County collecting is keeping track of the counties and other major census divisions one has visited in the United States. Many county collectors try to go for blackout, to visit every county unit in the United States. Others try to black out individual states, and others are only interested in keeping track of the counties they have visited without blacking out any states.
County collecting is a way for people to relate to geography and their own life histories. One journalist characterized it as "a very organized form of wanderlust." Many county collectors became interested in the pursuit after being given a school assignment to plot their travels on a county-outline map of the United States. Many county collectors document their travels by being photographed with a county sign marker, or by taking a photo of the sign itself. Some document these travels with gas and other receipts. However, the web sites and organized groups that facilitate county collecting do not require a participant to prove his or her entry into a particular county.
The Extra Miler Club (EMC) was founded in 1973 by three county completionists who came up with the idea because they had been collecting license plates and noticed in their discussion how many rural counties they had all visited in that pursuit. The club is a non-profit organization that meets annually in conjunction with the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association and recognizes completers (of which there are now more than 60, as of 2019) on its web site.
Some avid county collectors visit new counties by taking circuitous routes, for example, driving from Minneapolis to Chicago by way of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The most determined collectors take entire trips which consist of driving around states in cornrow patterns. This is pure county collecting. On the other hand, taking a short detour from a direct route to visit one or more counties is called dipping.
There are currently 3,143 counties and county-equivalents in the United States, including the boroughs and census areas of Alaska, the parishes of Louisiana, the independent cities Baltimore, Maryland, St. Louis, Missouri, Carson City, Nevada, 38 cities in Virginia and Washington, D.C.. There are also counties and county equivalents in the provinces of Canada from Ontario to Nova Scotia.
- Kelly, John (May 23, 2012). "Visiting every U.S. state too easy for you? How about every U.S. county?". Washington Post. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Hayden, Eric (May 28, 2012). "Road-Trip Completionist: Meet the Man Who's Been to Every County in the U.S." Time.
- Hennesey-Fiske, Molly (August 22, 2004). "Collecting Counties: Even Crossing the Border into Obsession". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Extra Miler Club. "Extra Miler Club". Extra Miler Club. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Want to Visit All 3,143 Counties in the U.S.? There's a Club for That". Yahoo Travel. September 1, 2014.