The month of April is celebrated for several reasons: from showers that bring the flowers of spring, to the beginning of a new season. For the members of the Harbour Lights Collectors Society, this is the time to celebrate the beginning of the society's third year.
Recently, Kim Andrews C.E.O. of Harbour Lights and Nancy Younger, Head Keeper of the Collectors Society sat down together and reflected on the society's past few years.
Kim Andrews had stated in this interview that the company had always wanted to start a society for its collectors, but Harbour Lights wanted to kick it off in a special way. Harbour Lights had chosen the International Collectible Exposition at Long Beach California in the spring of 1995. One of the most exciting aspects of presenting the club to its collectors at this forum, was the fact that the inaugural redemption piece for that year was Pt. Fermin, which just happened to be within a few miles of the convention center. Harbour Lights had taken advantage of this fact and was able to take collectors over to the actual lighthouse for a visit during the convention.
I asked Nancy Younger what has been some of the highlights of running the Collectors Society. Nancy remarked how she enjoyed her interaction with the members that call the Society. She tells of an articulate 12-year-old collector that earns money, baby-sitting which he saves to buy Harbour Lights. Nancy also commented that they receive many calls from collectors that were born before 1920, who can remember a time before the United States Coast Guard took over the responsibility of maintaining the nation's lighthouses. These individuals can actually remember the United States Lighthouse Service. But, one of her favorite stories is of a collector that had written to tell how collecting Harbour Lights made a real impact on his marriage. Now he and his wife enjoy collecting Harbour Lights with most of the time spent together.
Kim and Nancy both related a story of interest. The society's membership for 1996-97, Harbour Lights had given a gift to its members, A spyglass mini lighthouse collection that consisted of the first four lighthouses Harbour Lights had made: Admiralty Head, Cape Hatteras, West Quoddy, and Sandy Hook. These pieces had been slated to be an introduction of Christmas ornaments. Yet, when they came in from production, the size was much too small. Bill Younger, the founder of Harbour Lights, and Kim Andrews were in a debate over what they were going to do with these mini lighthouses. Kim said you could not get a word in edgewise, when suddenly Nancy suggested they reminded her of spyglasses and would be a wonderful gift for society members. Bill and Kim exclaimed, "What a great idea!"
The response to the collectors society has been an overwhelming success. To date there are close to 18,000 active members, with membership from such far away countries as Australia, Africa, and Japan. The society runs from May 1st through April 30th and has many benefits for the Harbour Lights collector. It is a great way to keep in touch with Harbour Lights through the Lighthouse Legacy, a quarterly newsletter that has been recently color enhanced. The Legacy provides advance product information for its members, stories of lighthouses, articles on fellow collectors, scrumptious recipes and, of course, lighthouse lore.
Other benefits of membership are a redemption certificate for a designated lighthouse collectible, and a membership certificate suitable for framing for each new member. Renewing members receive a limited edition watercolor, and a cloisonne pin featuring that year's redemption lighthouse. And, for added, value Harbour Lights has made a practice of treating its collectors to a special members' gift, which most recently was a 5x5 sculpture of Amelia Island, Florida. The first year of the society, the gift was a framed watercolor of the Pt Fermin Lighthouse.
In a brief summary of the history of the society's redemption lighthouse pieces, the first year (1995-96) was Pt Fermin, CA. This lighthouse is noted for its first keepers, sisters Helen and Mary Smith. Women had played a large role at this lighthouse; from the first light keepers to the last keeper named Thelma Austin. The lighthouse sits on the cliffs of Pt. Fermin with a charming Victorian architectural appearance of that era. Pt. Fermin lighthouse, even though it is not active today, is recognized by the National Park Service as a protected historical site. For those collectors that keep track of the numbers, there were 6,511 Pt. Fermin redemption pieces made.
The second year (1996-97) Harbour Lights enticed its members with the exquisite Stonington Harbor Light in Connecticut, a fine stone masonry lighthouse residing in the quaint town of Stonington which had been known for centuries as a whaling center. History surrounds this light with stories of British warships attacking this village only to be barraged back with cannon fire from the local villagers. To date, Stonington Harbor Lighthouse has been transformed into a lighthouse museum, with exhibits of whaling gear, ship models, antique firearms, and authentic clothing from that period. Harbour Lights had produced 6,956 society pieces.
This year's membership piece is Port Sanilac, Michigan, a lighthouse situated on the western shore of Lake Huron. The lighthouse had given guidance to the heavily travelled waters of the Great Lake. The growth of the Canadian lumber industry, transporting lumber to the United States, and the lighthouse forty miles north of Detroit made this light a real asset to mariners. This sentinel marvels with its handsome appearance, with brick and ivy intertwined throughout. The final tally of redemption pieces will be completed at the end of the month.
In the upcoming year, Sea Girt, New Jersey will be the society's redemption piece, and in keeping with a sculpture as a gift, Cockspur Island, Georgia.
Harbour Lights Collectors Society is a unique extension of the Harbour Lights family. Kim Andrews encourages the importance of listening to its membership with their comments and suggestions. This is evident with the recent members' concerns of the reunion exclusive piece being offered in Providence, Rhode Island. Harbour Lights is going to make available until the end of April 1998, the opportunity to obtain this exclusive depiction of the Rose Island Lighthouse. This piece will only be available to reunion attendees, and the Harbour Lights Collectors Society lighthouse will have ever so slight differences from the one at the reunion in Rhode Island. This piece will be delivered to dealers after the reunion in October.
As our conversation came to a close, I asked Kim and Nancy if they had any closing remarks for the society members. There had been a lot of laughter in the room and a lot of fond memories recalled. Kim and Nancy remembered that it has been a quite eventful few years, and wanted to say to its membership "Thank You."
This story appeared in the
April 1998 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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