The Rise in Importance of a Piece in a Collection
As director of one of the largest collections of kites in the world, I often get inquiries as to what we collect or should be collecting in the world of kites. What is the importance or value of an individual item or a collection of items? Whose job is it to determine what is worthy of collecting and having in our closets? Establishing value of an object, whether it is a kite or artifact, perhaps has only one rule, “to take into consideration everything.”
A good example of our discussion is that of international telephone cards with kite images. The generic telephone card was developed for use of public access phones, was created to help those who did not want or could not afford a permanent phone in their own home or for use of one in a public area. Phones (for pay) were established in various parts of a city. To use them, one must put either the right amount of change, or a plastic card made to accept “downloaded” amount of money, and activated in the public telephones in order to make a call. The cards were easy to obtain from a local store. You could purchase the amount to put on the card, thus allowing an individual to decide how much of their cash was allotted for calls. When the card was used to pay for calls, the right amount of money was subtracted as a call was made. You never had to worry about having the right amount of change. These cards are easy to produce in numbers and at low costs. Many third world countries found the system useful as this made telephone access affordable for their populations. The popularity of the cards grew in number. The market for these cards and their system of allowing even the smallest of incomes to afford making a telephone call, it was the perfect solution to both domestic and international calling. The telephone cards soon became graphic in their designs, and pleasing to have, even served a purpose of “advertising” a message, whether it be for the government or a commercial product. Like stamps in many countries, the thought was to make the cards more appealing, boosted sales and more people purchased them. It seemed to be the case for the foreigner; they became an inexpensive, clever tourist souvenir.
I am not sure when the first kite image appeared on the front of a calling card, but I can remember Scott Skinner coming back from Japan with a pocket full of telephone cards, all with beautiful designs of Japanese kites. Moving throughout Asia, the images of kites on these cards seemed to be more plentiful, and countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines produced images of kites. It wasn’t until the last ten years that the country of China went into phone card kite design production with a vengeance. It is these cards that we display with this article to give you an example of the collectability of these telephone cards as many were issued in a series within a short period of time.
And what drives this value of this item? Many things, first, there are only one time production runs. The telephone cards seem to never be reproduced once a batch is made and distributed. Second, the number of the cards produced in a printing.
Some countries only create a few thousand, relating to a special event, like the Kite Festival of Dieppe, France. The cards were available for the festival, and shortly disappeared afterward. Third, the demand, if the card is popular, they are consumed within a very short period of time. Fourth and foremost, the changing technology. Sadly, public phones are disappearing and deteriorating in their locations. Most of the world can afford their own cell phones so finding a working public phone is almost impossibility. In Italy, they are broken and deserted. I tried to find a “tabachi” (tobacco) shop where the cards were sold, but many were not carrying them any more, as they aren’t able to sell them. Once I did find a card, I could not find a public payphone that was working to use them. The telephone card can only become that of a collector’s item, once popular by usage, now becoming only something of collector’s piece.
At Drachen, we have collected a few cards to illustrate their “kite” existence. At the time of putting them into our database, I never thought them as “extinct” artifacts, as there always seemed to be a demand for them. But time has proven me wrong. There is a reason to collect and preserve, even telephone cards.
- Alison Fujino
In January of 1996, the Drachen Foundation stepped to international attention by purchasing 80 percent of the Samuel Franklin Cody kite archives from the Cody family sale at Sotheby’s in London.
In order to keep the collection of kite material in one, the Foundation undertook the financial and professional role of stewardship: to stabilize, analyze and collaborate with international Cody researchers the archive into a format, which would be internationally accessible.
After months of packaging and shipping the archive from London to the United States, a new home in Seattle, Washington was established.
The first years were to professionally number and list each item and to professionally photograph each item for study use. The color slides (digital photography was at its infancy) were then numbered and filed to give researchers immediate access.
With the development of good museum software, we were able to begin the process of digitizing each color slide of the archival items, and enter them with their photo into a database. This process took 2 years, and employed three people.
Once the Foundation had all of the items in the museum software database, it was easy to allow our teams of researchers, those who know the Cody materials, to look carefully over what we have in our collection.
Of all the many wonderful and qualified Cody researchers, there were two who volunteered to assist us in looking at the photos. (The photos are the most requested access of all Cody material.) Please enjoy the following report submitted to us by Jean Roberts and Paul Chapman and the unbelievable work they did in a very short time.
All our work came to a very interesting and timely end, corresponding with the 100 anniversary of Cody’s first flight in England! What a terrific birthday present to offer the world, our collection with online access.
Happy Anniversary Samuel Franklin Cody.
Ali Fujino, Drachen.
The Drachen Foundation Cody Collection: Index of Photographs and Postcards
The Drachen Collection of Photographs and Postcards has been reviewed by Jean Roberts and Paul Chapman with the aim of identifying all the images in respect of what they describe, where the image was taken and at what date. This work could not have been undertaken without reference to Jean’s husband, John Roberts, whose specialist naval knowledge was invaluable, as well as a number of local social historians in the Farnborough area. Jean and Paul drew heavily on the various written documents already in the Drachen Foundation collection as well as documents from the The National Archive, contemporary books, newspaper and magazine accounts as well as other supporting images in their private collections that are not held by the Drachen Foundation.
There are approximately 800 images catalogued in the Cody Photograph collection. However some of these actually form groups of several images. Accounting for these extra images has made the task of identification complex.
It was decided early in the identification task that it would be helpful to researchers to create thematic groups. For example all the images of the Cody six-wing kite can be identified as a single group. However the reality of Cody’s work means that images can fall into a number of logical groups. The catalogue descriptions attempt to take this into account and this explains the detailed cross-referencing and identification of duplicates and ‘best’ images.
