The Iron Collector

Welcome to Hans Dresel’s Website – the Iron Collector!

I do not believe that hobbies are planned, they just happen or develop over time. In my case it has been the latter. In 1974 I was posted for my first overseas assignment in Hong Kong. Although I had travelled the Far East for the previous four years, it was quite different to live there (shop and pay taxes!) I have always had an interest in antiques and on one of the first Sundays I strolled through Hollywood Road, the then Mecca of antiques in Hong Kong. It was a different world, a world I had never seen before. It was an older part of this bustling city with dozens of antique shops offering items from a bygone era of which I did not know much about. Fascinating to say the least! Then I saw a charcoal iron with a chimney – remember I was not a collector of irons then. I had never seen a piece like this and inside the iron it was marked with “Hong Kong”. When I got home I cleaned it up and repaired it, something I learned later one does not do, but I did it!

After nine years in Hong Kong I returned to Basel (Switzerland) and worked there at head office. My 14 irons I had collected during my time in Hong Kong were forgotten and I had other, more important, things to do. However, in 1987 I was off for another posting. This time it was New Zealand. All of a sudden my “hunger” for antiques was rekindled. In those days there were quite a number of antique shops in certain parts of Auckland and during weekends I wanted to find out what kind of irons were used there. During this venture I made a number of friends e.g. antique dealers, iron collectors to name a few.

It was 1991 when my employer offered me a job in Canada and a few months later we arrived in Montreal with all our belongings, including 120 irons. The house we purchased in Baie d’Urfé had a rumpus room which was just what I needed to display my iron collection. We were in Montreal for three years and returned to Hawke’s Bay (New Zealand) with 240 irons, needless to say that during those years we visited quite a number of antique or flea markets, above all in the US. An iron auction near Toronto helped to embellish my collection.

In 1994 we returned to Waipukurau, a small town in Central Hawke’s Bay. We purchased an old villa and had it renovated. There was plenty of space for my iron collection and no problem to add some more irons. However, there came a time when the collection seemed to take over part of the house. The garage – which like the house, was close to 100 years old. It was approx. 20 m2 in size and could serve as the “Collection Room”. The garage door was eliminated, the walls insulated and the floor carpeted. This was where the collection “lived and grew” over the next 12 years.

My favourite part of the collection is the collection of Vietnamese Silk Irons. Very few of these bronze pans were dated by a professional in Hanoi and those were made in the 17th Century. I have been trying to find out more about these amazing works of art but so far without success.

In 2019 we sold the house and moved to Porangahau beach i.e. approx. 50 km from where we lived. The collection, which has approx. 770 irons and quite a number of accessories, is now displayed in a little museum close to where we live and is open to the public, called in Maori “Te Whare Whakaatu Haeana o Porangahau”.

I would like to thank first and foremost my wife, Jude, for having supported me during all these years and has herself found several rare pieces. I would also like to thank my friends all over the world who have made it possible to create such a wonderful collection.