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Design, Art and Idea

Mert Sandalcı Interview

06.06.2015
Vol. 3

Humankind always in every period, has searched for the old and is still searching… Sometimes it has found it, sometimes even it hasn’t found it has never stopped searching… This is a never ending and patience requiring journey.

Interview: Perihan Yücel

In our country, continuing this occupation with patience, establishing  museums with the special pieces he has collected, writing complete works,  leaving the vocation he got educated for, has made collecting a life style, with the wealth and knowledge of numerous beautiful pieces and road stories making a person admire and envy him, a doyen; we chatted with Mert Sandalcı

Before this pleasant chat that we actualized let’s get to know Mert Sandalcı better.


Mert Sandalcı was born in Istanbul in 1958. He got his elementary, secondary and high school education in F.M.V. Private Işık High School. He graduated from  İ.D.M.M.A  Galatasaray İnşaat Mühendisliği in 1980. He got married with pharmacist Gülnur Sandalcı. Until the the year 1989, he worked as field engineer in Lalapaşa Cement Factory, consultant control engineer in Çorlu NATO Airport Construction and Construction Engineering in the earth works and infrastructure site manager of II.Bosphorus Bridge  Construction.

During all those years, besides his career activities,  from the time of his childhood, he didn’t neglect to develop serious collections  in the fields of stamp collecting and numismatics. In 1989, after the completion of  II. Bosphorus Bridge  he ended his career in the field of construction engineering and got engaged in a different occupation and started working on ephemeral document collections with his wife Gülnur Sandalcı.

Dear Mert, Most of us know what Mert Sandalcı succeed in doing, Could you tell the readers of Box in a Box Idea once more ? If we start with a question that pages would not be enough to cover.

How did Mert Sandalcı’s collection journey has started ?

I guess collecting originates from the person’s genes. On my father’s and grandmoher’s side there were many people who made serious collections and had that spirit. I can easily say that this characteristic has passed on to me genetically.

Besides, don’t think of collecting only as collecting, besides  the collecting urge there is definitely a classification talent and it’s a must of  a good collector to enjoy classifying . You can see it as a talent.

If there is a serious collector having someone’s ear in your family when you were small,  if he has approached you positively and encouraged you, even made you a partner in his works, in short if you go through his training, and on top of it chose a career of engineering, you have great chances to become a good collector.

If  we go back to past days; I can say that my collecting has started in my childhood. My father was a serious stamp collector. I know that he sold the stamp collections he made twice and earned good income. He sold one of them in 1956 when he started his own house’s construction, the other in 1988 during my wedding. Even only these two events are very important examples from the aspect of seeing the benefits of this work.

But I don’t think that my father enjoyed collecting stamps that much. He especially  used to enjoy making silver coin collection. I can not tell how pleasurable  it was to classify  the money he used to bring in bags from the Covered Bazaar on Saturdays and finding the money that was missing in the collection. It was a different pleasure to help my father by reading the numbers in the Ottoman language.  The fact that I believed I made a great contribution to the big collection at home, I guess this is the answer to the question.

How did Mert Sandalcı’s collecting developed after that ? Besides the family even the friends were interested ? Didn’t it cause any  difficulty at those ages ?

I haven’t shared Mert in the house with my friends much. The activities that my father and I did together weren’t going to be anything beyond priggery in the environment of friends and  I didn’t enjoy it that much. But all these activities served as the basis of various collections that I could share with my friends. Among these that come to my mind first are “Melek Chewing Gum’s “our cities” and “country flags”. 

After years it was my utmost happiness to see these collections on my working table.

For example at the ages of 9-10 our neighborhood was the only one in Istanbul where the price tags belonging to the products sold in mobile Migros cars and I was the leader of this craze. Yes the ones who lived their childhood  in değerbilir street of Erenköy 40-45 years ago will remember. There used to be price tags of the products that were weighed before in the movable Migros cars and we would collect them like crazy. There would be a lot of each color but navy blue ones would be rare.  As I started collecting the children in the neighborhood started collecting too and there would be many struggles for one navy blue label, there would be ones fainting. And there was also cheese tags; orange, white, black. Those would be wet we would iron them at home and they would get hard and we would keep them like that.

Following years, first years of youth..high school, University years…

I started making serious collections in those years. My first flame was postage stamps. With my father’s support I made quite an important collection. When stamp collections started being made seriously it used to bring along the disciplines of contests on behalf of the country, exhibiting. When looking at the magnificent expert collectons that would bring medals to the country, that the collecting culture isn’t only owning and that there would be more enjoyment when being shared. The small jobs that I would get in Istanbul Philately Association provided for me to breathe that exhibition environment. I can say that I learned searching, sharing the things that you search and enjoying that in that association.

