FLASH SALE # 3: Souvenir Buildings in Lucite

In 2002, the following article on “Souvenir Buildings in Lucite” by Scott Daniels was published in SOUVENIR BUILDING COLLECTOR, Volume 9, Number 1.  It is apropos for the upcoming Kneisel Collection Flash Sale 3: Lucite Embedded Buildings.

Building Blocks or Plastic Prisons?

We have seen them at yard sales and gift shops around the country: a building or monument trapped in a Lucite cube, rectangle, hexagon or pyramid.  Buildings in Lucite are a recent addition to the history of souvenir buildings.

The manufacturing of Lucite embedments (which is what buildings in Lucite are considered) began shortly after World War II.  It has remained on the best-kept manufacturing secrets, passed down to trusted associates.  Because of the highly technical knowledge required, and the amount of discarded material, the total number of manufacturers is very small.

 Lucite is a high quality form of acrylic that is a mixture of acrylic resin powder and monomer, a crystal clear liquid.  The versatility of Lucite allows it to be custom designed into a variety of shapes and sizes, incorporating many different types of embedded elements.  However, due to the chemical reactions during the process, not everything can be embedded.  All pieces are hand-made and involve a long tedious productiion process involving:

PRINTING, CASTING, CURING, SANDING, BUFFING, INSPECTION

The first step – if necessary – is to print the building name and/or the event on the base.

The next step is to mix the resin powder and monomer in specific proportions.  The result is a thick opaque liquid.  The mixture is hand poured into molds and allowed to partially harden.  At this point the building is hand placed into the Lucite layer. 

Most embedments are either plastic or metal.  Other collectors have told me that you can tell whether a piece is plastic or metal by the way the light reflects from it. If it appears dull it is most likely metal.  If it gives a bright reflection, it tends to be plastic. 

Another layer is poured over the embedded object and the Lucite is again allowed to harden.  During this stage of production the liquid Lucite is an opaque, milky white.  It is very difficult to center objects on multiple levels because you cannot see the objects below clearly.  Because the buildings are placed in the moulds by hand, no two Lucite pieces are ever 100% alike.

At this point the molds are cured.  The hardening Lucite molds are placed into an oven.  There, heat cures and pressure squeezes out the air bubbles, to completely harden the embedment. The curing process takes up to seven hours. 

After cooling, the Lucite embedments are removed from the molds, and the sizing process begins.  All Lucite parts are cast oversized to allow for shrinkage.  There are three steps taken to size the embedments.  The objects are ground down to size by hand on large industrial sanders.  A coarse grit-sanding belt is used first, followed by a medium grit belt and a final sanding with fine grit belt.  This makes it easier to polish, which is the next step.

Polishing, just as sizing, is all done by hand.  Polishing brings out the luster and high gloss of the Lucite not seen during the entire production process and also gets rid of the sanding lines.  Once there is a bright crystal-like finish the production of the Lucite embedments is complete. 

The final phase of the Lucite process is the inspection.  Each piece is hand wiped and visually inspected.  If there are flaws the part is returned for additional finishing or rejected outright and recycled.  Once the piece passes, it is boxed and shipped out. 

Some of the first buildings in Lucite date from the 1950’s.  The miniature of the Seagram’s building in New York City encased in Lucite was made around 1957 as a Lucite display lighter.  I guess there is no better way to showcase a modern building than to use a modern form of displaying the miniature version and making it useful at the same time. 

During the 1960’s many more buildings, including the The Metropolitan Life building in New York City, were produced. 

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One known to many collectors is the Travelers Insurance Building in Hartford, CT.  About 1000 pieces were made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company (1864-1964).  They were given away to Travelers employees and representatives over the U.S.  It is a very impressive piece, with all the Travelers buildings that occupy a full block in the city. (This is an update to the bronze inkwell given out in the 1930’s).

Recent photo of the 100th Anniversary Travelers Insurance Lucite Commemorative (not in original publication)

Another group of buildings embedded in Lucite are the Knights of Columbus convention pieces.  They consist of Saint Joseph’s Oratory (Montreal, Canada), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City), and the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC).  The Saint Joseph’s Oratory was given out at the 1967 85th Supreme Council convention.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral piece was given out at the 1979 Supreme Council convention, and the Immaculate Conception was given away at the Supreme Council meeting in 1989.  I’ve noticed that all the buildings encased are made of pewter with fine attention to details.  They are well worth having in your collection. 

