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Jan 15, 2019 5:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Twelve-Year-Old Jacob Besser Presents 115-Piece Collection At Riverhead Free Library

Jacob Besser in front of his Artifacts and Antiques collection on display at the Riverhead Free Library through January. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jan 16, 2019 10:05 AM

A pan flute. Galileo thermometers. Antique hors d’oeuvres sticks. Fossilized dinosaur feces, and an elk carved into an elk’s tooth.

They are just a few of the eclectic items featured in 12-year-old Jacob Besser’s collection of antiques, artifacts and 3D prints at the Riverhead Free Library throughout January.

Jacob, a seventh-grader at Westhampton Beach Middle School, could tell you the story behind every item in his 115-piece collection. He can explain how and where he acquired each piece, and even describe minute details.

One of the items on display is an encased U.S. $1 bill. Although it may look like a regular bill, Jacob pointed out a small star printed at the beginning of its serial number. He explained that the serial number was used on another dollar that was printed by mistake, so the number was recycled.

When asked how he knew that, he simply replied, “Someone told me.”

His interest in collecting artifacts and antiques began when he was 5 years old, when his grandmother, Ruth Besser, gave him a few of the antiques on display. From then on, he has been on the hunt for more items to add to his collection, frequenting his attic for forgotten trinkets and even asking for collectibles as birthday gifts. He even painted rocks last year and sold them at a holiday festival in order to buy more antiques and artifacts.

Jacob and his parents, David and Debbie Besser of Remsenburg, made it a hobby to visit local antiques shops and yard sales from Eastport to Southampton in search of something to pique his interest.

“The cool thing about it is that you don’t have to go into any fancy places to find this great stuff. It’s all local treasures,” Mr. Besser said.

Some of his items were acquired in other, more curious ways, like a golden spoon that was found in a coat that his grandmother received as a gift during a trip to Australia. He even purchased a conch shell that was on display at a gift shop after convincing the owner to sell it to him.

When Jacob visited the Riverhead Free Library for the first time months ago, he saw the showcases in the lobby and immediately envisioned them full of his collectibles. He and his parents inquired about having an exhibit there, and the library administration agreed.

The collection, taking up all three display cases, reflects Jacob’s unique personality and his appreciation for art, history and science. It features personal items, such as 3D prints he made himself, a LEGO head made to look like him, and his ribbon from the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Elementary School Science Fair. It also includes the antiques passed down from his grandmother and an assortment of captivating objects based on his interests.

“It’s really exciting, because I never really had a big space that’s just for me to display my things,” Jacob said.

“We’re super happy to support him,” Ms. Besser said. “Jacob has always had a great attention to detail, a great appreciation for art.”

Jacob walked along his three-case exhibit and described what was on each shelf. One shelf was dedicated to the items he created himself, showcasing more than a dozen items he made with his 3D printer at home. “The Statue of Liberty took 13 hours,” he said, pointing to the largest of the items.

There was also a 3D-printed sphinx, rocket launcher, toilet and Mona Lisa painting, among others—and even a 3D-printed 3D printer. He learned this printing skill last summer and said he wanted to feature some of his finished pieces in the exhibit.

The leftmost case displayed more natural items, like spider conch shells, a sand dollar, a coral sculpture, crystals and a framed butterfly.

The most expensive item was a century-old perfume bottle encrusted with gold and gems that he said cost $500. “It still smells like perfume if you open it,” he said.

The library’s director, Kerrie McMullen-Smith, introduced herself to Jacob while he was describing his collection. “I want to tell you, this is a fantastic collection,” she said to him. “It’s very impressive, and thank you for sharing it with us. It’s really very nice.”

In the future, Jacob said he wants to continue adding to his collection and showcase it in more exhibits in the area.

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