World's Largest Banana Museum Forced To Split Ken "the Banana Man" Bannister has collected more than 17,000 pieces of family-friendly, banana-related items since 1972. The city wants to kick his museum out of property it owns, so Bannister has put the collection on eBay.

World's Largest Banana Museum Forced To Split

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We read this morning of the imminent homelessness of not just any banana museum but the banana museum regarded as the world's largest - at least it's regarded that way by its founder, Ken The Banana Man Bannister, and by the Guinness Book of Records.

The International Banana Club and Museum in Hesperia, California boasts a collection of 17,000 banana-themed artifacts - all of them we're told, family-friendly. Mr. Bannister joins us. Hi.

Mr. KEN BANNISTER (Founder, The International Banana Club and Museum): Good day to you, Robert. How are you?

SIEGEL: I'm fine. Now, is it correct that the Hesperia Recreation and Parks District wants you out of the building you've been using for the past four years to house a local historian's collection of non-banana objects?

Mr. BANNISTER: Yes. Can you believe that? After 34 years being located in Altadena, California, we made one move up to the high desert and the recreation and parks department offered their space at no charge, which I thought was very nice. We increased the people coming into that facility by over 800 percent. So, we did not lose our appeal.

SIEGEL: Now, you have been collecting banana-themed items. Is there a word like banaiana(ph) or something?

Mr. BANNISTER: Oh sure, yeah. We've been collecting and having people of the International Banana Club send items over the past 38 years - nothing lewd, crude or lascivious.

SIEGEL: I've seen pictures of you wearing what looks like a yellow zip-up jumpsuit...


SIEGEL: ...with a kind of a peel top that opens up and reveals you, stuffed banana toys. If you were to direct someone to the most remarkable object in the collection, what would you show them?

Mr. BANNISTER: Well, in my opinion, my favorite is the petrified banana that came from a girl's closet in Kentucky about 25 years ago that's hard as a rock and framed on the wall. And the banana lamp is a real prize. And then there's unique banana bowls with monkeys on them, and there's lots of banana jewelry, all family-oriented.

SIEGEL: Now, hearing you describe this, this is hard to believe but you put the entire collection for sale on eBay and you haven't found a buyer.

Mr. BANNISTER: Well, I'll you what, I've had it for a couple of weeks and I started out at 45,000 minimum bid, I went clear down to 7,500, and strangely enough - and hard for me to believe - I didn't get a bid. So, I raised the price the day before yesterday to 45,000 again and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BANNISTER:'s the good news, here's the good news: I've had five different offers - one in Canada, one in Iowa, one in Chicago, Illinois, one out of the country and one down here in San Bernardino County to relocate the museum, but nobody's come up with the cold hard cash. And I think, Robert...


Mr. BANNISTER: ...I think this gentlemen I'm going to meet with here in about an hour and a half with his U-Haul truck is just going to throw out a big pile of cash and relocate this museum near Palm Springs, California. That's what I think's going to happen today.

SIEGEL: You think you've got a buyer on the line today?

Mr. BANNISTER: Yes, I got a buyer by the hand, and that's the term used in reference to a bunch of bananas, as you well know.

SIEGEL: Well, Ken Banana Man Bannister, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BANNISTER: You bet. My pleasure. Have a good day and keep smiling.

SIEGEL: Since that interview, weve checked back in and that buyer indeed came through with, in Mr. Bannisters words, a nice sum. The new owners, mother and son, Viginia and Fred Garbett(ph). They plan to reopen the museum near the Salton Sea in California next January. But rest assured, banana fans, Ken Bannister will still be heading the International Banana Club.

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