by Kevin Walsh

I was skulking around the Financial District/lower Tribeca on Greenwich Street when I found this closed CEMUSA newsstand. On the side window was something unusual, which set off some reminiscences:


There were these small scale-model versions of cars and trucks and such, including one of the General Motors “new look” buses that premiered about 1960. Their large front windows imparted their nickname, the Fishbowls.


There were also some Checker cabs as well as the more recent taxi vans.


It occurs to me that there are many, many things I would collect if I had that mania, and if I had the room or the money to do so. My apartment would become a Collyeresque model of clutter. (NYC’s King of All Lampposts, Bob Mulero, who you see on the tours, has a whole apartment full of plastic toys.)

I already have about 300 street maps of varying ages, but I stopped collecting years ago. I worked for a direct marketer for years writing and checking ad copy for coin collections, and I was reminded of how avid a coin collector I would be. Even conifer cones come in many different shapes and configurations and I want to have them all.

As a child I was somewhat fascinated with Matchbox trucks, but not enough to bankrupt my parents. Every so often we would go to a certain newsstand on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge, and the proprietor would listen to my request and open a big wood cabinet in back of the counter and take out the asked-for model.

One such is in the photo above, it’s the smaller of the two London double decker buses. Somehow, I have held onto it all these years. Matchboxes are exquisitely detailed, but the signage on the bus has long since flaked off. I got the larger bus as a gift from Mary Beth several years ago and the two have been a matched set since.

There’s also a Billy Wagner bobblehead from Shea Stadium that doesn’t look like Billy Wagner, and a Ken Griffey machine-signed baseball I got as a door prize at a Christmas party. On the wall is a gift from Nigey and Eric showing the stock lamppost photo that Harper Collins used on the front cover of the ForgottenBook. There’s also some VHS tapes that still play. There’s a porcelain tile from the Columbus Circle station when they were renovating it. A hockey puck from Nassau Coliseum.

As for the title card phrase, the Beatles’ remake of Carl Perkins “Matchbox” was one of their few Capitol Records flops, only making #25.



therealguyfaux August 2, 2013 - 4:02 pm


One has to be a New Yorker of a certain age to understand what that adjective means, unless one is a history buff or a person involved (patient or therapist) in the treatment of OCD (not that “buff” and “OCD” are necessarily mutually exclusive– or even ordinarily so).

Or, like me, Kevin, you probably grew up with a mom who would look at the house (especially YOUR room) before a good and thorough house cleaning, saying, “If we don’t take a stab at getting rid of all this mess, how long before this house turns into the Collyer Mansion?”

Or, one could have checked out for your excellent Harlem photos, including the one of Collyer Park.

Gasaxe August 2, 2013 - 10:17 pm

Langley Collyer is going to be the name of my next cat.

alphonsegaston August 2, 2013 - 10:33 pm

Ah yes, my mother engineered the disappearance of my paper doll collection just that way.

I still have my late husband´s large collection of antique toy cars, which he acquired in his middle age–he did not covet a real Corvette, but toy trucks, car carriers, streamlined cars, oil trucks–all earlier than most Matchboxes and Hot Wheels. The prize of the lot is a Buddy L. Scarab. And while I know about the Collyer brothers–not as a native of NYC but of NYState–we never approached the Collyer Mansion problems. More durable artifacts than paper dolls for sure. He never liked the idea that one should try to get a ¨new condition¨ vehicle as he liked to think some kid actually played with the toy. Shocking to antique dealers of course. He also liked to repair them and repaint them. Destroying their ¨value,” as some would have it.

I do have a modest number of pinecone-shaped Christmas tree ornaments, too. Never saw the interest people have in coins, though, or stamps.

NY2AZ August 3, 2013 - 9:53 am

This is the stuff that cable channel reality series are made of. Thanks for sharing that & enjoy your memories.

Old Skool August 5, 2013 - 7:20 pm

Kevin, the major problem with collecting, as I see it, is what does one do when moving or downsizing? I have been collecting National Geographics and maps since the sixties and have amassed a collection dating to 1912. Then there is the music collection that has been growing that long as well. I realize that in this day and age of MP3’s and cloud computing that all this stuff is an anachronism. But there is the tactile sensation of holding a 100 year old magazine and all that goes with that. No Collyer issues here, I am too OCD in my filing system. My Matchbox is an E type Jaguar that I have had since I was about 10. I have loved Jags since then.

Kevin Walsh August 5, 2013 - 11:50 pm

I have the complete NG including the maps on DVD.

However, computers keep changing their OS’s, thereby making THOSE obsolete. You can’t win.

Old Skool August 6, 2013 - 1:28 pm

Somehow I knew that. My pride & joy is the Feb 1921 map of Europe that has the borders established by the Treaty of Versailles. I think I paid a buck for it in an antique mall. It pairs with the magazine. I have resisted getting the complete set so far for those reasons. Plus there is the thrill of the hunt.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.