July 13, 2012


When it comes to preserving precious vacation memories, travelers are faced with few options. The human brain is unreliable and photos are for suckers, so the only viable choice is commercially produced souvenirs. I've been patronizing souvenir shops for most of my life and figure it's time to share a hefty sample with the internet.  Many of these were bought on location, even some of the vintage ones, like the time the Seattle Space Needle put out some old World's Fair store stock in time for my visit.

Several of the experiences these represent deserve their own lengthy blog posts like my honeymoon at Niagara Falls, my fateful stay at South of the Border, and my visit to House on the Rock, my favorite of all roadside attractions. I have already written about a couple of them like Rock City and South Dakota. However, I've reserved my souvenir pennant collection for future bloggery. 

This is my technique when it comes to souvenir hunting:
  • Seek out the most outmoded shops and the most outdated inventory. Check behind merchandise for older stuff. I love it that most tourist meccas have at least one shop that hasn't changed for decades.
  • Try to sample the various souvenir subcategories, i.e. ceramic thimbles, tiny spoons, postcards, plates, shot glasses, patches, snowdomes, magnets, pennants, etc. 
  • While abroad, check local flea markets and antique shops for vintage souvenirs.
And now let the journey BEGIN...

Empire State Building with King Kong replica- New York City, NY

Plastic Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building- New York, NY

Decorative dish from the 1964-65 New York World's Fair- New York City, NY

Bluff Dwellers Cave decorative thimble- Noel, MO

California sewing kit

Plastic Capitol Building- Washington, DC

Key to the City thermometer- Washington, DC

Colorado book mark

Collectible spoon from Corn Palace- Mitchell, SD

South Dakota metal cup

Stuffed Cozy Dogs from Cozy Dog Drive-In- Springfield, IL

Disneyland decorative plate- Anaheim, CA

Disneyland paperweight- Anaheim, CA

Dogpatch U.S.A ticket- Harrison, AR

Wall Drug glass container- Wall, SD

Flocked Jack-a-lope from Wall Drug- Wall, SD

Flocked Donkey Salt and Pepper shaker- Branson, MO

Bonus photo of three flocked animal friends

Drake Well patch- Titusville, PA

Fin and Feather pencil case- Gore, OK
(blogged about HERE)

Florida alligator in toilet with shells magnet- Orlando, FL

"Orange Purse" from Florida

Aloha from Hawaii ceramic bank

Salt and Pepper shakers from Hawaii

House on the Rock serving tray- Spring Green, WI

House on the Rock coaster- Spring Green, WI

Mt. Rushmore souvenir photo booklet- Keystone, SD

Christ of the Ozarks mini-statue- Eureka Springs, AR

Niagara Falls ashtray

Niagara Falls jumbo cigar

Niagara Falls ship's wheel frame

El Rancho Motel mini-soap- Reno, NV

Rock City Gardens souvenir booklet- Chattanooga, TN

Rock City Gardens pan flute- Chattanooga, TN
Rock City Gardens postcard book- Chattanooga, TN

Rock City snowdome- Chattanooga, TN

Rocky the Gnome mini figure- Chattanooga, TN

Postcard with attached bag of salt from Salt Lake, UT

Mold-O-Rama Gorilla- San Antonio, TX

San Francisco snowdome

Seattle World's Fair flexi-disc

Wisconsin Dells souvenir photo booklet

South of the Border ashtray- Dillon, SC

South of the Border billboard booklet- Dillon, SC

South of the Border glitterdome- Dillon, SC

South of the Border pinback button- Dillon, SC

Denver Mint penny in a bottle- Denver, CO

Winchester Mystery House patch- San Jose, CA

Various faux currency

Various squished pennies

Various matchbooks


Brian (Cool and Collected) said...

Great collection Kirk. I love those squished pennies!

Gumba G Gadwa said...

Ah, San Antonio, land of the gorillas!?!

I have a number of "House of Usher" related tactile problems, and flocking is one of the things that I can't stand to touch. Just looking at that Jack-a-lope gives me the heebie jeebies!

Finally, the Winchester House patch (something I've always wanted to see) has one of the red spots "bleeding" a thread. It's hard to not think you didn't set it up that way! :)

Darrin.. said...

Whoah! I have a Disneyland Dish that looks just like that 64-65 Worlds Fair Dish!

Hauntedheadful said...

Hi Kirk-You might be amused to know that I also have the Florida/alligator/toilet magnet but mine features the gator's tail instead of his head.Whoever crafted these little beauties was wise enough to not waste the other half of the plastic gator sacrificed in the name of true art!

TE said...

Wow, this is awesome. The Bluff Dwellers Cave thimble really did it for me :)

Gary Greer said...


In 1976, I took my very first road trip at the age of 10 and one of the first stops we made was at at Stuckey's in Mappsville, VA (still there), where I bought S.S. Adams' Magic Smoke from your fingertips, a smoking dog and those snowstorm tablets you put on the end of a cigarette. (Hey, it was 1976 and alot of people smoked back then.) Since then, I have been hooked on traveling and collecting souvenirs the same as you've shown here. Flattened pennies, floatie pens, brochures (yep, I was THAT kid who took one of every brochure from the rack in the hotel lobby and the reason why they only let you take 3 now.) and I have to say that this should be voted BEST SITE EVER by whoever makes awards for those things. I am currently living in Amman, Jordan and I was going to say if I see anything good over here, I will send it your way, but isn't part of the allure of these great souvenirs actually looking at them and remembering when YOU were there and not somebody else?

Explorer Multimedia Inc. said...

Everything about this is awesome!

The Glam Traveler said...

I love the ones from Wall Drug...they have the silliest things!

Maverick Collecting said...

And the winner is...the lavatory from Florida! It's so bad it's really really good!!! With a 'gator! Fantastic.

Kirk D. said...

Brian- Thanks! They're such a great souvenir because they're usually unique to the location and they're super cheap.

Gumba- Interesting, I've never heard of an aversion to flocking. I have mild trypophobia so I can relate.
I too noticed the "bleeding" spot but that was a happy accident!

Darrin- I'm imagining it in my brain and it looks cool!

Hauntedheadfull- Funny, I saw the head ones, accidentally grabbed a tail one and was very confused at the checkout. Walked all the way back to get the head, but I agree, it's a brilliant example of resourcefulness.

TE- Very interesting that you're drawn to the relatively understated item. There must be some profound significance.

Gary- Thanks for sharing that fantastic paragraph full of so many relatable memories, and for the kind words! I too was a brochure kid and I still have stacks of them. I'm glad to see my son has this same tendency.

I agree, souvenirs can feel so hollow if you haven't visited the location.

Explorer Multimedia- Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!!

Glam traveler- SOOOO many silly things. I want to go back.

Maverick Collecting- I'm glad you understand exactly why I found it irresistible.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, wonderful stuff. I have NEVER seen one of those Disneyland paper weights before, which is pretty astonishing. Is it hollow plastic? Solid glass? Super cool.

Kirk D. said...

Major Pepperidge-
It is indeed hollow plastic and feels like it's full or sand or something.
Glad you like the post!