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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. 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.
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 3142 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.