Souvenir Building Collector Bob E. has been collecting. “All my life,” he said. “My grandmother use to call my bedroom ‘the relic room.’ I have always loved Architecture and I have always loved miniatures. I have long collected things in that genre. Buildings I have only been seriously collecting for two and a half years now,” he wrote. “I think my first replica building was one I built myself. In high school, I made a replica of the Globe Theater in London as an extra credit project. I passed English more on my building skills than my knowledge of Shakespeare. A few years ago my nephew told me that it is still on display in the school library. Maybe I did not get enough extra credit? I got involved with eBay while trying to clear out years of household accumulation. One day, I stumbled across a Banthrico Lawn Savings Bank. This is the bank where I had my first savings account when I was nine years old. Well, of course I had to have it and Ward Smith was kind enough to sell it too me. Little did I know that Ward is a pusher who uses charm and helpful advice to get you hooked. Well, he showed me the wonders behind the red door and I had to have more. They began to multiply faster than Tribbles on a star ship (yup, only a Star Trek geek knows what a Tribble is) and now I have about 650 little buildings. I found a hobby to combine a love of architecture and my fascination with miniatures and the rest is history.” I asked Bob why he collects souvenir replicas. “They are romantic, historically interesting, visually beautiful, and tactility pleasing. I also enjoy the “are you crazy” look I get from people when they see the collection.” As with most collectors, Bob specializes in a few subset collections within his collection. “I grew up in Chicago and was keenly aware of that city’s rich architectural history. Now, I feel compelled to balance out all the New York enthusiasts by getting all I can from my hometown. I have over 100 great examples of Chicago’s best to date. I also have a strong selection of bookends. They are beautifully made and display very well have about 87 architectural bookends right now that give a different look to the collection. To save room, I only display one from each bookend pair. Because they are related to what I do for a living, I also keep about 40 stadiums in the office as well." He wrote. When asked which was his favorite souvenir building in the collection, Bob had difficulty choosing just one. “I could probably narrow it down to a favorite fifty, but just one is hard. If I were forced to pick just one it would likely be my 9” grand tour Arc de Triumphe. It is a very rare iconic souvenir and has size, weight, condition and jeweler quality craftsmanship. When you add that is was a real steal, you have all the attributes of an ideal building.” How did you find most of your building replicas? “EBay is of course a mainstay for finds as well as other auctions. My better pieces tend to come from private sales. I prefer working with other collectors because those buildings come with knowledge, humor, and camaraderie. I have not had a lot of luck with the flea market route here because it was a rural society that did not travel a lot nor waste money on brick-a-brack. I still cannot explain how a 6” tall grand tour Pantheon found its way to Green Bay, but that is where I found it.” Nice find! How do you display your collection in your Wisconsin home? “I use the ‘Grrr-Amimals’ method of grouping things for display. Towers go with towers; Germany goes with Germany and grand tour with grand tour. What constitutes a grouping is purely how I see them. They can be cities, makers, countries, types; it is just what makes sense to me today. My Chicago buildings and stadiums are displayed in my office artfully arranged in chronological order. The grand tour, cathedrals, and the more rare items, get a place on honor in lighted curios I have in the living room. For all the rest I have usurped the sun porch. I have found that media storage shelving is an economical way to display buildings. They are shallow so things do not get hidden behind each other and light gets in easily. The wire framing tends to be unobtrusive and lets the buildings stand out. My larger racks (3’ x 7’ x 6” deep) have 36 lineal feet of shelving each and cost about $60.” Any interesting stories about your collecting experience? “When I first started, I bought a few buildings from a guy in France. He then wrote and asked if I would be interested in exchanging buildings for used cowboy boots. He does the French flea market circuit selling used boots and buying other things to sell on ebay. I ran over to the Good Will second hand store and bought a bunch of junk booths and exchanged them for a dozen buildings. Several in that lot made the whole things a great deal. At first I wondered why the French love used cowboy boots, but then I remembered how they love Jerry Lewis and stopped thinking about it.” Are you a member of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society? “Yes, I joined shortly after deciding I was going to do this for real and am very glad I did. In the beginning I felt like Blanche DuBois (from A Street Car Named Desire) perpetually dependent upon the kindness of strangers. However, the SBCS members are an inviting and friendly bunch of people who are incredibly helpful and interesting. I have not met anyone in person yet, (next year I promise), but I consider many to already be friends who’s help I am very appreciative of,” He wrote. “My collection is young but I think it has some real substance too it. This is mostly due to the many SBCS members who have helped me so much. I have been given knowledge, advice, and opportunities to buy from some of the best. In this case 'best' applies to both the collections and collectors. (Souvenir building collectors are) a generous good-humored bunch of people that I find as enjoyable as the act of acquisition."