Sudhir Gupta, who started collecting rare fragrance display bottles from a shop on Canal Street, has now set a Guinness World Record.
Gupta’s collection of factices — perfume bottles used for advertising purposes or department store displays that are generally empty or filled with water — is on display at an exhibit in Hackensack, New Jersey called Facticerie: The Factice Collection.
Factices are an entirely new category to The Guinness World Records, and the New Jersey exhibit will show Gupta’s record-size assortment of over 3,000 of the rare perfume bottle replicas, which are valued at $2,000 to $100,000 each, including models by brands such as Chanel, Estée Lauder, Guerlain and Andy Warhol.
The exhibit was designed by creative director Mercedes Acosta and opened on Thursday at 70 First Street in Hackensack, New Jersey, for free viewings by appointment. The space was modeled after the interior of iconic Upper East Side pharmacy, Lascoff Drugs, which closed its doors in 2012.
“Some would say it was love at first sight,” said Gupta of the first factice he laid his eyes on. It was a Nina Ricci L’air du Temps factice, and he came across it while dusting the basement of a perfume shop on Canal Street that he worked at to put himself through graduate school upon coming to the U.S. in the early ‘90s.
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Because they’re not intended for consumer use, factices are not available for sale by any conventional means — and the L’air du Temps bottle Gupta found that day was no exception.
“I didn’t even know what it was,” said Gupta, who hails from Chandigarh, India, of the factice. Despite not having a strong interest in or knowledge of fragrance at the time, Gupta was immediately entranced by the bottle.
After inquiring to the shop owner he worked under about why the bottle was there — and what it would take to have it — the owner ultimately agreed to sell it to him for $2,000. A few dozen paychecks later, Gupta inaugurated his collection.
From then on, Gupta sourced the bottles where and when he could, trying his luck at flea markets, pharmacies like Lascoff Drugs and department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, making friends along the way who indulged his passion, helping him expand his collection via under-the-table exchanges.
“Every time I had any extra money, I would budget it toward that,” said Gupta, who would make deposits to secure factices from sources and then pay the remainder of what he owed over time.
While Gupta feels his stint at the perfume shop was a stroke of “destiny,” he ended up leaving shortly after purchasing the L’air du Temps factice, instead making a living independently buying and reselling hard-to-find fragrances, a gig that allowed him more avenues and freedom to grow his collection.
Today, highlights from the collection include a rare Guerlain Shalimar factice, one of two Parera Tentacion factices in the world and the most expensive factice of them all: a ’20s Caron Les Fontaines Baccarat from the estate of Madame Alexander, estimated to be valued at $100,000.
On June 6, the collection was inducted into the Guinness World Book of Records as the largest in the world to date, an honor Gupta had been eagerly awaiting confirmation of since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although factices are no longer manufactured by most companies, Gupta continues to grow his collection to this day, having made a name for himself as an antiquarian when it comes to the rare bottles.