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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The collector: Bernie Korth

Bernie Korth, , who has traveled the world as a salesman for Keytronic, has documented his travels by purchasing bookmarks, many mad of leather, fabric and other materials, shown Wednesday, May 25, 2022. They’ve been a colorful and convenient way to document his travels. The largest percentage of the collection are from the United Kingdom, where he lived for several years, but there are many from the Middle East, Asia and the North America. ,  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Castles, cathedrals, city and rural sites from Australia to Europe, from the Middle East to the Far East, Bernie Korth has seen much of the world.

His travels spawned his collection of bookmarks – 202 at last count. Each one is a unique reminder of a place he’s visited.

Korth first saw the world courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

“I served over 30 years in the active and reserve Navy,” he said.

But he didn’t start collecting bookmarks until the late 1980s when he and his family lived in Ireland.

Before retiring in 2001, Korth worked in European sales and marketing for two local companies.

During his time in Ireland and later when they lived in England, Korth and his wife and two daughters explored the United Kingdom.

He traces the start of his collection to a brown leather bookmark from The London Toy and Model Museum.

“We spent Christmas in London,” he said. “I wanted to buy a souvenir, but I didn’t want to get something you had to put on a shelf.”

That single bookmark launched the collection that he recently spread across his dining room table.

Viewing it is like taking a trip around the globe. Leather bookmarks from England, mingle with wooden ones from Finland and Maui, and with ones from Greece and Egypt made from woven palm leaves.

“I bought one and then another, and then I had a collection and began looking for them wherever I went,” he said.

Korth smiled as he recalled the time he flew around the world on a business trip to New Zealand.

“I flew from London to L.A., to Auckland,” he said. “On the return, I flew from Auckland to Sydney to Bangkok to Paris to London.”

He was too tired to look for bookmarks on that trip.

Usually, finding the souvenirs was easy.

“Most of them I bought at gift shops,” he said. “If you go to a castle, they always have them, and we went to a lot of castles.”

Of course, they didn’t confine their explorations to castles. He has a bookmark from Sulgrave Manor, the more modest ancestral home of George Washington.

In addition to their small size, another plus to collecting bookmarks is their cost.

“Back in the day they were about a dollar,” Korth said. “When we visited England four years ago, they were $2.50.”

The most expensive one in his collection is from the USA – a bookmark from the U.S. Capitol with a $5.50 price tag.

Korth believes his most unusual bookmark is from Bahrain.

“I was there on active duty with the Navy twice, in 1991 and 1992,” he said.

Retirement gave him more time to explore the world and the United States.

Domestically, he loves to visit Helena, but he doesn’t have a bookmark from there.

Overseas, he greatly enjoyed Bruges, Belgium.

“It’s like the Venice of Northern Europe,” he said.

But even after countless trips, his favorite country to visit is still England.

“The countryside is so beautiful,” Korth said. “The thatched roof cottages – the pubs. There are no TVs in the pubs, it’s a social thing.

“Everywhere we lived there was a pub in walking distance.”

This led to his small secondary collection of 20 pub jugs.

“Pub jugs are for those who like water with their whiskey,” he said.

The pottery or porcelain jugs are usually branded with the name of a whiskey and are often promotional items.

The hundreds of bookmarks at his disposal prompt one to wonder if Korth uses them for their intended purpose.

“Oh, yes,” he said.

He opened the book he’s reading to reveal a leather bookmark embossed with the words “His Lordship.”

But what he most enjoys about his collection is that the bookmarks remind him of the places the visited and the people he met along the way.

“When I look at them, I can reminisce and remember,” he said. “They’re all pretty special, I think.”