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Rick Basken and his chalk statues make the TV news

09 Nov 2023 9:03 PM | Danny Bora (Administrator)

From WBAY News in Green Bay, WI.

ALGOMA, Wis. (WBAY) - Anything that is beer- or brewery-related, and considered collectible, is known as “breweriana.”

Over the last decade, a Kewaunee County man has amassed a very rare, and specific, breweriana collection.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to Algoma to see his hundreds of chalk statues.

Rick Basken was just a kid when he first became a breweriana collector.

“My mom went to rummage sales, and I would find like old Miller mirrors or something with a bear on it or a deer on it, for five or ten bucks, so I’d buy it, hang it in my room, and before you knew it my room was full of Miller mirrors and whatnot, so that’s kind of how it started,” recalls Rick.

Ten years ago, while on eBay, Rick came across this statue of a guy holding a Blatz beer can and a flag, a chalk statue made of molded plaster.

“I don’t remember why I bought it, but I just bought it, and it was like 40 bucks, it was cheap, and when I opened it up, I was surprised how big it was and how cool it looked, and I thought, is there things like this out there because I never saw that before,” says Rick.

Rick then found a book on back-bar chalk statues.

“And I was blown away by how many pieces are out there,” explains Rick.

Safe to say, he was hooked.

“And then it got kind of crazy, yeah,” says Rick with a smile.

Today, Rick’s basement is filled with more than 300 statue pieces on display. It’s one of the top chalk statue collections in the country.

“I know of like three collections that are superior to mine. Those collectors have been collecting a lot longer than I have been collecting,” says Rick.

The statues range in value from $50 to more than $10,000.

The average is around $500.

With 700 different statues known to be in existence, Rick is always on the hunt.

“Always looking. I probably spend 10-15 hours a week, just like at night, on the phone looking on eBay or Facebook with all the different breweriana groups, and always looking for what comes out there,” says Rick.

Never meant to be a collectible, the chalk statues were replaced by plastic ones in the mid to late 1950′s and often thrown away. That’s why they’re so rare.

Along with collecting, Rick also writes a frequent column called “Chalk Talk” for a national breweriana magazine.

He’s also taught himself how to repair damaged statues.

“I made a mold of a good one and I can pour it, so I reproduce the piece, and now I just have to fasten it back on and repaint it and bring it back,” Rick demonstrates.

Rick isn’t quite sure his family and friends truly appreciate his collection.

“I’m sure most people in my family think I’m nuts. That’s probably the majority of people,” says Rick with a chuckle.

But other collectors certainly do.

“When you know the age of something, and you know the value of something, the rarity of something, you get to appreciate what you’re looking at,” explains Rick.

With his passion still burning strong to acquire more statues from the past, Rick’s collection will continue to grow.

By just how much, and what he plans to do with it in the future, well, that is still to be determined.

“Well, it’s either you sell it or you die with it,” Rick says, smiling, “and I’m not quite sure, at this point I’m still focused on still building it and having fun collecting it. But I guess when it comes to the point where it’s no longer fun, then who knows.”

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