The father and son collecting team of Steven and Ethan are a dynamic duo with a diverse display. Steven was kind enough to send photos and answers some questions about their collection.
Q: How did you get started collecting souvenir buildings?
A: We started collecting buildings in 2003. I bought the first ones as a gift for my then 3 ½-year-old son, Ethan. I bought him pewter versions of the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame on the banks of the Seine River when I was in Paris giving a lecture. Following that, my wife and I bought him souvenir buildings on all of our trips. If we were in NYC, we brought him the Empire State and a Statue of Liberty; in San Francisco, we would bring him the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower, etc. We bought at first only on trips at the attraction’s gift shops or from street vendors/souvenir shops. Until 2008/2009, we only bought in this manner. For the last 4 years, my son started buying them on his own at flea markets, antique shops, and on eBay. I joined him in earnest having a blast along the way! We now buy anywhere we can.
Q: Why do you collect souvenir buildings?
A: We love architecture and art, so building collecting is a natural fit. My son plans to be an architect and I love travel, so we have joined these loves/hobbies together to collect building miniatures.
Q: How many total souvenir buildings do you have in your collection?
A: Almost 1200
Q: How long have you been collecting?
A: 10 years
Q: Which are your favorite and why?
A: My son’s favorites are Grand Tour versions of Trajan's Column and the Colon de Austerlitz. He loves the antiquity of them. My favorites are the Mercedes Benz Museum, Harvard Stadium, the Paris Casino table topper from the Y2K party, the Warner Brothers water tower and BMW building. I love the structures and what they represent.
Q: What is the most rare replica you have?
A: Probably the two Grand Tours souvenirs mentioned above.
Q: How and where do you buy most of your items?
A: The majority are bought on eBay. We also buy from flea markets, antique stores, gift shops, souvenir stands, and tourist sites. We have bought an entire collection from an Atlanta collector consisting of 357 different buildings and roughly 40 duplicates. We have also made purchases and trades with fellow members of the SBCS (Souvenir Building Collector’s Society).
Q: How do you display your collection?
A: We have the buildings displayed in 2 rooms. My upstairs office is where roughly 900 are housed and the other 300 live in my son’s room. They are on built-in shelves, graduated antique shelves, chests, dressers, desks, etc. Essentially every flat surface!
Q: Any interesting stories about your collecting experience?
A: The best story is how we bought the collection in Atlanta. It is a true 6 degrees of separation. I have a friend from Mississippi who now lives in Atlanta and works as a picker and antique dealer. We were visiting Atlanta and I told him of our collection. He took us to the antique store of a friend who got him in the business. We bought 14 buildings in his store including the General Motors office building and the large Boulder Dam bookends. After returning home to Jackson, we tried in vain to contact his dealer to buy a few buildings we left behind. After giving up, I got an email from him asking if it was ok to give my contact info to a collector who frequented his shop. I said ok and after many emails, we ended up buying 95% of his guy’s collection. As stated above, this added 357 new and different buildings to he collection and fueled the fire for adding more and more! The best part about collecting souvenir buildings has been the people we have met and the relationships we have grown. Awesome folks, always willing to share info. Howie G. has been wonderful to my son and we have enjoyed getting to know each other. He is a wealth of knowledge. We have learned so much and had so much fun with folks like Jerry & Al H., Katherine I., Bob K., Tom D., Paul C., Elizabeth L., Jay H., Jim & Judy T., and the list goes on! We went to our first convention this past summer in Toronto and can't wait to go to this year’s in June in Minneapolis. When we left Toronto, my son stated that he felt like he now had a second family and I agree completely!