one for me? They are legal," he said with a laugh.

Olmstead said he had ordered one but the post office wouldn't deliver it so he got his money back.

"You can get real human skulls on eBay," he said. "Full teeth and all that. The better the teeth, the more they are worth. A good one is about $1,000. I was going to get a Victorian skull that was about 275 years old. They couldn't sell it to me so they refunded me my money.

Olmstead said he also collects animal skulls but I doesn't clean them himself. "I just buy them that way," he said. "I got more to go. Pretty soon they will be hanging from the ceiling!"

He said people say "WOW" or think it's either morbid or more cool than anything. There are even skulls are on his guitars.

"I got about 10 of them. I collect the guitars with skulls on them. I bought a $1,000 guitar and it will never lose its price."

You could say he also has a tattoo collection. "I just have to get my sides filled up and my belly and then I am done," he laughed. "I got started on that about 10 years or so ago. About the same time I started collecting skulls, I started getting tattoos and they just started multiplying like the skulls!"

All of Olmstead's tattoos are skulls except for one dragon and that one, "Well, I wasn't thinking when I had it done," he said. "I got a lot of my tattoos from Black Cat Tattoos on Minnesota Ave. in Bemidji next to Dewey Furniture. You can't miss it!"

Whenever he gets a new tattoo, he said it feels irritable but "once you start on your chest, it starts to hurt then when you get them on your belly, it starts to hurt more," he explained. "And the ones you get on your ribs -- it's almost unbearable. I don't have any on my ribs yet but it's coming. You just got to grit your teeth and smile. It's not that bad. It's just the person I guess."

He said his stepfather says it looks like he has been in prison but these are not prison tattoos, according to Olmstead.

"You can tell," he said. "Prison tattoos are mainly black or green ink and they do some nice work sometimes if they are a tattoo artist but you don't always get one who is."

When thinking about why and how he became a collector of these two things, he said that "sometimes you just like to have something that nobody else has or more of it as the reason why people collect things."

He said that if he knew anyone else who collected skulls, he would be trading with them or trying to buy them.

"I just got a new skull on my birthday from the Kelliher Liquor Store." he said. " Tom and the other bartenders bought it for me for my 52nd birthday. That one had vodka in it. I don't think they sell it there, I think they bought it somewhere else. They might have it there though. It's $50 a bottle."

Another of his collections are his Harley Davidson motorcycles or, as he explained, he likes anything "biker."

"I got four Harleys myself," he said. "I used to have seven. I keep them in storage. I do a little bit of the mechanical work on them but my friends help me. Motorcycles are easy to work on."

Olmstead said he puts on about 7,000 miles a year riding. "But that's on four different bikes."

He even has skull license plates on everything. "I have had fun collecting skulls and pretty soon I am gonna run out of room."

He explained that collecting these items keeps him out of trouble.

"You never know what you are getting into so I just stay home and out of trouble and mind my own business and just be nice to everybody. Respect is what it's called. And I enjoy my collection."

In the winter months, when he doesn't work, Olmstead said he just sits around on the computer.

"I do Facebook all day," he said. "That's where the rest of my friends are."

Olmstead is just one of the interesting area residents who are a part of the ongoing photo project of Rose Heim and her daughter, Gretchen.

Olmstead's photo will be unveiled April 10 at 10 a.m. at the VFW breakfast at the Community Center in Kelliher.