HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Penn. – Set Charles Momjian, 91, of Huntingdon Valley, well-known antiques collector and advisor to presidents, died on Monday, April 12 after a long illness.
He was born in Atlantic City on April 9, 1930 to Julia and Charles Momjian, both orphaned refugees from the Armenian genocide who were raised by American missionaries. The two parents were born in Malatya in the Ottoman Empire. Charles died at an early age and the family, which included younger brother Albert, had a difficult time during the Depression era.
Set Momjian attended Atlantic City High School, LaSalle College and Charles Morris Price School of Advertising. After school, he joined the Army, where upon learning that the platoon photographer would have his own private quarters, he spent a weekend learning all he could about photography. Returning to Atlantic City, he used this skill again, as the official photographer for the Miss America pageant.
He began and ended his long professional career at Ford Motor Company, including years as a marketing executive at Philco-Ford, Ford Aerospace and ultimately as a Washington liaison for the company.
Momjian is best known and remembered for his dual passions of antique collecting and politics. A serendipitous find of an old gun under the Atlantic City boardwalk when he was a young boy inspired his lifelong love of antiques. During a 1987 interview about his collecting on the Today show, he said “collecting is in the marrow of my bones.” His son Chris said his father “spent every free minute he had digging through stalls at flea markets, talking with dealers at antique shows or attending auctions. I’d go along with him, leaving before dawn; my ‘reward’ at the end of the long day was usually an antique pocket knife for my collection.”
Early in his collecting career, following advice from the Grolier Club, he pursued first edition books, but his obsession quickly expanded into other areas, as he built his Americana collection that spans genres from soda fountain fixtures and coin-op machines, to rare historical manuscripts and early photography. He is nationally known for his collection of White House and presidential china, much of which has been on loan to presidential libraries. Momjian loved sharing his passion for collecting with others and was in demand as a speaker many groups throughout the country. Today objects from his collections are on loan to numerous museums and historic sites.