Interview with Fred Simeone, 2014 December 3

Hagley ID:
  • Early Collecting Career
    Partial Transcript: "I can actually remember that pretty specifically..." "...when I was about twelve or thirteen and I had a paper route and I thought these are nice things how can I get more?"
    Synopsis: Discusses early collecting career that began with his father. Simeone's father, a general practitioner received auto ephemera from auto manufacturers and dealers and saved them. Simeone used to look at his father's auto ephemera beginning in his early teenage years. He approached a prominent collector (Mr. Brewer) as a youth and requested a card on library stationary that endorsed him to receive auto ephemera from auto manufacturers and dealers. Simeone's first auto literature object was a Cadillac brochure. Simeone acquired most of his catalogues as a youth via written correspondence to manufacturers. Once he had a personal set of stationary, as an adult, he was able to acquire contemporary auto literature from manufacturers more easily.
    Keywords: brochures; car dealerships; catalogues; ephemera
  • Collecting Ethos
    Partial Transcript: "I think, as with everything in my museum now, history governs what you collect, so if cars were historically important in any way at all... anything odd and unusual..." "... it seems you can find something important about every car..."
    Synopsis: Explains how he selects what is worth collecting and what is not: historical significance is the most important aspect -pioneered cars by individuals, odd and unusual cars, design change, manufacturing technique, style, and performance. Vinson preferred Czech cars and Soviet cars; whereas Simeone preferred American cars and Western European cars. With some exception, Soviet cars were not historically significant. Discusses how his collecting was more focused on the car itself, whereas Vinson was more focused on the actual printed literature. Vinson was a bibliophile that enjoyed the quality of the paper and illustration, and the condition of the material. Simeone cared less about the condition of the materials that he collected and was more interested in compiling a complete collection of literature even if the objects themselves were in poorer condition. However, Simeone often would upgrade on a particular item if he found a came across a better copy in the future.
    Keywords: collecting; curating; specialization
  • Evolution of collecting over time
    Partial Transcript: "We can probably divide the collecting world into pre-internet and post-internet."
    Synopsis: Discusses how his collecting evolved over time -dividing it into pre-internet days to post-internet time periods. Pre-internet collecting entailed forming contacts among fellow collectors in order to trade materials -which was difficult because each trading partner would need to have something that the other wanted as well as need something that the other had. Simeone and Vinson were not active trading partners, as their interests diverged. Instead, their relationship was more of a friendship in which they discussed their own collections with each other. Pre-internet collecting also required that collectors write to manufacturers in order to acquire contemporary literature. Collectors joined auto collecting clubs like "Automaniacs" that printed a journal with prices of catalogs. Dealers were another main source of auto ephemera for collectors. The most important source for pre-internet collectors was flea markets -where dealers would gather to sell auto ephemera. Occasionally, someone might advertise their collection and mail it to the buyer upon purchase. The internet altered these patterns, making auto catalogs searchable on eBay. The "thrill of the chase" has been lost somewhat with the rise of the internet. However, the internet has made collecting much more efficient.
    Keywords: Automaniacs; collector's clubs; correspondence; the Internet; trading
  • Scope and scale of auto ephemera collectors
    Partial Transcript: "We can name the collections that were at the level of Taylor's in the United States, there were four I guess, three, four, or five."
    Synopsis: Contextualizes himself and Vinson as elite collectors. Simeone explains that the group of collectors at Simeone or Vinson's level is quite small. Vinson was among three to four collectors of his scope and scale. There was little competition between collectors. Vinson collected more exotic, luxurious literature, whereas Simeone was more interested in the history of cars and the chronology of a particular make in order to compile a comprehensive collection. However, a collection can never be complete, but selecting a representation of each model is more achievable.
    Keywords: competition; Z. Taylor Vinson
  • Importance of personal connections to collecting
    Partial Transcript: "Personal connections to other collectors- well it varied with the collector..." "Taylor, less so, because we had more of an intellectual relationship..."
    Synopsis: The importance of personal connections to collecting varied according to each collector. Robert Tuthill, a prominent collector, would often search for items that Simeone wanted to own. Vinson did not assist Simeone in his collecting, as their interests diverged. However, Vinson did introduce Simeone to the French Automobile Club in Paris.
