Monday, January 3, 2011

Howie's Collection and Display

Walking through the front door of Howie’s home, one knows immediately of the importance of his building collection. The room directly in front of you is dedicated solely to buildings, which are carefully displayed on custom-built white cabinetry. Since 1995, he has built his miniature real estate empire to over 1000 strong. During this past June, Souvenir Building Collector Society members also got the opportunity to visit the Connecticut collection of Howie G. He got started collecting buildings when, “About 25 years ago, there was an article in Architectural Digest about Margaret and David’s ‘Building Building’ and I became intrigued,” he said. Collectors typically have multiple collections and Howie is no exception. He collects souvenir buildings because, “I’m involved in real estate and a collector by nature. I also ran out of room collecting license plates in my garage.” The first replica he acquired was The First Federal Savings and Loan Association building from Greenville, S.C. “I was buying their headquarters building in the early 1980s and I stumbled across (the miniature version) in an antique store.” It may be difficult to choose, but collectors usually do have a favorite among the many. “I have a 1915 replica commemorating the 25th anniversary of the new 200-room Elks Lodge building on West 43rd St. in Manhattan.” The real building has been demolished to make way for the Durst Tower. The miniature replica, “combines most of the criteria I look for when collecting: scarcity, a skyscraper and an inkwell. Howie gets most of his buildings from eBay, “as I unfortunately don’t have much luck otherwise,” he said. “Although I do have a picker in South America.” As his collection grew, he had to find a home for it in his home. “I had to buy my wife all new dining room furniture in order to get her to agree to constructing a ‘building room.’ The building room wound up costing more than the dining room,” he said. Naturally, Howie has some interesting stories about his collecting experience. “I have a Moscow Tower replica. The (real) building didn’t have a gift shop, but it did have a restaurant on a high floor. Instead of placing flowers on the tables there, they had replicas of the tower. Although they were intended as gifts for purchasers of apartments in the building, my wife talked them into giving one to me,” he said. “I also got one from a real estate developer client in Sao Paulo who had it sitting on his desk.” With such a large collection filled with rare replicas, is there something Howie still seeks? “My quest piece is the original Empire State Building with a zeppelin,” he said. “Its on my eBay watch list. The last one I saw on eBay came up while I was in Dubai a few years ago. Unfortunately, the seller wrote an entire ad and never included the word, ‘building,’ so I didn’t hear about it until after the auction ended.” Also on his wish list is a 1912 Wall Street Bankers Trust building. “What started out as an interest in miniature buildings, has developed into some great friendships.” Howie said. “As much as I love the buildings, getting to know other members (of the SBCS) has become far more rewarding. When my schedule permits, I try to visit them when I go out of town.”

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