I collect old toasters and have about 600. I bought my first toaster at a flea market in San Francisco, a typical 1950s chrome monster. The plan was to use it every morning back in Germany. A few weeks later I saw an old, ugly toaster from the former German Democratic Republic at a flea market in Holland. I was thrilled by the contrast between this fat shiny capitalist US toaster and this functional, small, communistic GDR piece of cheap metal. So I bought it to place them side-by-side, and suddenly I had two toasters. Then a friend gave me his grandma’s old toaster. So I had three, and three pieces is called a collection.
I found a book about old American toasters, and as a designer I was delighted with all the different shapes and bread-turning mechanisms, so I started collecting. The design of each toaster is like a small window into the design trends of the corresponding decade and country. There are Art Deco and Art Nouveau toasters, raw or crazy technical constructions, streamlined toasters from the 1950s and porcelain pieces matching the flower patterns of contemporary dinnerware. Most of my toasters are stored away and only 120 of them are on display on one big wall in my apartment. It’s more like a piece of art because I don’t want to let the toaster dominate my living room.
I love weird, raw, senseless constructions and sometimes wonder how intelligent people could have designed such stupid things.
Jens Veerbeck, 43, Essen-Kettwig, Germany
I’m not the typical collector connecting with thousands of other freaks, staying on the phone all day long to share and trade stuff. I only know a handful of other collectors. One of them is a good friend of mine now. We see each other two or three times a year and we don’t talk about toasters — well, not too much. I know some collectors in the US, mostly from a toaster convention I visited in 2001 somewhere in Missouri. That was a very funny event — 35 toaster enthusiasts in a conference hotel talking about toasters and toast and more toasters. They meet every year. The event is called the Toaster Collectors Association Annual Convention, or “Octoasterfest.”