Collector’s who attended the SBCS convention in DC got the opportunity to view Harry M’s room dedicated to his buildings and monuments. I posed some questions to him regarding the history and focus of his impressive collection:
Q: How did you get started collecting souvenir buildings?
A: I was living in DC in the 1980s and started picking up souvenirs of the monuments and so forth, and then began picking them up on our trips to Europe. I became serious about collecting in the mid-90s after discovering the SBCS and Dixie Trainer’s Souvenir Building Network.
Q: Why do you collect souvenir buildings?
A: There are so many reasons. My career has been in the built environment and I spend a lot of time with buildings. Souvenir buildings help you understand and appreciate the lines of a building while holding it in your hand. The buildings may provide pleasant memories of vacations in Paris and Rome. Souvenir buildings may also be symbols of turning points in history and momentous events. Eventually you are drawn into learning more about these places and events.
Q: How many total souvenir buildings do you have in your collection?
A: I have 961 items on display at the moment. A good half of them or more symbolize freedom and democracy in some way: state and international capitols, Statues of Liberty, Washington, DC (a whole wall of US Capitols, White House, Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington Monuments plus other local buildings), and US historical sites. I have some nice World’s Fair items. There is a big display of Empire State Buildings and New York City (lots of cityscapes). Then there are the buildings we picked up as souvenirs of our travels in Europe, Asia and South America.
Q: How long have you been collecting?
A: Since the mid-80s but much more serious in the mid-90s.
Q: What was the first replica you acquired and how did you get it?
A: I think it was the standard DC ceramic salt and pepper shakers with the Capitol and Washington Monument, I think followed quickly by a pot metal Washington Monument thermometer.
Q: Which is your favorite and why?
A: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but it might be a US Capitol as a Victorian souvenir clock from circ 1900. It’s very ornate with oak leaf flourishes and little nesting birds, raised up a bit on ornate legs, etc.
After that it may be the chrome Empire State Building with the 1931 copyright. However, I have a particular attachment to American Committee Model SOLs.
Q: How and where do you buy most of your items?
A: It’s definitely been eBay for many years. I really haven’t had any good finds working the antique malls. The next source (this month anyway) is Infocus and their wonderful new Washington, DC replicas.
Q: How do you display your collection?
A: I have a dedicated small display room next to my home office. The shelving is all glass. I have the pieces organized by type (e.g. US Capitols, etc.)
Q: Any interesting stories about your collecting experience?
A: Well, I keep an eye out for stories of what other folks collect, like the guy with 800 pin ball machines in a warehouse. It helps me point out how much more reasonable a room full of little metal buildings is.
Q: Anything additional you’d like to share about your collection?
A: My collection and indeed my whole collecting experience has been positively enhanced by membership in the SBCS. The newsletter, convention and networking with other collectors expands my knowledge of the collecting folklore. I’ve picked up some really nice buildings at the swap meets, too. I think if you are serious about collecting souvenir buildings, you really need to be an SBCS member to get the most out of it. - Harry.