CHENNAI: When you enter the fourth floor residence of Robert Kennedy at Royal Touch apartment in Kodambakkam, the first thing you’d notice is a vast collection of clocks and time pieces. Besides the clocks, you’ll find several typewriters, coffee grinders, lanterns, weighing machines and so on. Each item is as old as 150-200 years.
Robert, 52, has been collecting these antique pieces from the age of 16. It has been his passion to collect antique items for which he would tour the country. “I don’t buy these pieces from collectors or traders. I always search for scrap shops,” he says. Among the many typewriters he has, he showed us three worn-out machines from the US which date back to 1897.
These typewriters were the first prototype models declared as fully functional and successful. “The brands — Underwood and Woodstock — were two famous models of that time. The features of these typewriters were followed throughout the world till they became obsolete,” he explains. He bought these typewriters in Puducherry.
Robert then pulled out a briefcase which looked more like a kerosene stove. It was used by the US army in the World War-II and was made in Sweden. When he opened the case, the stove was still inside.
Explaining the reason for its look, he said, “It was made like a briefcase so that the army people would be able to carry it during the war,” he says. “I got it from a scrap shop in Kolkata.”
He also showed a binocular from WW-II vintage. It was used by the US navy and was considered as the most successful optical tool. “It was meant for the US Navy ships and was used in 1943,” he informs us.
Apart from all these archaic devices and artefacts, he has a coffee grinder, a candle stand which is 200 years old, gramophone records, cigarette pipes, a working steam engine, railway kerosene light and so on. Most of these pieces were bought from places like Tiruchy, Madurai, Puducherry and Kolkata.
Robert who has worked in a computer industry and now dabbles in real estate is afraid that his collections might get sold by the next generation. “I am afraid my next generation would sell and dispose all my collections. So before my time is over, I want to put them in a trust or a museum,” he says. Earlier when he started collecting all these antique pieces, they were not considered valuable and he got them at cheap rates. But now people are aware of their value and hence, he could not afford to buy such ancient items at throw-away prices.
Robert’s neighbours used to wonder how he sleeps at night with all such old collections. “People said the clocks, the weighing machines and the lanterns have all been mute witness to bygone eras. So all these may contain some evil spirits,” he laughs. “All these collections are like my children.”
A Machine That Weighs You in Stone
The most remarkable antique piece of all is the 260-year-old weighing machine. Unlike the modern-day machines, this one had a tall stand which connected the base where people are supposed to stand and a clock like round shape at the top which indicated the reading. “Till this date, it gives correct reading and is in a perfect condition. The company name is Salters Albion from England,” he says. Another weighing machine from Germany was 250-year-old. “During those times, the reading was mentioned in stones,” he said.
Cheap Buy Worth Crores
“My whole investment right from the start has been around Rs 40 lakh. But as per the current antique value at the international markets, I have in possessions materials worth Rs 9 crore. Most of the collections, I bought for Rs 3,000 or at the most Rs 9,000 for each item,” he explains.