In the 1970’s Lucite had reached its zenith with buildings of tourist sites being embedded in Lucite.  Sites such as Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN; Seattle’s Space Needle (in various sizes); buildings in Washington, DC and across the nation were very popular at tourist shops.

Just as the production of souvenir buildings declined in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when they were replaced by T-shirts and coffee mugs, so did their Lucite counterparts.  It just wasn’t cool to bring home a cube.

Most of the current Lucite buildings that you can buy at gift shops are from this time period.  They were just never big sellers in shops.  Some exceptions to this are the current John Hancock Tower in Chicago and Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Many Lucite buildings can still be found everywhere and in every size.  So the next time you come across a few have fun with them.  Build a building block building with buildings inside!

KNEISEL COMMENTARY on CHARMS as Souvenir Buildings in 2003

I had a hard time getting these images up and readable.  Please click on the second and third photos to see their full image.  Here is a link to a pdf of the material.

 

KNEISEL COLLECTION: Flash Sales Starting Soon. Keep a close eye on your emails!

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There will be 3 FLASH SALES, between now and mid-December, of unique categories of items collected by Bob Kneisel.  Directions for participation  in the sales will be sent directly to the email inboxes of paid-up members of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society.  On the day of the FLASH SALE, members will be notified by email and will need to respond as directed.  The sale categories are SNO-GLOBES, CHARMS, and LUCITE.

Keep an eye on your inbox.

A COLLECTION OF SBCS UPDATES

 

NEWSLETTER: 

The SUMMER 2019  edition of SOUVENIR BUILDING COLLECTOR has been mailed, emailed, and is available in the Member Section of this website. 

There is a glorious “Photo Essay” rendering of the SBCS / SBCCA joint 2019 Convention in Olathe, KS for your viewing.  

You will want to read Howie Gelbtuch’s (with help from Anton Tremblay) take on “DOWNsizing UPgrading.”

Statue of Liberty 1953

For those of you who bask in SOLs – you know who you are – there is a tid-bit. 

And …..  Joe Kopitz contributed “Souvenir Buildings of Classic Sites.”

KNEISEL COMMITTEE:

The next round of SBCS member opportunity to capture some of Bob’s Better Buildings was detailed in the newsletter.  One box per member, but …   If we do not get full Member response, we will open it to additional boxes after the first round.  You can click here for a printable copy of the order form.  The LAST DATE for participating is OCT. 19. 

Coming in November will be a series of HOLIDAY FLASH SALES – Each Flash Sale will feature a single category of souvenir building collectible, the number of boxes in the offering will be limited by the number of items available in that category.

Photo of SB_D_Lites_of_America

Keep these sales in mind as gift boxes to that special collector. The Flash Sale will be via email blast and a post.  Be sure Joe has your email address on file.

FACEBOOK:

The SBCS FaceBook community is a hive of activity and pictures.  Souvenir Building collectors (SBCS members and non-members alike) have been sharing photos, tips, stories, and exchanges, sales, wants, etc.  Click here to join in the fun.  Be sure to answer the questions asked of all who request membership in this closed group.

SBCS WEBSITE NEEDS A WEBMASTER / EDITOR:  Donna must step down.  This site is a wordpress.com site.  The site is registered to SBCS.  

REMINDERS ! ! ! !

Spring Cleaning Time is Now!
DEADLINE FOR ORDERS is  APRIL 20 ! ! !  
Boxes will be shipped out by May 10.
This is no ordinary offer!   Last year’s Bob Kneisel Committee’s Box Metal Pot Luck offer was a tremendous success.  This time they are offering items from Bob Kneisel’s Collection that are NOT BUILDINGS.  This offering will be souvenir statues, busts, animals, transportation items and other non-building items.  Here’s the link to ALL the information.
GET YOUR ORDER IN NOW!
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CLICK YOUR HEELS AND FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD TO THE SBCCA AND SBCS 2019 COLLECTORS CONVENTION IN KANSAS

Photo of Dorothy's Red Slippers on display in the Smithsonian. Photo is courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine.

