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!

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.
 

And ….. OUT WITH A LAMB ……. maybe?

 Spring Cleaning Time is Now!

Orders received until April 20.  Shipped out by May 10.

It is that time of year when Souvenir Building Collector’s start to think about cleaning and dusting our Collections, and maybe, just maybe, we consider slimming down – our Collection that is.   

The Kneisel Collection is no different from other Collections; it needs slimming down.  In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, and Marie Kondo, if you are following the Netflix series, the Kneisel Committee is going to offer up selections from the Collection exclusively to current SBCS Members.  These items Bob loved, and we wish to pass the love on to other Collectors.

SBCS 2019 Spring Cleaning: Some Examples

This is no ordinary offer!   This time we 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.  The general rules of the offering are similar to last fall’s Pot Metal Box Luck offering: ONE Box per member. Paid-up member.  $25 dollars for a random selection of six (6) items with shipping included in the price.  Cost is slightly higher for a PayPal transaction.  

If you are interested in this exclusive offer to expand your Collection and add six randomly selected pieces to your “other” Collections, CLICK HERE for the order form.  Print and mail in your check or pay via Paypal.

See how easy it is to turn Spring Cleaning into Collection Enhancement.

In addition, SBCS Members in good standing can look forward to another Kneisel Collection offering later this year to commemorate our 25th Anniversary.  This offering will be a random selection of more desirable souvenir buildings from the Collection.  Look for details about this unique offer in our next newsletter.

THE KNEISEL COMMITTEE

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

SBCS: Convention, Kneisel, and facebook

CONVENTION

Conviviality was a big feature of the 2018 SBCS Convention in Worcester, Mass.  Billed as a Boston / Brimfield / Building Bash, the Convention delivered on all accounts.  The fields of Brimfield, the local (or nearly local) antique malls and shops, the Convention Swap Meet, Raffle, and Auction all contributed to the friendly competition among attendees.  Here’s a look at SBCS Boston 2018.

 

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Members contributing photos to the slide show: Carolyn C, Tarrun V, Joe K, Wynn W, Jerry I-H, Steven C. 

facebook

Our facebook page has been quite active in recent weeks covering all sorts of souvenir building topics and all sorts of souvenir buildings – with lots of pictures.  

Collectors are riffing on plastic, ceramic, and wood buildings, Apple Park, Ukranian Churches, James Dean, Fallingwater.  New members are posting pictures of their collections.  Joe K. has a discussion question up for Boston attendees about the use of the Antiques and Collectibles guide that was available.  Check it out here: Souvenir Building Collectors 

KNEISEL COLLECTION

The next Journal of The Souvenir Building Collectors Society will contain an article and an offer from the Kneisel Committee.  The offer of 5 Kneisel Collection buildings for a mailing and packing fee of $25 will be open to all who are current (paid-up) SBCS members as of September 30, 2018.  Specific details will appear here on the SBCS website soon and in the SBCS Journal.  “Watch this space” and be sure your membership is up-to-date.

CHICAGO 2017: It is in The Bag!

Convention Goodie Bag with brochures, maps, and schedule. 2017 Convention Building Souvenir: Wrigley Building Bank

Memories of: Architecture, Friends, FLW, the Bean, Museums, the River, Shopping, Swapping, and lots of Little Buildings! They’ve all been packed up and are headed for home ……………….

Kudos to Mark and Michael for a well-executed Convention with lots of options, camaraderie, and plenty of opportunities for acquisition of small buildings.  As plans for the next conventions crystallize they will be conveyed via The Journal of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society and this website.  

SBCS 2017: August Convention in Chicago

It’s time to reserve your table space at the annual SBCS SWAP MEET (full table – $25, half table – $15). Click here to download the Registration Form.

All across the country and maybe the globe, souvenir building enthusiasts are culling their collections in anticipation of this year’s swap meet. You never know what treasure will appear in the Saturday Swap and Sale Meet.

The Souvenir Building Society will have a group of small buildings from the Bob Kneisel Collection for sale.  Here are a few pictures.