A Passionate Affair X

And finally, any discussion of paperweight collectors would not be complete without including Paul Jokelson, who was affectionately called by his friends, “The King of Paperweights”. He earned that title buy his lifelong enthusiasm and support for paperweights, and for being an advocate for paperweight collectors, artists, and dealers. Jokelson was born in France, and bought his first paperweight (the famous “Bird in the Nest”) in Paris at age 18 in 1923 for about $25. As any collector will do, he began to study his newfound interest, and learned that paperweights were no longer being made. This sparked him in the early 1950s to persuade Saint Louis and Baccarat glass works and revive the art and begin making them again after a nearly 100 year hiatus. This re-introduction of the art served to whet the appetite of new collectors who were drawn by the formation of the Paperweight Collectors Association (PCA) which Jokelson founded in 1953, and was its president from 1953 – 1981. Their membership quickly grew from 75 collectors when it was founded to about 1800 members in 20 years. The manufacture of new paperweights helped to balance the increased demand of the many new collectors attracted to paperweights as a result of the formation of the PCA. Jokelson became a world authority on paperweights, and was a prolific author, publishing many paperweight-related books and articles. He built an enviable collection through the years, but never let it be more than 105 weights at one time by “trading up” and constantly improving the quality of his pieces. In 1983, Jokelson sold 71 of his contemporary and antique weights in an auction at Sotheby’s which realized over $500,000. After the auction he said, “They are as perfect as can be, lovely, rare, and I will miss them. I would like to think that the people who acquire my weights will enjoy them as much as I did, will admire them each and every day, and discover all the time as I did, new designs and canes, and the weights will be in their homes to see whenever they feel like it.”

Pal led a fascinating life, which could easily be the subject of an entire book – but collectors best know him for his role in reviving the lost art of making paperweights and for founding the PCA in 1953. He died in 2002 at age 97, and will be remembered through a scholarship fund in his name organized by the International Paperweight Society Foundation.

These very exceptional collectors through the years all had two things in common – first, a true passion for their collecting, and second, the privilege of having sufficient financial resources to build extensive collections of very rare and expensive weights. It is interesting to recognize that with all their wealth and exposure to other art forms, they chose to collect paperweights – a tremendous endorsement of this art form.

However, a privileged life is not necessary to enjoy one’s collection. Indeed, I believe that a collector with modest means can enjoy his collection every bit as much as a wealthy person does. The only differences between the two collections are really just the rarity of the items and the number of weights in their collections. The physical beauty and the creativity of the weights may be very similar. I also firmly believe the old saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And so ends the section on the great collectors, fans of small glass art works!