By Rodrigo Garcia
Rosario, Argentina, Jan 17 (EFE).- Beverage bottles, bank notes, pocket mirrors and trade cards are among the many items that fill the home of Argentine artist Julio Rayon, an avid collector who is a self-described fanatic of “all things strange and old.”
“I wish I had more walls to put more things,” Rayon said laughing.
A sketcher, engraver and sculptor who has lived in Rosario, Argentina – soccer icon Lionel Messi’s hometown – since he was a young boy, his collections include an array of beverage bottles that date back prior to 1950 and are spread out over different parts of his residence.
But his trade card collection is particularly noteworthy due to the time required to build it.
“It’s been a lot of years tracking down albums and individual cards,” he said, describing the process as a way of “recovering my own childhood, the childhood of my friends and of older people who” have even broken down and cried when seeing images from their youth.
Made of metal and paper and in both black and white and color, his trade cards cover a range of themes: celebrities, animals, technological advances, flags, erotic motifs and of course soccer players.
“Of the primitives, as we collectors call them, I have French cards from the years 1850-60, (while) in Argentina the primitives appeared in approximately 1880,” Rayon said of his oldest items.
Although trade cards have featured a dizzying array of designs since first appearing some two centuries ago, spurred by the invention of chromolithography (a method for making multi-color prints), soccer stickers have been all the rage in recent decades.
“Soccer albums first appeared in the 1930s,” and gradually replaced collections of auto racers, cyclists and bullfighters, Rayon said, noting that the trade cards of the early 20th century were typically included in packages of sweets or cigarettes.
Rayon’s soccer cards include the images of players such as Antonio Alberino, who led Boca Juniors to back-to-back first-division titles in 1930 and 1931, and Pedro Marassi, who was a member of River Plate in 1931 and played a single match for Boca in 1933.
Among his more notable collections is the 1951 album “Figuritas Cola,” which features auto racers and soccer players and a first page dedicated to then-President Juan Domingo Peron and first lady Eva Peron.
Rayon said the Internet has been a major boon to his collecting, although he added that excellent finds can be made at flea markets in large cities and also highlighted the value of trading with friends and other contacts.
“When you start collecting, you’re very anxious. You want everything, everything, everything and you look and look and look. Over time, like in my case, that eagerness subsides,” the artist said.
Rayon, whose wife is poet Patricia Cuaranta, has been director of the Museum of the City of Rosario, founder of the Superior School of Museology of Rosario and deputy culture secretary of the Municipality of Rosario.
His paintings and sculptures have been displayed in countless exhibitions and he has been awarded numerous prizes.
Rayon’s work has been inspired by his experiences during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, when he and his then-wife spent 14 months in prison and had a son while behind bars.
After they were freed, they went into exile in Brazil and returned to Argentina in 1979. EFE