Even before their father Orson Munn Jr. passed away in 2011 at the age of 86, Linda and Orson III, along with their mother, Pat, have been trying to find a new home for his massive collection of toy soldiers, carefully arranged in historic battle scenes and numbering more than 10,000. Munn’s collection will be the subject of Strange Inheritance on Fox Business this Monday night, as host Jamie Colby meets the family, learns about the extraordinary collection and explores the Munns’ dilemma.
Colby—the Edward R. Murrow National Award–winning journalist who worked for WPIX 11, Fox 5 and Long Island’s TV-55 before moving up to national cable networks—describes Strange Inheritance as Antiques Roadshow meets Ancestry meets Dateline.
Colby says she had never seen anything like the Munn collection. Having covered the military for some time for CNN and Fox News Channel, she was impressed by how well researched and accurate Munn’s depictions of battles were.
She’s traveled all over the country for the two seasons of Strange Inheritance, often to “the middle of nowhere,” so Colby was more than happy to learn an episode would be shooting in Southampton, where the Upper East Side resident had visited a number of times before. “We were there with the blue sky, the most spectacular breeze, an exquisite home in a magnificent neighborhood with a lovely family,” she recalls.
The episode also brought Colby to Miami, where she met an appraiser who placed a value on pieces in the collection, and to Kentucky, where about 1,000 of Munn’s soldiers were given to the The Frazier History Museum in Louisville.
The family does not want to break the collection up too much, and would like the bulk of it to stay in the village where it was built.
“They want this collection to find a home, and they really want it to be in Southampton—but it might not work out,” Colby says. The Munns have been trying for several years, and “so far it’s been ‘no’ at every turn.” They were even told they would have to raise $10 million in order to establish a museum of their own.
Orson Munn III admitted he knows his father’s collection may never find a home in a Southampton museum, Colby reports, but, he said, “We’re not going to give up.”
Colby compared the situation to a family in Le Mars, Iowa, who inherited a collection of 150 antique tractors. In another episode, a man left behind perfectly maintained orphaned cars from manufacturers that are no longer in business. The families know the collectors wanted the collections they assembled kept intact.
“Families usually do the right thing,” Colby says.
Sometimes, collections—or one rare object—are auctioned, such as a baseball card that sold for several hundred thousand dollars and the only known autographed photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson. In the case of Munn’s collection, some individual soldiers decorated by Fabergé painters are valued at $500 apiece.
Strange Inheritance had the highest-rated debut in Fox Business’s history and is the network’s first reality series. Now in its second season, the show’s popularity continues.
“It’s become more and more exciting because people are now associating me with this kind of real-life, authentic storytelling, and family has always been the most important thing to me in life,” Colby says.
Because Strange Inheritance is on a business network, in addition to sharing their raw emotions the featured families also reveal the financial details of their inheritances, including the taxes, she says.
The episode will debut Monday, December 7, at 9 p.m. on Fox Business, channel 106 on Cablevision/Optimum.