Collect Call | Tracy Zabar’s Charm Bracelets, Snowglobes, Santa Mugs, etc., etc.
By LYNN YAEGER
Tracey Zabar in her Upper West Side apartment with her collection of panoramic photographs (some are family heirlooms, others are not). Flora Hanitijo
- Her collection of wedding cake-top figures.
- Vintage cookbooks.
- Her snowglobes number roughly 350.
- The porcelain lamb planters.
- Zabar, who is the author of “Charmed Bracelets,” has more than 60 of them.
- Her daguerreotypes form a collection that Zabar says is museum-worthy.
“The poodles are always getting caught in the underpants,” Tracey Zabar says, untangling the charms on a vintage bracelet — one of oh, maybe around 65, that she possesses.
It’s no surprise that Zabar, the author of the delightful “Charmed Bracelets,” has these bibelots, but in fact her exquisitely curated collectibles roam far beyond jewelry.
Because it is so well ordered, you may not at first realize the wealth and depth of the collections she keeps in the Upper West Side home that she shares with her husband David, grandson of the renowned gourmet-grocery founder. A panoply of panoramic photographs hangs over the sofa (some authentic Zabar family heirlooms, others imaginary ancestors acquired at the flea market); a kitchen shelf offers a flock of lamb planters (originally centerpieces of baby-gift floral arrangements); drawers open to reveal a welter of wedding cake-top figures (bought as party favors for a bridal shower, but then no one took them home). “At one point I was going to do a book of vintage photos of ugly brides and bridegrooms, but I decided it was too mean,” she confesses.
Zabar, an author, jewelry stylist and baking fanatic, says that she accumulates like a maniac in a particular category, then considers the project closed and moves on, and that these days, she isn’t really buying anything at all. (But can this be true? If so, then why is there a still an eBay search for “Flow Blue china” in Zabar’s computer? And why does she say with a shrug, “If I walk in somewhere and someone has an amber type, it’s not like I’m not going to buy it.”)
There was a sea change in her habits when the family (they have four sons) moved to this apartment four years ago. “Moving was seismic! I wanted everything to be very organized here. Now I’m crazy about closets.” Opening a cabinet, she reveals 20 or so Santa mugs — “I like multiples”; a group of signed baseballs her boys used to love; a trove of silver baby cups with other people’s names on them (she has also authored a book entitled “Best Loved Baby Names”) and a complete set of Charlie Brown drinking tumblers because, “how could you not buy them?”
Another case holds a vast array of daguerreotypes, many depicting little girls, a collection that Zabar, who is not at all a braggart or a showoff, quietly describes as museum-worthy. Less rarefied but equally beloved are the contents of a splendid breakfront in the dining room: roughly 350 snow globes — all 50 states and other locations, including an ultra-rare Cuba. (Just as well that this collection is completed, since you can no longer bring these things on a plane.)
Unlike so many collectors, Zabar isn’t afraid to edit. Her cookbook collection — her own most recent book is “One Sweet Cookie” — used to run to 500 volumes. “I still buy cookbooks every week, but for every one I buy I give five away. I’ve given 600 away already!”
On the other hand, she isn’t in a rush to part with an enormous cache of flimsy vintage recipe pamphlets, a century’s worth of supermarket giveaways. “I have close to 100 booklets. Sometimes when I get them I am a little grossed out because they sort of smell,” she admits, fondling their faded covers. “But I always have this fantasy that they are going to have great recipes.” And do they? “Never.”