Elyse Luray, host of Syfy's new series Collection Intervention, answers questions about the show premiering tonight.
Collectibles enthusiasts, as well as History Detectives fans, won't want to miss expert Elyse Luray's latest exploration of Americana in Syfy's new reality show, Collection Intervention. A celebration of collections and their collectors, Collection Intervention calls upon the vast knowledge of stylish historian, appraiser, auctioneer, author, pop-culture maven and stunning mother of two Elyse Luray to help out of control collectors assess, appraise and better curate their cherished collections. Formerly the Head of Special Collections at Christie’s (which included comic books), Head of Animation Department, and Vice President of the Popular Arts Department, Elyse has appraised the official archives of LucasFilms, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbara, Hard Rock Cafe, Chuck Jones’ personal collection and more.
For Collection Intervention, Luray uses her skills to help collectors make better use of their space, improve how they showcase prized pieces and better know the value of what it is they actually have. A few days ago Elyse took questions from the press and, being a History Detectives fan since its debut, I was honored to join the discussion.
Informed by recent experience working with hoarders, Elyse quickly points out that Syfy's new show isn't about that problematic dilemma. "Collection Intervention is about helping people who have large collections focus on how to best curate and streamline them. I don’t think anyone featured on the show are hoarders or unhealthy. I did a show last year on hoarders for the Style Network, so I'm really in tune to what real hoarders are. None of these houses were dirty. Hoarders are people that collect anything with no focus and don’t really have the emotional attachments a collector does. All the people on this show collect with a focus. Their collections have just gotten very big and out of control, and they just haven’t had the time, or maybe the space, or maybe the economics to get it back under control. But they’re not collecting everything under the sun. They have boundaries. They’re not picking up just every little thing in the entire world and not letting go of it, there’s an emotional attachment and a rhyme or reason as to what they’re buying. And most of the people that we have in our show have sold before. For some of them it’s part of their business. So the art of letting go, although not easy, is something they have done before. A hoarder can’t even let go of one little item, and that could be a piece of trash. These are collectors who're extremely intelligent and focused." Collectors are intervened upon by request of friends and loved ones. I was curious if the majority of requests had come from wives or girlfriends? "There are actually single men whose friends have us come to the rescue, but I don't remember intervening on any single women yet," relayed Luray.
The issue of hoarding arose because, for many, seeing houses so filled with collectibles and/or comics longboxes can be shocking; especially to those not used to it. "Collecting and working with collections has been such a big part of my life for so long," Elyse details, "when I walk in and I see these collections, it's totally normal for me. I've been seeing it for 20 years and I actually admire it. I think it’s a big feat to have a passion and be able to collect. Not many people can do it. And if you can stay focused and really go out there and get a collection like that, I'm very impressed. So I think the point of the show is really to help people whose collections have just gotten too big and to let them know what they're worth. Throughout the (six episode) season the first thing I ask is, “Do you know what it's worth?” And 90% say, “No,” because they haven’t taken the time to make an inventory, just get a list going. Some of them are very well managed but it’s just that they got so big that their responsibility for the collection gets overwhelming." She confides, "I do have to get really honest sometimes. Saying things like: "This is not worth anything." or "These are things you maybe need to get rid of, and this is why." It can work because there’s a trust element - that’s the first thing we try to establish. And then it’s really about the process and teaching them the process. They know they need help and sometimes the problem is just that they haven’t had the time to mentally consider, “What do I need to do to get through this?” It gets a lot easier once we start trusting each other and working together. I mean, I'm not just there teaching them how to preserve, curate and display their treasured items, I'm down on my hands and knees helping these collectors crate their stuff then bringing them to shows to sell it. We really are in it together."
