I’m a Spoon Collector
How My Collection Started
I was on a summer vacation with my family when we went into a gift shop, a must with our family, and I found a section with souvenir, or "tourist," collections. They had bells, thimbles, shot glasses, but what caught my attention was the spoons. I couldn't have been more than ten years old at the time. From that day on, every time I travel, or even sometimes when other family members go on a trip, I get a souvenir spoon. That was only the beginning though, as my fascination with spoons increased with time. Now, I have a wide variety of spoon pieces that make up my collection of over 50 spoons. It may be weird to some, but collecting spoons is actually a fairly popular hobby.
Photo: My Spoon Reflection
What are Souvenir Spoons?
When you go to almost any gift shop you will find souvenir spoons. They are meant to help you remember your visit to a certain place; whether it be an aquarium, city, state, country, national park, memorial, amusement park, etc. They usually have the name of the place you visited and a significant picture along with some possible other writing, such as a date or design. The design of a souvenir spoon typically has a large handle top with a picture, symbol, or engraved writing or art, with the handle sometimes being detailed or decorated, and a bowl that can be plain or also have a picture or engraving.
A Brief History
Galt and Bros. created the first souvenir spoon made in the United States in 1889. It was created to commemorate George Washington’s 100th anniversary since becoming President. After that the obsession and interest in souvenir spoons just snowballed, as a Martha Washington spoon was designed soon after the first souvenir spoon, followed by a Salem Witch Spoon made by a jeweler named Seth. F. Low. People started writing books about collecting these tourist spoons and at Chicago’s World Fair they took the popular hobby and ran away with it, creating amazing designs and new collectors along the way.
Types of Tourist Spoons
There are probably over a million types of different tourist spoons, but here are some of the categories that I like to place my spoons in:
You would think when you are talking about a spoon it would just be the regular concave spoon, like those that you eat out of, but when you are talking about souvenir spoons there are many varieties. Some of the ones that I have in my collection or have seen in others include a shovel shape, one side of a shell, an opened flower, side scooping, a leaf, an arrow, different animal shapes, and some are even spork shaped. There are actually collector forks as well, but I'm going to stick with the spoons. Although, I do have one small souvenir fork in my collection, as it was an ironic piece because it came from Big Fork, MT.
I like to collect metal spoons made out of brass, silver, pewter, and even gold. Most souvenir spoons tend to be either sterling silver or silver plated from what I've seen. Other material types have included porcelain, wood, and some ceramics, but these are hard to find as souvenirs.
I have not yet been able to discover where this design originated, but I have an entire section of my collection that has these hanging charms. They are usually placed dangling inside a hollow circle that has been made in the upper part or very top of the handle. If the spoon is silver the charm often tends to be gold colored.
My Other Spoon Obsessions
Besides the souvenir spoons I also collect antique spoons that have no particular place that they necessarily are from. I especially like ones that have detailed art or work or have no art work at all, but are very large and have a unique design. I haven't gotten one yet, but I would like to add some vintage advertising spoons to my collection, which can be very popular amongst a variety of collectors. I also love spoon jewelry, specifically rings and bracelets.
There is just something intriguing about spoons, perhaps the way they are shaped and designed. It is interesting to me how a now common household item that we use every day could be turned into memorabilia or fine art, although during a time in history not everyone had spoons. Additionally, there are so many types of spoons that the collection possibilities are endless. This can also be a fairly inexpensive hobby if you pick it up, as collector spoons do not usually cost very much. However, over time or depending on the type of spoon you have, they can be worth a lot of money. Monetary value aside, souvenir spoons especially, spoons can help you remember a special time, moment, or family member.
More About Spoons
- PBS History of Souvenir Spoons
The history of souvenir spoons.
What is your favorite piece in your collection? Is there a spoon collector in your life or do you know others that are collectors?