Sunday, November 14, 2010

Darron's Souvenir Building Collection

Souvenir Building Collector Society members got the opportunity to visit the collection of current SBCS President Darron C. this past June in Connecticut. Over the last 16 years, he has accumulated over 1,000 building but only displays 800 which are on view in his dining room, living room and a small room dedicated to just replica buildings. His collection received some media attention recently with an article in the Stamford Advocate. I also interviewed Daron to delve deeper into this dedicated displayer of destinations. He got started collecting souvenir buildings when, “I was inspired by an advertisement in an Architectural Digest issue which showed a coffee table showcasing miniatures of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Statue of Liberty. I thought that this would be something cool to display in my home to reference some of my vacation destinations by picking up a miniature at one of the gift shops. At the time I thought I was just going to purchase 5 or 6 for my coffee table. Why do you collect souvenir buildings? “I think I enjoy the hunt more than the actual building. As a child my favorite holiday was Easter because there was always the annual Easter Egg hunt. Even then, it was such a rush to find an egg hidden in a tree or in the high grass. In many ways hunting for souvenir buildings in flea markets and collectible stores brings back that thrill. Now the rush comes from finding a building in a box of grandmom's china marked "Everything in this box is $2" at a flea market,” Darron said. “The first replica I purchased was a replica of the Sydney Opera House. I was on vacation in Australia in 1995. As one can imagine, there were so many versions available to purchase. At the time I was looking for replicas that looked as close to the real structure as possible. I remember that it took me almost two days to decide on a replica that I felt closely resembled the Opera House. I finally decided to purchase my replica from an artist that made ceramic versions and hand painted each one. I shunned the mass produced souvenir versions and deemed them "tacky tourist" trash. I guess my concept of tacky tourist trash must have changed.” Darron’s favorite building in his collection is an Ironbound Trust Building from Newark, NJ. “I found this rare building inkwell on my first visit to Brimfield Antique Show. It has great significance to me because my father commuted to Newark, NJ from Trenton, NJ on the train for over 25 years and walked past this building everyday. On family outings to various Spanish and Portuguese restaurants in Newark, he always took the time to point out historic landmarks and buildings in and always liked to point out the Ironbound Trust as one of his favorite buildings. The miniature is not in perfect condition but brings back a flood of family memories that makes it quite special to me,” he remembered. Collectors always have various methods for growing their displays. “Most of my souvenir buildings come from flea markets and collectible shops. Early in my collecting adventures, I had purchased a lot of buildings on eBay. Over the years, I have refrained from buying on eBay because I prefer the hunt and ability to examine my find in person. Many of my purchases have come from visiting flea markets and collectible shops in other parts of the US and around the world. I find it more satisfying to know that when I pick up a building I found at a Estonian flea market, I can associate it quickly with Tallinn and my holiday in 2007. You cannot experience that same feeling buying on EBay,” he said. Most often, a visitor to a building collector’s home knows almost immediately about the home-owner’s hobby. The collection is display proudly and prominently. This is of course true for Darron and Martin’s home. “After many years of displaying my collection all over the house (in my office, family room, dining room, etc.), I decided to higher a carpenter in 2010 to design some wooden built-in display shelves/storage to go in an unused area of my house. Now I have confined the collection to my family room and dining room. In my dining room I used a china display cabinet to house my collection of foreign souvenir buildings. I also have a separate trophy case to highlight what I call my sub-collections: building salt & peppers, building pencil sharpeners and sports arenas. But I find that how I display evolves and next year, I may group my buildings by color or material,” Darron said. Collectors are always ready with interesting stories about their collecting experience. “Last year (2009), on my trip to Moscow, I had an opportunity to take an elevator ride to the top of the Ostankino Tower. The tower had been closed for many years in order to repair the elevator that had caught fire. So the visitor’s center had only been open a few weeks. While I was there I asked the tour director if they sold any replicas of the tower but found out they did not. In fact there had not been replicas of Ostankino made for at least 10 years. I showed her a picture of my TV Tower collection. She was so intrigued and amazed at the miniatures, that she gave me a delft Ostankino ceramic replica that was on her desk. The replica had been given to her many years ago as a gift to employees. When I told her I couldn't possibly accept it (there were no extras laying around), she told me that I must take it because it belonged with the others!”

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