Below is an interview with Oklahoma Oil & Gas memorabilia collector Phillip Bird. The interview text has been left in tact, with only minor grammatical adjustments.
Tonae’ Hamilton: What inspired you to start collecting memorabilia?
Phillip Bird: I got into collecting several years ago. I had a lot of friends in Oklahoma and Texas that were in the business and if you live in either state, you’re bound to know many people in the oil business. I started collecting because I loved the oil business and gas industry. It was an industry that employed a lot of people. Here in the south, we didn’t have the big buildings like in the east, but we supplied the fuel to build them. That fact amazed me and made me proud to be from Oklahoma. I was a lender years ago and had clients in the oil business as well. They truly are a different breed of people and are very hard working. Over time, I acquired over 1400+ books. I have a yearbook of Webb City that was called “The Driller” and it is amazing how you can just build a city over night. There are several cities like that in Oklahoma including Three Sands. With that said, through friends in the business and an appreciation for the oil industry, I was inspired to collect memorabilia. Everyone collects something but oil and gas is my favorite stuff to collect. I have many little oil rigs and other smaller items that I collect.
TH: When did you begin collecting memorabilia and what was the very first piece you acquired?
PB: It began in the 1980’s, though I cannot remember the exact first piece. I had several pieces from the beginning and actually lost a few pieces unfortunately during moves. Having had so many pieces from the beginning, I unfortunately cannot recall the first piece.
TH: Out of all the items you collected, can you share what your favorite piece is?
PB: That’s a tough one. I have one book that is a reproduction of an older book created by Aubrey Mcclendon. It talks about Chesapeake Energy and features pictures of Oklahoma City oil fields. I also have books and pictures where you can see the old oil fields under the Capitol Site and pictures of the Mary Sudik which is all so fascinating. The Mary Sudik no.1 is from 1930. I also like the Tulsa oilman and the Gusher pieces which truly exemplify Oklahoma. Therefore, I dont have just one or two favorites, rather I have several pieces that I really like.
TH: What made you decide to sell your collection now and why did you decline the first time?
PB: Though I really enjoy my collection, a lot of people I know have gotten out of the oil business, passed on, or moved and I just don’t get to enjoy it as much as I used to. I really enjoyed showing it to people but I just don’t have that many people I can show it to anymore. Many people used to come by every week to check the collection and would have to come by several times just to see everything because of the size of the collection. I was offered money the first time to sell my collection, but I was not ready at that time. I enjoy showing it still but I just can’t show all the pieces in the way I want due to a lack of space. I go by a philosophy that if you can’t show it, you don’t need it anymore. There are so many little pieces of memorabilia that I have that it is just amazing seeing how many there are. I have had it for so long, but sometimes you just need to move on.
TH: Are there any pieces of your collection that you plan not to sell or may pass on to your family?
PB: No, I do not intend on keeping any pieces. It all needs to go together.
TH: What makes your oil & gas collection unique or different from other collections of the same type?
PB: My stuff is more local than others you’ll see. When people think oil and gas they think like a Shell oil sign. My collection is a tribute to the oil industry. I have books, small oil rigs, advertising pieces and small items that makes it different than any other person’s collection. As far as I know, no one has as many books as I do. I have some really unusual books and a few hundred of my books are autographed by the authors, themselves. That makes them worth a lot more than those books that aren’t autographed. If there is someone that has a bigger collection than I do, I’d like to see it. My collection pays homage to the state of Oklahoma. You’d be surprised of how many famous individuals are from Oklahoma and were in the oil business. Clark Gable, who was a top movie star in the 1930s and 40s used to work in the oil fields!
TH: Do you currently have any other types of collections?
PB: I also collect high school and collegiate yearbooks, which some you will find in my oil collection. I also collect masonic items. I was able to connect my high school yearbook collection to the oil collection through locations the high schools were in, such as Victoria, TX. Such locations in Texas and Oklahoma are big on the oil industry. Additionally, I collect antiques and movie memorabilia as well as guns and coins.
TH: If you could pick a place for your collection to go after you sell it, where would you like to see it?
PB: I’d like to see it in a restaurant, club, or cafe. A bagel shop would also be a great place for my collection so customers have books to read and so they can learn about the oil and gas business and learn about Oklahoma and its history. It would be nice to have it in a restaurant where I could go and see it. I think it would be neat to be able to go visit a restaurant and see my collection.
TH: Do you plan on starting any new collections in the future?
PB: I’m not sure what my next collection would be since I haven’t planned on that yet. Something like that you can’t plan on, often these kinds of collections start by accident. People collect some of the strangest items sometimes and don’t plan on it.
Oklahoma Oil and Gas Memorabilia For Sale
The collection is a fantastic showcase representing the Oklahoma Oil and Gas industry and is perfect for displaying in a restaurant, bar, coffee shop or museum. For more information, contact Phillip Bird at 405-463-0636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.