Achim Middelschulte is more than comfortable with heavy equipment. The former chief of Ruhrgas AG studied mining – something of a family tradition. But when it comes to tiny, delicate figures with doll faces, he shows a gentler side.
“I carefully hold the figures only by the head to avoid breaking anything,” he says.
The 70-year-old is the proud owner of an extensive porcelain collection, but he’s particularly enthusiastic about the “Würzburg Miners,” four little musicians who play the triangle, flute, tambourine and bassoon.
Mr. Middelschulte has pursued his interest in historical porcelain with mining motifs for 40 years. His collection, currently on display at the Hetjens Museum in Düsseldorf, features 100 items. As well as the figurines are plates and cups from various porcelain works, particularly the famous Meissen factory.
His collection is considered the most extensive of its kind in the world. About 10 years ago, a Russian buyer offered to purchase his entire collection, but Mr. Middelschulte declined.
“At that time, I decided to keep everything together,” he explains. “My wife and I set up a foundation to which we have gradually transferred all the pieces.”
Like his involvement in the energy business, Mr. Middelschulte’s passion for porcelain was passed down the family line – from his grandfather and great uncle.
But collectors’ motives are as varied as their collections.
It might be the allure of obscure technology or the value of rarity, as with power tool entrepreneur Hans Peter Stihl, who collects model trains.
For Dirk Markus, head of the holding company Aurelius, it was a semester abroad that sparked his interest in Soviet-era posters.