The time given for this project was determined by a wish to mount the collection on the Internet by the date of Cody’s first flight, October 16th 2008. The work was done over an elapsed period of one month but took upwards of 240 hours of hard labor, mostly in S F Cody’s old residence in Mytchett. It should be seen as a first cut at the task. Hopefully it will provoke questions and answers. Local historians can provide knowledge of the area – such as the Church Circle images. Military historians may be able to provide better dating by identifying the uniforms worn by the soldiers. Kite specialists can identify individual kites.
Jean and Paul recognize that the catalogue is not complete and would welcome your opinions and suggestions, particularly where this is backed up by contemporary evidence.
Jean Roberts and Paul Chapman
26th September 2008
In these times of Economic Disaster, Our Kites Still Fly...
If I was dictator of the world, I would love to be able to supply all the interested and needy kite enthusiasts with kites.
Realistically, that isn’t possible, but the Foundation does try to do as much as we can to support requests.
One such deserving requester was that of Mrs. Kathryn Loxley, who refers to herself as “The Keeper of the Shire,” and in her own touching words explains what occurred with the Foundation:
September 1, 2008
Dear Friends of Kids,
Thank you all for giving our Jackson County, Ohio such a great exciting time this summer flying kites. They were all thrilled to personalize their own kite, but so very excited to watch it take off into the air so easily. Thanks seems so trite but that’s about all we have to give, unless you’d accept an over-night at “The Shire.” This is where kids forget the horrible environment they live in daily, and exchange that ugliness for a refreshing summer in the beauty of nature called ‘God’s World.’ Exploring his handiwork.
Most of the children come from single parents who are struggling to keep body and soul alive! All helps for them in summer childcare, had for a fee. We have never charged the children, nor did any help get paid (not me either!) We served mankind to our best and have done so for 40 years.
The influence of our help to mothers has helped them very much. But the children have gained in critical thinking-science reading and math during these 12 weeks at “The Shire.”
Then this year the KITES! What a fine revelation about the air around us! These pictures don’t do it justice, but it’ll have to do!
Take my word for the exuberance and squeals of delight coming from about 40 kids---whom we divided into groups of 10.
Hope this gives you insight to our children and how thankful we are to your kindness.
Mrs. Kathryn Loxley (The Keeper of the Shire)
Submitted by Ali Fujino
Two Days of Moku Hanga (Japanese Style Woodblock Printing) with Printmaker Barbara Mason, Portland Oregon
December 13/Saturday 9:30 to 4:00 pm
Introduction to Woodblock Carving
Types of wood
Transferring your design to your block
Registering your two color design
December 14/Sunday 9:30 to 4:00 pm
Setting up printing station
Registering your two blocks
Youngstown Cultural Center
4408 Delridge Way, SW
Seattle, Washington 98106
Parking is available
For more information please contact Drachen at (206) 282-4349 or email email@example.com 
International Kite Festivals
Recent trips to two international kite festivals point out the value of travel as well as the dynamic nature of the kite world. After a frenzied weekend wedding of my daughter, Kathleen, it was off to Dieppe, France for the second half of the festival there, and about two weeks later, there I was in Buffalo, New York for the Niagara international kite festival. Seeing old friends and catching up on the happenings of their lives is always the first priority – it seems I know many of these people far better than my next-door neighbors – but actually accomplishing Drachen Foundation business happens, too.
In France, it was exciting to see the continuing impact of traditional materials on contemporary European kite makers. In the main display tent were two Austrian artists demonstrating their kite making. They had been students of Anna Rubin and Robert Trepanier in a Foundation workshop in Horn, Austria, 3 years ago. Their work was exciting, interesting, and unique and was complemented by the fantastic work of Claude Lea Comallonga who uses stunning combinations of natural materials – seed pods, leaves, bark – to make a variety of lovely kites. The festival featured its normal competition, with the overall theme of sound, and I was a bit disappointed in the official results. But it did lead me to Robert Trepanier, who has been doing workshops with children making windmills. His innovative approach has kids making working windmills that demonstrate the amount of energy it takes to power everyday appliances. A great teaching tool for today’s classroom!
Dieppe offered another opportunity to check in with the foremost experts in the historical kite world. Thierry Ninot (France), Jan Desimpelaere (Belgium), Nico van den Berg (The Netherlands), and Paul Chapman (England), all offered opinions on the “oldest kite” held by the Foundation. It was also a chance to talk with Paul Chapman, who with Jean Roberts and Simon Bond from Drachen had just analyzed the Foundation’s Cody photo archive – a huge task. Future collaborations were also discussed, from Cody plans to historic kite flying at Spa.
Niagara, New York offered similar opportunities: kite-history-buff Meg Robinson, who also organized the event, found an interesting contemporary article in a contemporary history magazine that chronicles the exploits of Homan Walsh. Meg also asked that I present a short talk about the Drachen Foundation. This was the perfect opportunity (since he was in the room!) to introduce Thom Shanken and talk about his forensic work on Peter Lynn’s “world’s oldest kite”. Additionally, it was learned that the University of Buffalo may well be interested in doing research on the kite. Serendipity, for sure! Catching up on kite stamps with Russ Mozier, the Bell Centennial with Bob White and Gary Marks, the politics of the AKA with Dave Gomberg were all highlights of the trip. And there was kite inspiration, as well; stay tuned for a festival-kite collaboration with the help of Jon Trennepohl!
Big thanks to Ben Dantonio for making the Rev 20 th anniversary bash in Bristol England such a huge success!
- Scott Skinner