Brian Jacobson

Bottle Caps, Captain America, Brownies, Trolls and more

By - Nov 13th, 2011 04:00 am

“You see here? This tiny screw here has a notch on it while this other one doesn’t. On this one, the words are in black and on this one white.”

David Lee Reber is pointing at small, boxy brownie cameras. Many on display are fashioned with art deco patterns, and a special series of five are in different colors. Give him a moment, and this patriotic-suspenders-wearing man will tell you all about his collection in photographic detail.

“Let me show you this one in the catalog,” he says, rifling through a thick book of cameras on the table, “it’s an OSS-model from the second World War.”

The front atrium of the Milwaukee Public Museum became a showcase this past Saturday for young and old collectors to show off  their wares for this ninth annual event. In a sunny corner, Scott Wilke of South Shore Cyclery is answering questions from a couple interested in his latest acquisition, a 1952 Schwinn that had a Whizzer motor attached to it making it an early moped. Around the corner, a young man decked out in the current movie version of Captain America has plenty of figures and variant toys (still in the box). One person has celebrity autographs and another has troll dolls. One man has model cars, while teenage girls at another table have anime artifacts. There are Hummels, an impressive array of soda bottle caps, and PEZ dispensers.

“Everybody collects something in their life,” says Dawn Scher Thomae, Collections Manager/Associate Curator for the MPM. “I think sometimes everyone forgets that is what museums are built on.”

Thomae reflected that collectors are never bored—there is always that next thing to look for and attain. Citing an example of one13-year-old who collected Currier & Ives plates with his grandmother, no one around him knew about his collection or the stories depicted in each plate.

“You can see a lot of these collections online or in magazines, but there’s nothing quite like everyone coming here and talking about them in-person,” Thomae noted.

One of the more interesting collections to a Brew City crowd was a neat assortment of vintage beer cans. There were early designs from Miller, Gettelman Brewery, and others. The collection demonstrated myriad ways to open a can, such as the 1937 J-Spout, the 196os ring-top and more recent pop-top cans.

Alex Source shows off his collection of elephants at Collector’s Day.

One returning set of collectors came from the same lineage, the Source family. We met Alex Source, who had an impressive elephant collection. Like many collectors with their own fascinations, young Mr. Source didn’t know what struck a chord with him about elephants. After a trip with his grandparents to an antique store, he found one and was hooked. Sometimes, that is all it takes.

In the museum, Alex’s table was adjacent to his grandfather and father’s table, which had a sweet autographed photograph of Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Jim Gantner. His grandmother and sister’s table on the far end sported a large and varied wall of banana stickers.

While pictures can’t quite convey the whimsy and nostalgia of seeing these items live, we took them anyway. You can find more in our slideshow below. 

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