Meet real-life Mr Bean

WHEN Robin Sharp cleared out his larder more than 20 years ago, it set in motion a chain of events leading him to having one of the world's wackiest collections - baked bean labels.

Laurence Cawley

WHEN Robin Sharp cleared out his larder more than 20 years ago, it set in motion a chain of events leading him to having one of the world's wackiest collections - baked bean labels.

The 55-year-old, of Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds, realised he had inadvertently amassed a lot of baked bean tins and thought the different labels looked “quite attractive”.

A quarter of a century later and the father-of-two - now also known as “Mr Bean” - has about 350 bean tin labels from countries as far away as New Zealand, Australia, the United States and South Africa.

And his collection has netted him �500 in a competition run by the insurance firm Norwich Union to find the nation's quirkiest collections.

Asked whether he has a favourite label, Mr Sharp, a former lifeboat man with the RNLI, said: “I think I quite like an HP Beans label they brought out in the late 1980s or early 1990s. It was a Dennis the Menace series to tie in with the Beano. It was nice and colourful and when you took the label off there was a cartoon strip on the reverse.

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“I've got a few from different parts of the world and about 40 Heinz Baked Beans labels in foreign languages. If I'm in a foreign country on a family holiday I will pop to the shops to have a look. I recently got a can of beans in Bury where the label was in Polish.”

Explaining his interest in bean labels, Mr Sharp said: “Most households have a tin of beans; they are so every day that you don't necessarily realise the labels on them are often different.”

When he originally started his collection, he expected to use them for a collage akin to Andy Warhol's work using Campbell's soup.

But the collection has just grown and grown and he now has 354 labels.

Mr Sharp, who now works as a house husband looking after his two daughters aged three and one, said his wife Louise was generally accepting of his unusual hobby.

“She just sort of sighs,” he said. “But the collection doesn't take up a lot of time or space.

“I do quite like beans. I don't eat them for every meal or anything like that, but I will eat them a couple of times a week.”

Mr Sharp has no idea what his collection might be worth and he said he only knew of one other person who collected them.

That person got in touch after Mr Sharp, who has worked for both Save the Children and the East Anglian Childrens Hospices, had a letter published talking about his collection.

A man - who referred to himself only as Mr Beanhead - responded from Hull and covered his letter with lots of bean labels.

“For me this is just a bit of fun,” said Mr Sharp. “I avoided doing anything to invite more letters from him.”