Some may wonder how young is too young to have and maintain a Collection? "It can be as early as when kids start wanting Barbies and stuffed animals." Luray reveals, "I can’t even begin to tell you how many stuffed animals I had." Which was young Elyse's favorite stuffed toy? "My favorite was Snoopy, and I had all the clothes to change him into. When I met goals, got a good report card or something similar, I would get another set of Snoopy clothes." So, what does she collect today? "I collect vintage Marx Brothers movie posters because my childrens' last name is Marx. I would probably have more if I had more wall space in my house. I have a large collection of Luray China, like my last name. I've probably got 300 pieces of that. I collect sports memorabilia for my kids because I'm a sports auctioneer and I'm always at auctions that sell great sports memorabilia, plus, I happened to run the Collectibles Dept. at Christie’s for a long time and I love sports. I like Southwestern art. I like photography. I love diamonds; if someone would buy them for me. I collect a lot of things. I've always been obsessed with Star Wars, so I'll take anything from Star Wars. Hot Toys are limited edition sculptures with a strong artistic value I've grown to like a lot. I used to collect vintage wooden Fischer Price toys. I went through a major phase where I tried to collect a series of French illustration posters that were put out in the ‘20s with my mother. I've gone through quite a bit of stuff, but, I could sell. When my tastes change I can sell."
Though the occasional need to sell an item is familiar to most collectors, Elyse doesn't think collecting need be about money. "I think it depends on what you're into and what you like to do. You can easily collect things that are not worth a lot of money. It’s not exactly cheap to go to the movies. You could spend that money at a flea market instead - there are always finds out there. I always encourage people to collect, no matter what your economic means. I wouldn’t want anybody to stop having a passion for collecting over money." She offers as example, "You can always switch to buying comics once a month instead of every week."
Regarding sports cards, Luray reports on the state of that hobby today, "The contemporary market's been really killed in recent years, but, I'd still encourage sports fans to collect vintage. Vintage cards are still very much in demand. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, for example, is a very, very expensive card. A Honus Wagner is going up for auction right now - it's a Piedmont card from, I think, 1918 and it could be worth a million dollars. Non-sports cards such as Magic the Gathering are very collectible right now; non-sports cards still do very well. So it really kind of depends, but for sports cards I'd stick to vintage."
The collector who touched Elyse's heart the most this freshman season is also the one who had the hardest time letting go. "They all touched me in different ways, but I can say that Consetta definitely stands out. She was so emotionally attached to Star Wars in so many different ways. She just did not want to let go of anything. You know, it wasn’t just about collecting, or her childhood for her. She dressed as Princess Leia in her wedding. And I saw a very strong transformation in her once she understood that letting objects go to others who'll enjoy them equally is a real joy. The Art of Giving is sometimes the Beauty of Collecting. Consetta actually donated the proceeds from their sale to Rancho Obi-Wan, where we held the auction." Adding, "And then there's the episode where we give some toys to an orphanage. It was very emotional for me, I'd never been to an orphanage before. I was really overwhelmed by the children and their appreciation for these toys that one collector gave away. I think you'll see at the end of each episode each collector feels great."
Whether appraising movie memorabilia or priceless pieces of American history, Elyse finds joy in it all. These are just a few of her favorite appraisals to date, "The Rosebud sled. The Maltese Falcon. The first storyboard from Disney." She further shares, "I did Chuck Jones’ personal collection and his Bugs Bunny drawings were incredible. Bob Dylan’s guitar from when he went electric in 1965 at the Newport Jazz Festival. The list is endless, really. I recently found a piece of the Titanic, and, I actually found a piece of the Star Spangled Banner. I've been lucky to see some really fascinating artifacts in my life."
What upcoming collections can Luray tease? "We have a Transformers collection, a robot collection, and, a Barbie collection that's taken over an entire house. She has a No.1 Barbie, I'd never physically touched a number one Barbie before. We see an especially rare collection of movies, movie posters and underground art. We also see collections of action figures, hot rods, and G.I. Joe. I will say this," Luray imparts with affection, "besides Barbie, there’s not a collection I walked into where I haven’t seen Yoda. Yoda is everywhere. Everyone has Star Wars, and particularly Yoda. He seems to be following me around this summer." A wise Jedi Master, Yoda is.
Watch Elyse Luray intervene on epic collections of Star Wars and Catwoman in the exciting series opener of Collection Intervention tonight @ 10/9c! Also, check-in to GetGlue, after the season finale of Destination Truth, to unlock a cool sticker promoting CI's premiere episode! There's still time to get Collection Intervention's Coming Soon sticker here. If you're a wine drinker, consider purchasing Elyse's insightful book and make sure to screen the sneak peeks (below) of Collection Intervention, only on Syfy tonight!
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