I collect everything and all things Porsche related. My office is filled with books, artwork, models, dioramas, die-cast cars, calendars, RC toys, etc. etc. In fact, for a while there, I thought I had quite the collection going. Then I read about Henry Hammer and his Porsche memorabilia collection. Boy, is he in a league of his own. I recently had the chance to interview Henry about his
obsession collection and here’s what he had to say.
1. You began collecting in 1968. What drew you to Porsche?
HSH (Henry S. Hammer):
I’m first generation American with both of my parents having been born in Germany – mom just outside Stuttgart and dad in Bavaria. Hence, I had a strong leaning to German things like German cars, German food [spaetzle (German noodles), sauerkraut, blaukraut], etc. Note the strong leaning to food. Having said that, my parents never owned a German car in America.
None-the-less, for whatever reason, I loved Mercedes and Porsche automobiles with Porsche winning over because of the competitive side of things – LeMans, etc. I was always a nut in whatever I did from an excellence perspective – and, of course, Porsche wreaks of excellence.
2. Do you collect other brands besides Porsche?
I have a smattering of other marques in the collection. Most of them got their by accident, someone gave me a piece or my eye was caught by superb workmanship on a model. I also became very interested in the Schuco manufacturer, especially Schuco Piccolos whether or not they were Porsches. Hence, I’ve got a bunch of them.
3. How many pieces are in your collection as of today?
There are approximately 30,000 models listed in my database and probably another 4,000 models that have not been entered due to my time constraints. That does not include all the literature I have (factory pamphlets, brochures and books), factory posters and memorabilia like pins, etc. None of these items have been cataloged. All told, we’re probably looking at something in the neighborhood of 80,000 pieces. I stopped procuring new pieces simply because of finances (I’m now retired and on a fixed income in a bad economy), storage space, etc.
When I moved from Hawaii to San Antonio, it took three 40 foot Matson sea containers to move the collection. I built two homes here – one for us to live in and one for the cars to live in. The “car house” has a few models on display (maybe 5% of the collection) but mostly the pieces are in large boxes that were packed for shipping in 2000. It’s a matter of time and space for me to see the entire collection which I’ve never done – at least in one place.
I have three married daughters and none of them (or their husbands) are interested in having the collection. Hence, I’m piece-mealing them out on eBay………..a very time-consuming process. I had hoped to keep the collection together and their have been several people interested. However, the immenseness of the collection is a major deterrent. Over the past year and a half with the help of a young man I sing with, who is a computer type, I’ve sold about 750 pieces.
4. What is your most prized piece and why?
My most prized piece is a Porsche 356 Coupe (ceramic) that was given to me by a young man who lived in Heidelberg (the son of a good friend). He received it from his grandmother who was a rally driver for the Porsche factory. This was one of five, according to folks at the factory, that was presented to the drivers in 1951. I know of only one other still in existence.
5. What is the most valuable piece in your collection?
By valuable, I assume your talking about monetary value. It would probably be a Stanley Wanlass bronze sculpture of the James Dean 550 Spyder. Having said that, I also have a complete collection of Larry Braun’s bronze Porsche and Porsche related pieces and a large number of other rare large pieces that were presented by Hoffman Motors in the 60’s to dealer’s as rewards for outstanding sales.
6. With such a large collection are there still pieces available that you don’t own? If so, what is the one piece you would like, but do not currently have?
That’s the interesting thing! I don’t know what’s out there but there are many, many pieces, I’m sure, that exist that I don’t know about………buried in someone’s closet or attic. I don’t have one piece that I’m looking for at this time……….especially since I’ve stopped the active phase of collecting in my life. I do know that there are some major Porsche collectors out there who watch my listings on eBay and when something rare comes up, they are in the middle of the hunt to bid on it.
I’ve resigned my self to parting out the collection – there’s nothing sacro-sanct about any part of the collection at this time. The hard part for me was making that decision. Once I resigned myself to the fact that anything goes, anything goes for the right price.
7. How have you financed the purchase of such a large collection?
The entire collection was purchased item by item for the most part out of personal income. If it said “Porsche” on it or looked like a Porsche, I would attempt to obtain it. I always tried to find mint or mint/boxed items but with the old stuff, that’s not always possible.
8. How much physical space is required to store the collection?
The “toy house” is two-story and 3200 square feet. No where near enough space to be able to lay out the entire collection. That’s been a great frustration for me. I know what I have but really don’t know where it is in the house. I open a box to sort through items and it’s like Christmas every day of the week.
9. Your site has a lot of models listed for sale. Are you divesting yourself of the collection, or is this part of your normal trading/culling process?
I didn’t do much trading or selling until last year. That’s when I started on eBay. I simply made the decision to divest myself of as much of the collection as possible to not saddle my wife or family with dealing with the “monster” as some people call it.
10. Your site mentions you are looking for another “afficianado” to pass the reigns to. Could you elaborate on this? What exactly would be required? Is it a purchase of the collection or are you looking for someone to take over as curator?
As I mentioned above, I’d love to find someone who would be interested in purchasing the entire collection. That is difficult because I have no room to “layout” all the pieces and no one is really interested in reviewing a database and not actually seeing the models. I currently have invested something just short of 2M in this hobby and would heavily discount the purchase price for the right person.
11. Some might say that this has moved beyond hobby and into the realm of obsession. How do you respond to that type of remark?
I would totally agree that it has been a 40 year obsession for me. Considering I hardly ever sold or traded a piece, I never have been in a position where one would or could call me a dealer. I have given some pieces to individuals to stimulate an interest in the hobby. This has been a very personal thing for me. Because of eBay, my name is now more well known in Porsche and model circles but that has never been a goal of mine. I don’t think the Porsche (PCA) people here in Texas even know the collection exists under their noses.
12. Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t covered in the questions above?
I think I’ve given you a pretty good overview of my passion for the Porsche marque and the depth to which I addressed my collecting “obsession”. I still cherish opening a box and looking at individual pieces and admiring whatever it is I’m looking at.
If you want to learn even more about the collection you can view photos available here and if you’re interested in purchasing any portion of the collection, the store is on-line for your viewing and bidding pleasure. Personally, I would like to see the entire collection go to one person and put on display for Porsche fans everywhere to see and view. What do you think?