    Keywords: collecting; Czechoslovakia; French Automobile Club; Robert Tuthill; Society of Automotive Historians
  • The role of auto ephemera dealers
    Partial Transcript: "...dealers usually had a large supply... trading partners... trading is like a marriage..."
    Synopsis: Dealers usually had a large supply with a wide range of items. Trading partners were more specialized. Trading was like a marriage. Each trader partnership needed equivalent interest and ability to trade. Simeone and Vinson did not trade because their interests did not align. Trading partners did not always exchange cash for catalogues; usually disparities in the amount of value of traded materials were compensated with additional auto ephemera. Dealers do operate with cash, though their practices vary. "Pickers" draw from a variety of sources and then organize their supply by category or theme, and typically sell items for a much greater value than what they paid. Dealers might either allow collectors to price their materials or just assign a value themselves. A "car literature dealer" advertises in magazines, and publishes lists of their supply with prices according to market value.
    Keywords: collecting; dealers; dealing; pickers; trading
  • The changing value of ephemera
    Partial Transcript: "Any item like a brochure, which starts life with no value... so the nadir of value... is when it's first produced..."
    Synopsis: Brochures begin with no value but its value increases incrementally over time. A market for auto ephemera emerged gradually in the postwar period, which made the price rise for collectable literature. When the internet became a popular space in which to buy and sell auto ephemera, the prices for auto literature dropped in the mid 1990s. Items were unsold more often and the prices dropped. There are also fewer and fewer new collectors in the United States, which has resulted in a reduced demand for auto ephemera. The value has dropped perhaps about 30 percent if not more.
    Keywords: Automaniacs; supply and demand; valuation
  • The value of Simeone's Collection
    Partial Transcript: "...with me, it wasn't about value, it was about love of the cars..." "I don't think about what its worth or what it costs... I never had it appraised..."
    Synopsis: His automobile collection has become valuable. However, when he bought the cars years ago they had little value. Likewise, his auto ephemera collection also has a significant monetary value, though because all of it is now under the auspices of his foundation, he does not think about the value of his collection in monetary terms. The main value of a piece is its "historical value" that it has as an official representation or verifier of the original make. This is particularly important for those who restore automobiles. There is also a "hedonic value" to the ephemera, which basically refers to the enjoyment that an owner or collector has in owning the item. Reflects on the value of his own collection. Some collectors value their experience acquiring their collections more than the objects themselves. Simeone gave away his own collection to his foundation, which was more expensive than simply selling it off. However, this allowed him to preserve the collection as a whole. In contrast, his friend Robert Tuthill's collection was sold off and dispersed. Keeping his own collection intact as a comprehensive repository of knowledge provides a benefit for visitors and researchers
    Keywords: appraisal; taxes; valuation
  • Favorite items from the collection
    Partial Transcript: "(If I did have a favorite item,) it would probably be The History of Acquisition..."
    Synopsis: Mentions a few of his favorite and unique items from his collection -an 1892 brochure titled, "The Passing of the Horse," that demonstrates the advantage of automobiles over horses, the first luxury Mercedes-Benz publication (1905), a Packard brochure illustrator's copy, and a showroom brochure for custom cars.
    Keywords: "The Passing of the Horse"; advertising; Mercedes-Benz; Packard
  • Motivation behind collecting cars and auto ephemera
    Partial Transcript: "All this goes back to my dad, dad was a general practitioner... he took me on house calls with him and then we would go to junk yards or we would just drive around and look at cars..."
    Synopsis: Simeone's father, a second-generation immigrant, took Simeone to junkyards and drove around to look at cars from the 1920s and 1930s. Even as a child, he realized that cars were historically significant. He also inherited four cars from his father. Explains that cars become 'iconic' through a notable historical association (winning races, owned by celebrity) or innovative style, design, aesthetics, or performance. His favorite car is a 1938 Hugh Hunter Alfa Romeo, one of only four cars made. The first car he ever collected, a 1949 Alfa Romeo, was purchased by his father for him to fix up and restore. Even though he had a tumultuous experience with the car, he preserved it in his museum as an example of a poorly-designed car produced in an ambiguous time for auto manufacturers. Discusses his interest in auto literature collecting as a hobby that accommodated his occupation as a surgeon. He could not travel as a surgeon, but reading and collecting books was an activity that he could do from home. His sales brochures collection from, 1898 to around 2008 was the shared interest around which Simeone and Vinson became friends. He collected in all of the places in which he lived throughout his time in medical school. Now, he finds it difficult to even find magazines or sales brochures online that he does not own.
