Meet some of the men from the Collectors’ Club who collect anything from cinema tickets to Marina Bay Sands’ door keys!
BY: Eleanor Yap
These men collect anything imaginable – some you might never imagine could be collected! These men are from the informal group at the Aljunied-Kembangan RC called the Collectors’ Club (now called the Northeast Collectors’ Club) which was started in 1994 and initially had 50 members, mostly 50 years old and above. Today, they don’t meet as often as they used to – usually it was twice a month – one day to come up with a theme and the second day to do an exhibit. However, by chance, they have come together at the recent two-day Treasure Hunt Show & Tell Day organised by “Channel News Asia” (it is launching a new series called Treasure Hunt, about interesting keepsakes that people have and how it is linked to Singapore’s history).
Ageless Online speaks to five of them:
• Buttons galore
Father of three, Sim Kai Siang, 73, collects buttons from uniforms as well as costumes. He shared he has over 800 buttons, delicately kept in over 60 frames! They are not just metal buttons but also made out of shell and ivory, as well as in bronze and gold. Kai Siang said that he did odd jobs at Sungei Road, where he also lived, and in the 1970s started to collect these buttons. He would spend sometimes in cents or even in dollars for each button. Some of them go way back to the 1930s.
He said in Chinese, “Collecting stamps are common and the buttons were cheap”. There was an interested party in Hong Kong, Kai Siang shared, that wanted to curate a book from his buttons but he felt he was not confident about how old some of his buttons were.
• Karang guni man
He calls himself a “karang guni” (rag and bone) man as he shared that he “collects anything under the sun”. YH Sim, 83, collected cinema posters, calendars, 8 Days’ magazine covers, lottery tickets (particularly the fish and bird series from the 1960s), cigarette boxes, autographed books (he has a book autographed by ex-Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten) and matchbox covers. He shared of the matchbox covers: “My father was studying in China when young and would bring me back matchboxes.”
He also said with a tinge of regret, that in 1996 when he had a heart attack, he decided to sell his stamps as “I felt my children would throw them away”.
He also revealed that he collected over 50 photographs that he took of buildings that were torn down in Singapore. So which building was he most sad to see go? The grandfather of two revealed it was the house that he was born in – at 67 Kovan Rd.
• Movie goer
Lee Liat Hwa 76, said his job long time ago was colouring cinema slides. His work somehow related back to his collection. He collected cinema tickets and has more than 100. He shared that his oldest ticket is from 1955 or 1956 and his tickets ranged from 50 cents (for seats at the front) to $2 (for seats at the back). The tickets are mainly from him going to see the shows. “I keep them mainly for memory-sake,” said the father of two. His favourite show of all the shows he watched? A Chinese folk song movie called “Sister Liu” (loosely translated).
Liat Hwa also collected coins, stamps, matchbox covers and lottery tickets. Asked if he wouldn’t mind selling them, he said: “I don’t mind exchanging or selling them”.
• All things Peranakan
Richard Wee, 71, is a collector of all things Peranakan – kebayas, jewellery, photos, beaded shoes and more. “As a collector, you tend to also collect other things,” he said. He also collects pictures, newspaper cuttings and elephant figurines. “I started collecting in my school days. I have sadly thrown away most of them when I was growing up as I had other interests, and at the time, I didn’t want to accumulate too much things.
“When you see those things, it brings back memories. … You have a connection to them, and you remember what they were used for.” At the moment, he has no intention of selling his collection of items. “As a collector, you want to treasure them and enjoy them as much as you can, otherwise it would be called accumulation or hording. You must enjoy them, play with them and feel them,” he said. “Collectors are happy people. They share the joy with others. You don’t see collectors who are sad; they are always eager to tell their stories and share their collections. When we all meet, we act like kids!”
• And, the unusual (drum roll please) …
And then there was the collection of Marina Bay Sands’ (MBS) door keys from when the integrated resort officially opened its doors back in 2010. Father of three, Yeo Tong Teng, said that at the beginning he didn’t need to pay as a contractor friend of his would just pick then up from the floor when people dropped them.
However, later, he had to pay up to $10. “Every month, there is a new one. I have 41 keys in my collection. Some are missing like during the Formula 1 in September last year. If I don’t have them, I would just pay for them.” He even has most of the keys showcasing the celebrity chefs’ restaurants at MBS including Justin Quek’s Sky at 57, Guy Savoy’s Guy Savoy and Wolfgang Puck’s Cut.
Door keys aren’t the only things he collects. He also collects phone cards and MRT cards, and said, “I will only buy from people but not sell!”
** For those interested in joining the Collectors’ Club, contact its president, Wong Chiat Wan at email@example.com or by phone at 9694 5865.