Monday, October 26, 2009

House of Cards

Walking down Maestro Falla in sleepy Sarria, you'd never know that the little shop with old postcards and funny antique illustrations was the worldwide center of a brand new trend back in the day. In 1965 Salvador Tenn decided to stop working (as in the expression "work at what you love and you'll stop working,") and open a shop for coin and stamp collectors like himself. He fixed it up, baptized it Iris Mundus and ordered two boxes of marchbooks from the Fosforera Española and put one behind the counter to give out to customers and neighbors. And he filled it with his growing collection of coins and stamps, then postcards and playing cards. Then lottery tickets.

Yes! It turns out that there's more than one way to hit the jackpot with the lottery in Spain. Besides buying the winning number (so repetetive, so chancy!) you can collect tickets that weren't lucky the first time around. All because Salvador Tenn, trying to build stock, kept getting stuck with old lottery tickets when he'd cart off boxes of stuff from the little lottery sellers. What most people see as junk looks like a fascinating challenge to a collector's eye and he started contacting the Lottery Administration to find out more about the provenance of strange stamps and special issue tickets. And that's how old, non-winning lottery tickets became something to treasure in Spain.

While he collected, his wife Neus ran back and forth from house and three daughters to the shop. Not long ago two of the three daughters took the shop's operations over from their father. They swear the don't have shopkeeping in their blood, although one had a toy shop and the other still has a ceramic shop in Sant Feliu de Guixols. Still, growing up among all the bric-a-brac and stamps and coins and lottery tickets and playing cards and postcards may gave given them pack-rat tendancies since both Montse and Neus confess to giving a home to cast-offs found on the nit dels trastos. Some things never change.

Some things do though - as girls all three would help their father send his catalogs to collectors all over. Since 2005 they've been posting news to their website and shipping the goods to far-flung corners.

And last winter, just in time for the shop's 44th anniversary they found the second box of matchbooks they'd ordered in 1965. Still work too, so if you stop by for some vintage postcards you might be lucky enough to see Salvador out on his afternoon walk to check in on his little girls and give away a few matchbooks. Definitely worth the trip!

Iris Mundus:
Manuel de Falla 29
Tel. 93 203 5515