Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Meet the collectors | Fabrice Heilig update part 1

In today's post we are revisiting the collection of French Nintendo collector Fabrice Heilig. Fabrice was one of the first collectors featured on this blog, back in 2012.

At the time, Fabrice already owned an extensive collection, with a broad selection of vintage Nintendo toys and games, including many playing cards sets.

Fabrice in front of the second Nintendo office in Kyoto (2019)

At the start of this catch-up, we are of course curious to hear what happened over the last nine years.

Fabrice's Nintendo playing cards display in 2012

Fabrice: "Since the previous interview, I had a change in my professional life, as the company where I worked for 20 years closed down. So I had to make a readjustment in a new work environment. In my collection, over the years I focussed increasingly on Nintendo's playing cards."

"As must be recognisable to other collectors, when the collection expanded I ran out of space to keep and showcase it. When looking for a solution, I thought about adding an extra room dedicated to the playing cards, as they have my special interest as the foundation of Nintendo."

Fabrice's Nintendo playing cards display in 2020

"By end of 2018, an idea formed in my mind to create a reproduction of the first Nintendo building to house that part of the collection."

Nintendo's first building in Kyoto, where the company started in 1889

"As this Nintendo building was destroyed in 2004, unfortunately, I had to rely on the few existing pictures to base my design on."

Nintendo's first building shortly before it was taken down

"The reproduction is limited to the facade, as there is no information about the inside."

"To establish the dimensions for the building, I used as reference the size of the stone elements of Nintendo's adjacent 1933 office, still standing today. This allowed me to make the plans."

After establishing this original and also somewhat crazy (in a good way) idea, Fabrice set to work.

A tree was removed to make room in his garden.

Foundations were laid down, and the project was off to a start.

Fabrice: "Next thing to do was finding a carpenter who knows Japanese building techniques, who could understand what I wanted to do."

"I knew a carpenter in the area near my home, but he had never made a house like this one. He had made a tea house once, but that was all."

"However, after discussing my ideas with him, he was almost immediately excited and very happy to participate in this project, while also respecting the budget."

"It is a wood frame building, with a facade made of larch wood and Japanese tiles on the front side of the roof."

"I absolutely wanted original Japanese tiles on the roof, and contacted a lot of companies in the United States, Japan and other countries, to find some. But the price of transport was twice as expensive as the tiles, because I didn't need a very large quantity."

"In the end I found them in Holland, from a company that designs Japanese gardens. They had some left, that was just enough for what I needed."

"Once the plans were given to the carpenters, it took less than a year to build it, even though we had some delays due to the covid situation. Overall everything went very fast and without too many problems."

Fabrice included many beautiful details in the building.

Like the large wooden sign on the front just underneath the roof, with a carved Nintendo logo in kanji (任天堂).

Another detail that shows the great lengths that Fabrice was willing to go, to make this reproduction as faithful to the original as possible, is this fire-extinguisher box (消火器), which he imported from Japan.

In the old parts of Kyoto, with all wooden buildings that are a constant fire hazard, it is custom for each house to have a fire bucket filled with water or a fire-extinguisher next to the front door. The addition of this box really adds to the authenticity of Fabrice's reproduction, and the bright red colour also provides a nice contrast with the rest of the building.

Fabrice continues: "With regards to the interior of the building, I wanted this to be a dedicated place to show my playing cards collection, and make a tribute to Nintendo and its history, but also enjoy it with family and friends."

"There is a real door behind the wooden lattice door, to secure the objects inside."

"The room is ventilated, heated and air-conditioned, and of course well-lighted."

"I made what is called a genkan; a Japanese entrance that is a little bit lower than the main room and which allows you to remove your shoes before entering."

"The main room has three tatami mats in the center."

"This place can also be used by staying guests, who can sleep on the tatami mats."

"And all around the walls, the playing cards will be displayed in vintage looking wooden boxes and in glass cases."

As you can see, the result is truly fantastic; the most fitting new home for Fabrice's playing cards collection. Bravo!

I am sure that by now you are very interested to see the inside of this magnificent building as well, with the collection proudly displayed. That will be covered in detail in part 2 of this updated Meet The Collectors.