When Tom Marek visited his brother Robert’s house after he died, he couldn’t believe what he found. Nor did he have any idea what he’d do with it.
It was the first time in more than a decade that Tom had been in the house, which his artist brother had filled with more than 5,000 hatchets, swords, knives, pikes, maces and spears. Most were fashioned by Robert himself, who succumbed to cancer in 2015 at the age of 55.
“I was just overwhelmed,” Tom Marek said. “I had seen photographs, but only of one wall. I don’t think I could have been prepared until I walked through that door.”
The Marek family story is featured on the latest episode of Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby. It airs Monday, February 6 at 9 p.m. on the FOX Business Network.
The Mareks grew up in a suburb of San Francisco. Tom became a financial planner and moved to Oregon. But Robert stayed local after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a double major in art and art history. He moved into the home that would double as his ever-expanding arsenal.
Neighbor Sara Wolf remembered when she and her husband were invited to dinner.
“I was in shock because it was these beautiful wood walls, but floor to ceiling axes and knives. After we got in and the door closed, I kind of felt like we were never coming home,” she said.
The FBI was similarly suspicious. Tom Marek said agents once interviewed his brother as part of the Unabomber investigation.
“The Unabomber had an association with UC Berkley, was thought to be intelligent and worked with wood. My brother was an artist who went to UC Berkley, and worked with wood,” he explained.
Tom Marek said the FBI quickly ruled Robert out as a suspect.
”My brother was never terribly open about how the interview went, he was a little embarrassed by this episode,” he said.
The craftsmanship of Robert Marek’s weapons is world-class, said Francis Boyd, a renowned swordsmith who plies his trade at Klockars Blacksmithing in San Francisco. “Probably only about forty or fifty knife-makers in the world,” could produce a collection like Marek’s, Boyd adds.
Greg Martin, an antique weapons expert working with Michaan’s Auctions in Alameda, California, believes Marek conducted extensive historical research into the design of ancient weapons to produce them with stunning accuracy.
“You don’t find collections like this, compiled by the maker and the collector rolled into one,” Martin said.
Michaan’s began auctioning off the collection in September 2016. A handful of pieces sold for more than $10,000, suggesting Tom Marek’s inheritance could be worth $250,000 or more.
Tom Marek believes his brother would be delighted that the market would put that kind of value on his work.
“This was a lifelong passion. He put together an amazing collection, and he was proud of what he did,” he said.