    Keywords: Alfa Romeo; cars; design; historical importance; history
  • Storing the collection
    Partial Transcript: "I had a big, big, old townhouse in Center City Philadelphia, and then it got too big for that..."
    Synopsis: Discusses how he stored his collection throughout the years, noting the constraints that space can pose for collectors. He first stored his collection in his home in Center City Philadelphia, but when it became too full he bought a former glass manufacturing factory to store his literature and cars. The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum now stores all of Simeone's personal collection. Space, for Simeone, was never a constraint as he was able to buy more property to accommodate his collections.
    Keywords: collecting; storage
  • The production of auto ephemera
    Partial Transcript: "Let's talk about the company that had the best history in America for auto literature- Packard."
    Synopsis: Describes the process by which auto literature was produced. Packard Motor Company had design studios that were segmented into car and publication design. Publication departments were responsible for sales brochures, reports, instruction books, and catalogues among other literature. Henry Ford, on the other hand, had a more direct hand in the design and text of some Ford brochures that would be contracted out. Advertising companies became more popular to produce television advertisements as well as print ads. The quality of sales literature, such as the paper or images, has decreased over time.
    Keywords: advertisement; Packard Motor Company; publications
  • Market segmentation and advertising
    Partial Transcript: "You can tell where they're coming from..."
    Synopsis: Discusses market segmentation by gender, and race and ethnicity. Portraying people of diverse ethnic backgrounds have become more popular over time. Television advertising has increasingly shifted to emphasize nonperformance features, such as a retractable roof, over more detailed technology. Recalls a 1905 Cadillac ad that showed the interchangeability of car parts. An early 20th century Jordan Motor Company advertisement titled, "Somewhere West of Laramie" was particularly significant and memorable. Advertisements that focused on cost were particularly effective, which the Japanese manufacturers eventually utilized when they entered the auto market on a global scale. Volkswagen advertisements relied on humor to advertise their cars.
    Keywords: "Somewhere West of Laramie"; advertisement; Cadillac; Chrysler; diversity; Ford; General Motors; Japanese automobile manufacturers; Jordan Motor Company; print; television; Volkswagen
  • Unsuccessful advertising and selling
    Partial Transcript: "Well, the cars flopped, the only way you can determine unsuccessful advertising is if the car flops..." "There is a theory that if you have an image... you don't deviate from that image..."
    Synopsis: States that the quality, performance, and design of the car itself is the primary selling point, to which advertising is secondary. When cars were unsuccessful, it usually had to do with the actual car itself. Volkswagen produced a luxury car which was largely unsuccessful. Porsche, on the other hand, successfully produces luxury vehicles of diverse makes. In the early 20th century, the Lozier Motor Company, utilized "snob appeal" to sell their cars.
    Keywords: Ford Edsel; Porsche; Volkswagen
  • Collecting the unsual
    Partial Transcript: "Anything that's different, unusual..."
    Synopsis: Discusses the appeal that failure has for collectors, as well as anything that is rare, unusual, or historically notable by association. Anything strange or unusual is highly collectible. A 2002 Ford catalogue that shows the World Trade Center is an example of this. He owns a Beinz catalogue that was the property of Frau Beinz that is also valuable by association of the owner.
    Keywords: Ford; Mercedes Benz; the unusual; World Trade Center
  • Shifts in advertising trends and practices
    Partial Transcript: "There are certain hot button items.. where they try to sell you on a specific feature..."
    Synopsis: Describes how advertising has changed over the past century. Electric gear shifts and automatic shifts are early examples of consumer features that manufacturers highlighted in their campaigns. Stutz Motor Company began one of the first safety-oriented advertisement campaigns in 1925 and 1926, but since World War II more manufacturers have chosen to emphasize safety as a "hot button" selling point. He attributes the trend towards one-feature focused advertising to the limited time that television advertisements have to interest viewers. Promo models were more common in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, these model cars are more popular among those who cannot afford to actually buy a desired car. The most prolific size of model cars is the 1:48 scale. Promos were distributed directly through the manufacturer.
