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Souvenirs: The Terror of Tiny Towns

Cheap miniature metal buildings are a classic souvenir category. At one time they were made with actual metal — probably pewter — and often handily doubled  as banks or salt and pepper shakers. Today they are most likely cast from polyresin with a faux-bronze finish. But they still generally sell in a reasonable $5-10 price range, depending on size, complexity of detail, and how desperate the tacky tourist emporium you’re browsing in needs to improve its cash flow.

Miniature RotundaThe Building Collector blog (run by “Dave”) covers this wonderful world of Lilliputian landmarks — from miniature buildings on rings, to how to photograph your miniature collection. Oh sure, most people have a handful of common examples shunted off to the back of some shelf (an Eiffel Tower here…a Statue of Liberty there…) but if you read Dave’s blog you’ll quickly realize that there is another trend afoot: upscale, limited edition models that appeal to the serious collector.

InFocusTech offers a vast array of high-end examples, from popular, well-known tourist destinations like the Empire State Building (Ultra Limited, $250) to just about every obscure corporate tower attempting to dominate the skyline of a mid-sized American city. Miniature buildings.Is there really a big demand for Bank of America, Dallas? (Although I must admit that Pride of Bartlesville (in Oklahoma, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) is rather cool.) And it’s nice to see that they offer an itty bitty version of the folk art filigree wonder that is the Watts Towers ($90).

Another niche in the field of petite production is fulfilled by Boym Partners. Their “Buildings of Disaster” series appeal to the lover of irony, black humor, and conversation-starting object accumulation. Beautifully designed and sure to give your guests the willies, the line-up includes Chernobyl, The Ford Theater, The Dakota Apartments, The Branch Davidian Compound, and the timeless and once-again-topical Neverland Ranch ($110).

Curioustown - UFO Assembly PlantFor a more cheerful take that appeals to the artier side of baby building multiples, check out “Curious Town.” These “building never built…until now” are designed by illustrator Bob Staake. The first offering is “UFO Plant #51” of “Disk, Nevada” ($150).

So if you feel the need to lord it over a miniature world of your own making, this hobby is for you. Indulge your “Godzilla Complex” and start shopping! Gargantuan credit card bill to come. [Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

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