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Michael Banicki Text


Is it often that you collect objects rather than information?
Well for sure! I’ve been collecting objects since I can remember. At age 3 or 4 it was gumball machine charms and marbles. Then coins and baseball cards. Though these collections have long since been "inactive" I still have them all. Later on, at age 10, I began collecting 45rpm records (I now have 6000+ and counting) and even the accompanying music surveys of WLS and WCFL in Chicago at this time. Most recently I’ve collected tramp art, state glasses, small town newspapers, crystals, and the bottlecap figures. I can go on and on.... I once sat down and wrote out a list of over 50 collections that I have; breathing, inactive, or closed.

When did you purchase your first bottlecap figure? Did you realize then that it would be an ongoing collection?
I had seen them hanging around in thrift stores and flea markets. Each one was nearly the same but subtle difference in expressions, in posture, was too much for me. I really wanted these things. So in 1986, in a small shop in rural Rochelle IL, I dropped 8 bucks for a cool one and said what the hell, I’ll just start another collection. I knew then that I would be buying others.

I know you have a bottlecap collection. When did that begin, and was that what led to the figures?
Those collections have always been separate. Bottlecap started in the mid ‘70’s with the "find" of a whole musty cigar box filled with assorted old corks at a drive-in flea market.

What about your image for the announcement?
I was struck by the similarity of those bottlecap figures to the mesmerizing Sumerian Abu statuettes from Tel Asmar. At the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago they are displayed in clumps of about 30 or 40. Each is similar but they have slight difference; larger lapis lazuli eyes, longer beards, etc. But they also have these hands cupped together at the waist for offering to the gods, and resemble the bottlecap figures at first glance. The real point is that I love that "collection." I’ve gone back dozens of times to study them.

Have some figures been given to you by friends?
Yes, given to me sometimes. "Found" is a better term in the sense that they have a kind of carte blanche in acquiring them for me. I’ll pay them what they paid.

What is your appreciation of the homemade?
I’m not as whacked-out by the issue of homemade as some of those heavy folk art collectors. I appreciate the naivete, humble craftsmanship, and chance aesthetic beauty inherent in the endeavor. That’s about it.

And in the anonymous?
The anonymity is more appealing to me than the homemade. It is a wonderful humility--the lack of lofty expectations, sly cleverness, positioning, and calculation. In the case of these bottlecap figures you have to remember, in aggregate they are awesome, but individually they were earmarked for the basement or the den.

Do you find that collecting and making a collection seem to open a can of worms?
Oh, I don’t know. I’m so wrapped up in collections, gathering information, connoisseurship, and knowledge of the collections, that the words untenable and overload come to mind. So I’ll just throw up my arms and shrug.

What are your rating criteria for the bottlecap figures?
Their uniqueness, awkwardly beautiful aesthetics, who found them, where and when they were found, how common they are (there have been some formulas with consistency, e.g. Junior Achievement), etc.

Have you ever been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology?
No. Where is it, though?

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