The 2019 SBCS Convention in Olathe, Kansas is getting closer:  June 4 to 8.   If you haven’t made your arrangements yet, head over to the Convention Page for all the details.
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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES and AN EASY WAY TO FIND THEM

Researching the 25 years of the SBCS Journal newsletter is made so much easier by the Indexes supplied by member Tom DiNapoli.  There are three: Authors, Articles and Featured, and Topics.  Tom has modernized for the most recent set. Take a trip over to the Newsletters page and check them out.
 

Pot-Metal Box-Luck: Packed and Shipped!

 

 

Chris had 55 “If it fits It ships” mid-size priority mail boxes taped and ready for packing this Friday morning.  After braving the flood of cars on the infamous 405 Freeway at peak drive-time of 7AM, Donna and her sister Alice arrived, were reinvigorated with coffee and cake, and taken to the basement.  In the short time of about 5 hours, storage boxes were unpacked, buildings distributed assembly-line fashion among the prepared shipping boxes, efforts made to balance the quality of the items, and make sure of the correct count in each box.  Then the items in each box was carefully wrapped, the box sealed and placed in a stack.  By the end of the process we had no idea what was in each box.  After all were boxed the mailing labels were printed and affixed and on their way to the Post Office.  Good Luck to all of you who ordered a Pot-Metal Box-Luck shipment.  The Kneisel Committee thanks you.

 

POT-METAL BOX-LUCK

   

 

POT-METAL BOX-LUCK

Bob Kneisel relaxing at the 2015 SBCS Convention

There once was a collector called Kneisel

Of souvenir buildings he had a houseful

With generous foresight

To SBCS members’ delight

His Legacy provides surprise by the boxful!

A single box containing 5 items from Bob Kneisel’s bequest to SBCS is being offered to each paid-up SBCS member for $25 a box. The $25 covers packing and shipping.

The contents of each box will be randomly selected from some of the lesser or duplicative pieces in Bob’s collection.  They will be selected to fit 5 items into a USPS Medium Flat Rate Box. 

No member may purchase more than one (1) box from this offering.  Household memberships can purchase two (2) boxes.

This offer is time-limited.  You must be a paid-up SBCS member by October 1, 2018.  The Pot-Metal Box-Luck order must be received by October 15.  The boxes will be mailed the last week of October. 

So get your order in early.  You will be able to place your order starting September 1, 2018.

Click Here for Order Form

KNEISEL COLLECTION: Initial Museum Donation

The MUSEUM OF ARCHITECTURE at TDCP Changa Manga Resort, Punjab, Pakistan is the first recipient of souvenir buildings from the Kneisel Collection.

A portion of the Cultural Foundation of Pakistan powerpoint presentation.

In June of 2016, Robert Kneisel willed his collection of some 4000 plus souvenir buildings and statues to the Souvenir Building Collectors Society. The SBCS formed a Kneisel Collection Team spearheaded by Chris S. to address the disposition of such a magnificent gift. The team quickly determined that the bulk of the quality buildings could form the basis of a permanent display of souvenir buildings in one or more museums. Planning toward this end began in August of 2016.

Serendipitously, in March of 2017, the Society was approached, through the SBCSociety website, by Muhammad Raza Kahn, President of the Cultural Foundation of Pakistan. He told of the establishment of a Museum of Architecture and requested, from the Souvenir Building Collectors Society, the donation of architectural models of world landmarks for a display to be entitled “EXPLORE CULTURE THROUGH ARCHITECTURE.

Joe K. and Chris S. took the lead in contacting and working with Mr. Kahn, who provided the Kneisel Collection Team with a powerpoint presentation detailing the plans for the Museum of Architecture and how it our small buildings would become part of the larger exhibit.  Click below to view the presentation (remember to hit the arrow to make it run):

https://book2rock.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/cultural-foundation-of-pakistan-museum-of-architecture-adited-copy.key

The team confirmed the suitablility of the request and selected an array of iconic world miniature buildings as the donation. The selected items made their way from Los Angeles, through Canada, and on to Pakistan, where they arrived in September 2017. They will be displayed at the ModelTown Museum in Lahore, Pakistan.

 

While this story is about the donation to the Museum of Architecture in Pakistan, it is also a reminder that SBCS is looking for other museums or appropriate institutions (library, university or college, city hall) who are interested in permanently acquiring souvenir buildings for display.  If you have a suggestion or two – Send the Kneisel Collection Committee an email.