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Transforming an interest in transportation into a wide-ranging and robust collecting passion

By Antoinette Rahn

Colorado resident Ken Mueller is an unapologetic fan of P.B.J.

Before you start wondering what peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have to do with collecting, let me explain. P.B.J. etc. stands for “Pins,” “Buckles” and “Jewelry.” This clever moniker is what Mueller uses when describing his collection. A collection of about 475 items. The collection portrays the transition of transportation from man walking upright to the landing on the moon. Everything from shoes and roller skates, to cars, boats, planes and moon landers are represented.

Transportation In Miniature

Mueller's transportation collection

Buckles and tie tacks with a transportation theme, as well as Western interests all have a place in Ken Mueller's collection. Submitted photos

“I use it as a way to trace the history,” Mueller said. “In addition to the history of transportation, the collection is about the evolution of materials. The material used to make item such as pins, buckles and jewelry.”

The story of another person's collection serves as inspiration to tell his story. The article appears in the Dec. 7, 2016 issue of Antique Trader, and is about 3-D belt buckles. The long-time collector and retired printing specialist found inspiration through contributor Steve Evans' collection.

Mueller's collection illustrates various aspects of transportation, and pays homage to important people in his life. There are the car club pins he’s picked up during his past professional life. Each pin represents friends who share his affinity for classic cars. Plus, there are a number of pieces in the collection with special ties to Mueller’s father-in-law. 

Collecting Serves As Unbreakable Bond

“My father-in-law was in aerospace, and some of the items I have now are from his own personal collection,” said Mueller, with a tone of reverence as he spoke of the man with whom he shared a passion for collecting.

It also serves as a connection and means of fondly remembering special moments involving people like his father-in-law, and wife, who have passed on.

“One of my favorite items is the 1922 belt buckle with a skiing scene,” said Mueller. “This is one of the things from my father-in-law’s personal collection. He was an avid skier, and he and his grandson skied together, so it’s a special item that ties things together.”

The focus on transportation-related collectibles wasn’t only in relation to his father-in-law’s work in aerospace. Mueller himself spent nearly a decade in the 1970s selling used cars. That widened the path to a love of classic cars, which culminated with the purchase of a 1958 Ford Fairlane retractable hardtop convertible.

Space Demands Downsizing Focus of Collecting

“Eventually my collecting went toward classic cars, but they take up too much space, so then I turned to toys, and they take up a lot of shelf space. So then I got into smaller things, such as pins, buckles and jewelry – like tie tacks.”

Of course there are a couple of tie tacks celebrating the 1958 Ford convertible, but a toy model of his classic car has yet to make its way into his collection. “Someday,” Mueller said. “Someday.”

For those who are keeping a running tally of Mueller’s collections, there are about 475 pieces in the P.B.J. collection, one classic car, and a collection featuring about 4,200 antique and vintage toys.

Making Friends Through Collecting

“I get hooked on things a little bit,” he said with a chuckle. “For years I traveled for work, and during

Mueller's aerospace examples

Aerospace is an area of interest close to Mueller's heart. Airplanes and flying wings are abundant within his pin, buckle and jewelry collection.

those years I’d stop at the same shops in the same small towns along the way.

“It got so the owners would recognize me when I walked in, even though it was only a couple times a year.”

In addition to antique and collectible shops, Mueller says most of the items he adds to his collection come by way of estate sales and thrift stores. If the years have taught him anything, he said, it’s: Collect what you truly like and buy items in as good a condition as possible.

“Even if the condition isn’t the best, buy it if it’s the only one you’ve seen. Buy it, and you’ll have it. Down the road you may see one in better condition, and then you can replace one for the other.”

Mueller's pins of interest

Buckles and pins galore, represent some of the many interests of Ken Mueller.

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