Regarding Derek Anastasia, ISCLA

Anastasia Amasses Near Million
Dollar Collection - Off The Cuff
Indiana University Alumni Magazine - March/April 2000

By John Schwarb

Friends and colleagues always greet Derek Anastasia with a handshake, but it takes a moment for their eyes to come back up to meet the man. First, they have to know — what will he have on the cuff today?

It is always a good question, with rarely the same answer. As the owner of the world’s largest antique enamel cuff link collection, Anastasia’s choices are nearly endless.

For the 1984 IU Business School graduate, the journey commenced with a graduation present from his grandfather. The gift was a pair of mid-Victorian, gold cuff links that had once belonged to Anastasia’s great-great grandfather. That gift, coupled with a career about to begin on style-conscious Wall Street, inaugurated a collection that today is unparalleled in size, quality and worth.

In late-February, the count of his museum-like collection stood at 1,843 pairs — and growing. Always growing. “It is a 24-hour job,” Anastasia says. “When I’m not thinking about my work, I am thinking about collecting.” As the estimated value would indicate, this is not just any random jewelry collection. Anastasia solely collects antique enamel cuff links (the rarest of the species), and only purchases those in mint condition or ones that can be restored to original quality. The cuff links are veritable miniature works of art. He has found enamels for just a few dollars, but usually spends a few hundred dollars on newcomers for his collection. Of course, for any collector there sometimes comes a chance for a truly remarkable and expensive addition. For Anastasia, that moment came recently with the acquisition of a Russian Fabergé pair made of gold with enamel and precious stones, found after several years of hunting and hounding dealers. The price for those now? Over $8000.

Today his collection and his profession feed off one another, and both have flourished. His company, Anastasia Ltd., specializes in the field of “competitive intelligence,” which involves collecting background information on governments, companies and individuals for clients who require hard-to-find or disparate pieces of data. Anastasia concentrates in the financial area. Constantly traveling all over the world for this often confidential work, Anastasia always finds time for a side trip to satisfy his other full-time pursuit.

“To collect, you need to search, find and acquire. It's pretty much the same methodology I use with my work,” says Anastasia, who maintains stateside homes in New York City, New York and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. When traveling, he says, “Any free time I have is spent finding out where the antique shops and shows are in the area," he says. “I’ll get in a car and drive for hours if I think there is a chance of finding one pair.”

His cuff link pursuits not only include finding new pairs, but also finding the long-lost mates to his 'singles' collection. In addition to the 1,800-plus pairs, Anastasia also has nearly 800 single antique enamel cuff links. Finding their identical partners is daunting as he has accomplished this feat only 23 times in 15 years. Even though the rewards are slow to come, Anastasia still finds his matchings to be one of the most satisfying facets of collecting, fondly referring to it as "reuniting a piece of jewelry history."

But the greatest reward yet came late last year, when New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art asked him to donate one of his pairs to their permanent collection. Today a piece of Anastasia (an extraordinarily rare, one-of-a-kind pair of enamel on gold cuff buttons from the second Egyptian revival, circa 1860s) rests in a glass case in the museum. “That is the epitome for a collector — it's beyond cool," he says.

His collection has appreciated greatly over the past few years, as cuff links, preeminently the antique enameled ones, have become the hottest item in men's sartorial accessories. But he still keeps all of them within arm’s length, so to speak, as the collection rests not in a bank vault — but displayed in several custom made, secured showcases at his high-rise residence in Manhattan.

“I don’t know any true collectors who do not have their collection with them,” he says. “It would be the antithesis of a collector to keep his treasures at another location. Collecting is all about the passion for what you have assembled and being able to enjoy it on a daily basis. Of course, I am just lucky to have a passion for something wonderfully small.” Anastasia laughs, "But, if the collection keeps expanding at this rate — I'll have to move out and find a new place of my own!"

Copyright © 2000 All Rights Reserved

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