Welcome to a collection to beat all collections.
What is it that makes someone start a collection which alters the course of their entire life? For Mel Birnkrant, it was an iron Mickey bank he saw at the Paris flea market in 1958. His hotel room rent was $30 a month and the toy was $10. It was in that moment, at the one and only Marché aux Puces, Mel was first bitten by the collecting bug. It would take him many more years to understand how that toy had such power over him.
The purchase spurred a lifetime of toy collecting, turning objects not intended to be “art” and elevating them to that very level. “This simple act of recognizing that this object I had found was art, in 1958, when to all the rest of the world, it was not, and standing behind my conviction by paying what was, then, a painful price, I experienced all the emotional satisfaction that I would have if I had actually created this powerful object myself,” writes Mel. “Recognizing the visual merits of humble works, intended merely to amuse children and later be discarded, became, for me, an act of creativity. I could sense my entire body tingling, and, ever so slightly, levitating.”
Mel’s private collection in his home in upstate New York doesn’t seem of this earth. It’s impossible to wrap your brain around the idea that this “Mouse Heaven”, as he calls it, a mind-boggling museum of Mickey Mouse and other toys of pre-World War II comic characters, was created by just one man. It is a genius work of lost art, a museum of dreams.
There is no doubt Mel Birnkrant is an artist in the same way that Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein are artists– Andy with his supermarket products and Roy with his old comic books. Mel also made toys himself over the years and invented the iconic Baby Face doll as well as The Outer Space Men action figures. From 1964 to 1986, Birnkrant designed toys for the Colorforms Company.
Here are some more pictures of this grand collection.
Clancy's comment: Mel is obviously a big kid at heart, but there's nothing wrong with that.