    Keywords: advertising; automatic gear shift; catalogues; electric shift gears; model cars; Stutz Motor Company
  • The 1958 Nash Metropolitan
    Partial Transcript: "The Nash Metropolitan was always kind of a kinky car, it's nice because it's small..."
    Synopsis: Discusses the 1958 Nash Metropolitan. It was a "kinky car" that was very small. At the time it was different and very interesting in a time in which American compact cars were nonexistent.
    Keywords: compact cars; Nash Metropolitan
  • Z. Taylor Vinson as a fellow collector and friend
    Partial Transcript: "I remember, he was a very intellectual person...he was a trained attorney... he was also a very significant factor in the Society of Automotive Historians..."
    Synopsis: Describes Vinson as a person and as a collector. Vinson was a very intellectual person, a trained attorney, a significant member in the Society of Automotive Historians, and a passionate collector. He and Simeone formed camaraderie around their shared interest in automobiles and auto ephemera. Collecting claimed the majority of Vinson's free time because he was so meticulous. The two men first met at the Hershey car show. They did not trade since they both had "mature collections" at the time, and only needed rare items.
    Keywords: Hershey Car Show; Society of Automotive Historians; Z.Taylor Vinson
  • Vinson's motivation to collect
    Partial Transcript: "..I couldn't even answer that question about myself... this was the one type of spare time thing that I could do without having to travel..." "I think for Taylor he was just passionate about cars and what they mean..."
    Synopsis: Reflects on what motivated Vinson, as well as himself, to collect auto literature. Finds it difficult to explain both his own and Vinson's reasons to collect, however, Simeone explains that collecting was a convenient hobby for his occupation as a surgeon who could not travel very frequently. Vinson was passionate about cars and what they meant. Vinson had a particularly strong advertisement collection, and it is possible that he was interested in the merchandizing of cars specifically. Vinson was particularly interested in European auto literature due to their higher quality of paper and illustrations. Simeone describes Vinson's "autotorium," a room with filing cabinets full of his collection.
    Keywords: collecting; free time; hobbies
  • Completeness of Collections
    Partial Transcript: "We don't know what was made out there, so it's never complete, if I had this collection ... I'd be looking for American literature to make it complete..." "Completion would imply that you know everything that was out there and no one does... it does get pretty filled, but it's never complete."
    Synopsis: Discusses how a collection is never complete. It is impossible to know the scope of existing automotive literature, since there was never a record of what was produced. Likewise, Simeone has never stopped collecting.
    Keywords: collection; completeion; records
  • Collecting as story telling
    Partial Transcript:
    Synopsis: Relates how auto ephemera has the potential to tell the history of evolving enterprise and technology. Having a chronological record of a company's products reveals a pattern of more general trends of consumer tastes and technological developments. Some companies always had a "sporty bent" to them that is consistent throughout their past. A series of brochures from a single manufacturer can tell a story. The history of the company is important in explaining the development of a particular car.
    Keywords: collection; story telling
  • Importance of the car to modern life
    Partial Transcript: "You can't ask any guy "Why cars?" cars have everything for people. Many people have said the automobile is the most... transforming invention of the industrial age..."
    Synopsis: Discusses the significance of the car in modern life. Compared to other consumer objects, the car is essential to life. The automobile gives mobility and speed at an unprecedented degree. While men have been the primary group to take interest in cars, women are also passionate about automobiles and will be increasingly interested.
    Keywords: cars; collecting; mobility
  • Auto collecting as a lifelong pursuit
    Partial Transcript: "There's a few things, my own tend to get obsessed... and if I did do something I wanted it to be as good as it can be."
    Synopsis: Reflects on how auto ephemera collecting has influenced his life. In many ways, collecting has been somewhat of an obsession. Like his practice as a surgeon, Simeone has tried to be exceptional as a collector. Vinson was one of the few people were at his level as a collector (estimated at one of four in the world). He approached auto ephemera collecting from an intellectual perspective and as a bibliophile.
    Keywords: collecting; neurology; passion

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