The Tikipedia

Interview with Swanky

As part of a series here on TheTikipedia, we're going to post interviews with some of the avid collectors in the tiki world. This interview is with Swanky, aka Tim Glazner. He's a collector of tiki mugs and restaurant ephemera. Welcome, Swanky!

Who are you?
Tim “Swanky” Glazner

How did you get into tiki?
It came from my long time interest in mid-century style. I collected atomic era clocks and clothes and music, etc. and then discovered Tiki. After I put on the first Hukilau event in 2002, it really took off.

Where are you located?
East Tennessee.

How did you get into collecting?
I've been thrifting since the 80s and junking in general. Tiki collecting was part of the hunt and I put together a pretty large collection. As I got more into the genre, I became more focused.

Approximately how many items are in your collection?
Hard to guess when you think about postcards and little stuff. Somewhere around 150 mugs, 100 postcards, a few dozen swizzles and matchbooks. A couple dozen menus. Maybe 500-600 pieces really.

I sold off most everything a few years ago. I covered my dining room table with mugs 2 or 3 times and sold them all. Probably 500+.

What is it about tiki collecting that appeals to you?
Now I want a complete picture. I want a display to represent a place in history. To tell that story. Touching that old object and getting it in the context of my bar. A vintage mug with a vintage drink in it, sipped wearing a vintage aloha shirt, listening to vintage vinyl Hapa Haole music in my bar full of vintage items. It is interacting with the collection that makes it more alive.

Did you sell off your collection to get a “fresh start,” so to speak, and be able to focus more on items associated with particular locations?
Once the Hideaway was done I decided if it wasn't on display I didn't need it. That also put the focus on a few things/places. So I sold boxes and boxes of mugs that hadn't seen the light of day in years. I kept finding more and more. When I did more junkin', I found stuff all the time. In the beginning I bought everything. Mugs were $1 or less often.

How do you choose whether to acquire an item or not? Do you look for specific things?
I now only collect a few places. Mai-Kai #1. Hawaii Kai New York. Hawaiian Village Tampa. Aku Aku Las Vegas. Florida (non-Mai-Kai), Tennessee, Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber and a few rare times. I buy other stuff when I think it is a good deal and I can make money on it or trade it. If it doesn't fit in my collection, it doesn't much interest me. And I buy a few things for book research and documentation.

The Mai-Kai is arguably the last great tiki palace in existence. Was there a personal connection for you?
We moved Hukilau there in 2003 [Swanky was one of the original organizers of the Hukilau event] and it was a game changer. That was my first visit there and through doing Hukilau there I became close to the family. I am an honorary grandchild myself now. I began collecting Mai-Kai then and it deepened over the years of doing more and more with and for them at Hukilau.

Are there any items you specifically avoid? If so, why?
If I can't display it or it isn't for my book, I generally am not interested.

Can you give us any details on the book?\ The book has the working title of Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure. It will be a coffee table book full of eye-candy, but will also tell the stories of the people that created the greatest Tiki Temple of all time. I have been very surprised at the wonderful stories I have heard and got to know Don the Beachcomber's best friend. I have uncovered facts about Donn and his career that no one knew. So it will be a good read as well.

What's your favorite item in your collection, and why?
A Derby Daiquiri glass in sterling silver. It is the same design as the vintage glass, but it pure silver base. It was given to the jockey who won the Rums of Puerto Rico race at the Gulfstream Derby in Florida. I am the only person who owns one outside the man who gave it to me and some jockey's families maybe.

How do you display your collection?
I have a museum style display in the bar. Grouped by place and layered with risers, etc.

What are your favorite places to collect (ebay, flea markets, etc)?
Almost all Ebay these days.

I'm guessing that's because since you're focused on specific places, those items are hard to come by in Tennessee?
They are hard to come by period. I have been actively collecting Tiki for over 12 years and focused on just a few places for a long time. What I don't own is rare and expensive. Some things I have seen maybe once in 12 years. The early Mai-Kai Mystery Bowls have gone for $700+ and I think I have seen 2 or 3 on Ebay ever.

Do you have any tips for other tiki collectors?
Go back in time when stuff was cheaper and easier to find! Be selective because you can easily fill a house with a scatter shot of Hawaiiana and other tropical stuff.

It definitely sounded easier in the beginnings of the tiki-revival (around 2000), when Tiki Bob mugs could be picked up for a few dollars on eBay!
Prices are low now again in general. People are not collecting vintage like they used to. But finding stuff in the wild is harder and harder. There are still a lot of things to be found for cheap if you get out and do the looking. I could fill more boxes if I had an interest. I sometimes wish I had kept a bunch of the cheap mugs to give to guests in the bar. Start their collections.

What's your buying style? Cheap or nothing? How much would you spend at the top end for a rare piece?
I am still cheap. I rarely spend over $100. Now that I buy so much less often I can allow myself to spend more. I know prices and value pretty well for what I am looking for and try to get things below value if I can. I would still have trouble spending over $200 for a mug unless it is a Mai-Kai rarity I do not own.

What's your holy grail?
[b]The Holy Grail[/I] would be the first Kahiki Mystery Bowl. No one I know has one. I'd say it would fetch $3,000 on Ebay in a properly listed auction. And since it says “Kahiki” on it, it will be properly listed there. Same for the older Mai-Kai Mystery Bowls. I'd love to have one of those. That's at the top of my list. I also look for the Vicious Virgin bowls, but don't have the connection with that and there are a few of them around.

How often do you trade items with other collectors?
I trade fairly often with a few people. That or just give them first option to buy and a good price when I find something rare.

Thanks for participating, Swanky!