Some collectors almost never share, they keep them at home. You are researcher who share all your collections and publish them. What is the dimension of collecting in this aspect ? Where are we compared to developed countries ?

When you open the encyclopedias you see many definitions for the collectors. Of course, there is also an illness dimension. I see myself quite far away these definitions. An ill collector doesn’t have a country. They can appear everywhere but among us,  meaning the last generation, there wouldn’t be any collectors of this type. I believe those periods have ended.

If we talk a litlle about the pieces that you actualized...

My priority subject was getting together Editor Max Fruchtermann’s,  who was the editor who published the first postcards of the Ottoman Empire, his life and more than 2200  postcards that he  published. 

In the same period  together with my wife Gülnur Sandalcı we were interested in the life stories of more than the 7.000  pharmacists of the Ottoman and young Republic. From the year 1989, we got together all the personal archives related to the subject, The Ottoman Archives of the Prime Ministry, Commercial Almanacs and we started forming a giant collection by activating all the waste collectors and antique dealers from every part of our country. We started a work that would take many years regarding “Türk Eczacılık Tarihi”  (“ The History of the Turkish Pharmaceutics”)  and our this occupation bore its first fruits after 8 years. The first volume  “Belgelerle Türk Eczacılığı” (Turkish Pharmaceutics History with Documents) named piece of 9 volumes that we formed with approximately 2500 documents was published in 1997.  Due to the fact that the publisher  of the piece which was published as 9 volumes in 10 years was Dr.Nejat Eczacıbaşı Foundation, the collection in the piece was transferred to the same institution, it was exhibited in the “Şifa Eczanesi”(Cure Pharmacy) museum pharmacy in Eczacıbaşı Pharmaceutical Plant.  This museum in Eczacıbaşı Pharmaceutical Plant , was transferred to Ege Üniversity Pharmaceutics  Faculty after the factory was sold and is still being exhibited there.

Again, our first institutional history published in 2006 “10. Yılında Novartis” (Novartis at its 10th year) continued with the institutional history works of Coca Cola Turkey and Abdi İbrahim.  At that time, together with Eczacıbaşı Pharmaceutical Marketing Inc.  to celebrate the “Pharmaceutics Day” we prepared the replicas of “Powder”, “Cream”, “Palpitation Oil” “Gudron Restorative” belonging to Süleyman Ferit Bey and these products together with the related history books were distributed to pharmacists on the “14 May Pharmaceutics Day”.

During the years of 2000, I gave numerous conferences with the subjects “Variations from the Turkish Pharmaceutics History”, “Why Pharmaceutics History” to doctors and pharmacists going around in Turkey. My conferences became varied as my collection and research developed. 

Besides the meetings organized by Eczacıbaşı, Abdi İbrahim and etc. institutions such as “Istanbul’s Street Sellers”, “In the Traces of Lost Voices”, “Collection and Collecting in Turkey” To the Question Marks of Treble Clef”, I gave voluntary conferences, conference-lessons in may universities that I was invited to and I continue doing that.

“SANA With Its Name and Taste from 1952 Up to Now”, “The History of Fevziye Schools”, “From the Ottomans to the Republic Regarding Beer” “The Kağıthane-Kemerburgaz-Ağaçlı-Çiftalan Railway” are my works that come to my mind right now, numerous articles,  regular magazine and newspaper articles are still continuing…

What Project is Mert Sandalcı actualising in these days?

Son çalışmalarımı yakında izleyebilmeniz için bohçacı kadın modunda  dolaşmaktayım efendim. 25 yıldır biriktirdiğim “Osmanlıdan Günümüze Çoksesli Müziğimiz” , “Bayram Tebrikleri”, “Gülhane”, “İskenderun Dekovili”, “Türkiye’nin Dar Hatları” gibi konu başlıklarında yapmış olduğum çalışmalar müze olacağı ya da yayımlanacağı günü bekliyor. Fakat şu aralar  zor .Kar getirmeyen sosyal sorumluluk projelerine “ sosyal sorumluluk projesi” denmiyor ne yazık ki. Çünkü devir değişti. Bakalım, göreceğiz…

In order for you to look on my recent works, I go around like a woman seller with bundle mood  sir. My works  that I collected for 25 years  with subjects such as “Poliphonic Music from the Ottomans Up to Today”, “Aid Cards”, “Gülhane”, “İskenderun Tram”, “Narrow Lines of Turkey” are waiting for the days they’ll be museum or published. But nowadays is difficult.  Social Responsibility projects that don’t bring profit are not called “social responsibility project” unfortunately. Because times have changed. Let’s look, we’ll see…

Vol. 3
Erdem Akan A Design Story: So Simple Office