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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Collecting Television Memorabilia Review

By Dian Zillner
Published by Schiffer Books
Available in the UK from Bushwood Books (6 Marksbury Avenue, Kew Gardens, Surreu TW9 4JF)
£24.95 tpb 182pp

Collecting Television Memorabilia is a new title from Schiffer Books, an American publisher which specialises in ‘collectible guides’ on everything from glassware to corkscrews via African tribal art and Star Trek collectibles. This tome follows their standard format: a full colour large format book which features information about merchandise collected by subject/topic.

For a book with this title, the reader should perhaps expect something a little more than they get. For example, for the show with which I am most familiar: Doctor Who, there is nothing at all. Star Trek, surely the most merchandised television franchise ever gets just under a page … the brief here seems to have been to include an example from as many American shows as possible, and so alongside The Time Tunnel and other Irwin Allen series we have Happy Days items, The Flying Nun and Mork and Mindy but also such (I would have thought) obscure items as The Captain and Tennille, Gidget and The Tennissee Ernie Ford Show.

There is also a great bias towards shows of the fifties and sixties, with nineties examples barely being mentioned: Twin Peaks is one such which does get in. However in a short introduction, the author explains this by saying that it is harder to find merchandise from the earlier periods, and therefore it is more collectible. Probably true, but then the book also purports to be an ideal starting point for anyone interested in television collectibles … and these people might surely be interested in current material as well.

In throwing its net too wide, the book really fails to satisfy. There are mentions of over 260 different shows herein, and each gets a brief description, plus a handful of photographs of items. If the intention is then for the collector to diversify and to seek out more comprehensive guides to a particular area (for example Star Trek) then there are other books which cover this. But in this respect, what use is this book?

Aside from the questions about content, the book is very nicely laid out and contains a lot of well-taken photographs of the items in question. For UK readers, however, there is too much which we just don’t know about and have probably never heard of. Massive US hits like Welcome Back Kotter and Howdy Doody just don’t mean anything to a UK buyer, and a great many American ‘personality’ shows are covered, from Jimmy Durante and Lucille Ball (who you might have heard of) to Loretta Young, Joe Namath and Gisele MacKenzie (who you might not know).

It’s a scattershot look at a broad range of television merchandise, covering a large range of different types of programme. It’s OK as a diverting browse, but I can’t see that it’s really of any great interest to a serious collector – except for a collector of books about collecting! And I can’t forgive the total exclusion of Doctor Who!

David Howe