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To Have and to Hold



Ron Warren's collecting motives are nearly transparent.

'Glass and i go back a long way," says Ron Warren. Originally from southeastern Ohio, a center of the glassmaking industry, Warren grew up with the stuff, even attending glassblowing camp when he was 17. "That was my idea of a good summer," he recalls. Today, Warren—the director of the Mary Boone Gallery—is content just collecting it, specifically the mid-century Italian variety.

Filling a wall in the West Chelsea townhouse he shares with partner Joshua Mack, Warren's collection includes more than 50 vases, bowls, and other vessels from such renowned Murano factories as Fratelli Toso, Seguso, and especially Venini. Most are from the fifties, and many were designed by the likes of Fulvio Bianconi and Gio Ponti.

"I especially like the exuberance of the forms that express that period," Warren notes. Two Venini fazzoletto ("handkerchief") vases, of glass gently wrinkled like fabric—one in Technicolor yellow, another in black and white—may be Warren's most iconic acquisitions. But they still have to vie for attention with several Seguso a piume ("feather") pieces characterized by their richly hued plumes of embedded glass, and any number of vessels with kaleidoscopic murrina and millefiore patterns. As with all things mid-century, prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Values at auction typically fall between $7,000 and $12,000, though pieces can go for much less or much, much more.

Warren bought his first Venini piece in 1982, and he's clearly a born collector. His immense accumulation of sock monkeys is the subject of a book, Sock Monkeys (200 Out of 1,863), that's due out this spring. "I remember this beautiful bowl at my grandmother's house that I always admired when I was a kid," he says. It turned out to be a forties Venini piece by the legendary Italian designer Carlo Scarpa, and Warren inherited it a few years ago. "In my mind," Warren admits, "it was mine a long time before that." -- Aric Chen

MOST VALUABLE His grandmother's forties bowl by Carlo Scarpa. "Looking at it transports me."
RAREST ITEM A black plate with a spectacular rooster murrina made in the twenties for the Benetton family.
DEALER OF CHOICE Mark McDonald, at 330 Modern Design in Hudson, New York (518-828-6320).
WEBSITE OF CHOICE "I've never looked for glass online. I need to hold it."
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY "A very flamboyant apricot-and-pale-green fazzoletto that I saw in Milan. I convinced myself that it was too unsophisticated. By the time I got back to New York, it was gone."


If it floats, rolls, or flies, Jack Herbert has to have it.

'I love all things that seem to be going somewhere," says Jack Herbert, who collects toys that transport: ships, cars, airplanes, omnibuses, trackless trains, even the odd zeppelin or hot-air balloon. His two-room West Village house, a tiny freestanding building hidden behind a block of brownstones, is a miniature-transportation museum. Downstairs are a bed, a desk, and a small television set; the rest of the room is occupied by shelves of gleaming antique cars from France, Germany, and Australia, nineteenth-century horse-drawn omnibuses with doors that open and close to let tiny passengers in and out, and hollow tin buses that once served as biscuit tins. The upstairs is devoted mainly to ships—an 1895 warship, a 1912 ocean liner similar in design to the Titanic, an 1875 German sailboat. Virtually every toy actually runs, by windup or steam, and the ships can still be floated on water, although Herbert blanches when asked if he's tried any out.

"All toy collectors are basically kids at heart," the semiretired restaurant owner says, showing me his favorite new object, which sits next to his bed: a nunchuck-twirling hamster that sings the seventies hit "Kung Fu Fighting" when its arm is pressed, available for $9.99. "Last month, I had about 100 members of Antique Toy Collectors of America over, to tour my collection," he says. "But the hamster was the biggest hit." Emily Gitter

MOST VALUABLE ITEM A horse-drawn omnibus from the 1850s, worth about $50,000.
DEALER OF CHOICE Sotheby's and Christie's, plus the specialty auction houses: Randy Inman Auctions in Maine, Bertoia Auctions in New Jersey, and Noel Barrett in Pennsylvania. For beginner collectors, he recommends Second Childhood (283 Bleecker Street; 212-989-6140).
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY "Some items are just too expensive. To get them, you have to sell the children."
WEBSITE OF CHOICE eBay, but not often, since "condition is 50 percent of the value."

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