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Kansas Collectors - Part 5

Sock monkeyEveryone Needs a Hobby

Collecting as Play

"I'm trying to buy back my childhood."
- Jenny, Topeka

Childhood is a magical time. As adults we often look back at childhood with fondness and search for ways to replicate those experiences.

Some baby boomers collect toys and movie memorabilia to recapture happy moments from their youth. Many regret getting rid of their childhood toys and long to have them back.

Today they relish spending time and energy looking for the toys that at one time brought them so much joy.

Bill with his Star Wars collection.

Star Wars

"Everything you want to learn about life is in Star Wars."
- Bill, Leavenworth

Bill has an impressive Star Wars collection. He recalls fondly that the original Star Wars was the first film his dad ever took him to see. The Empire Strikes Back was his favorite movie in the series.

Bill began collecting Star Wars items soon after the first movie appeared in 1977. He regrets that he sold many of his early movie toys when he was young. Currently, his collection numbers more than 300 items and includes re-released figures and items from later films in the series.

This photo (center, right) shows Bill with some of his most prized pieces. The Millennium Falcon (on the table) and X-Wing fighter (held by Bill) were from the first three movies in the series. The At-At (the large four-legged vehicle on the table) was featured in The Empire Strikes Back and is Bill's favorite.

Dorsey with her toy sewing machines.

Sewing Machines

"Collections are more than just an accumulation of things.
They are a mark in time and memory."
- Dorsey, Lindsborg

As a child, Dorsey remembers her grandmother sewing on a Singer Featherweight machine. Dorsey always wished she had a toy sewing machine since she too liked to sew.

Dorsey grew up in Lawrence, where she remembers going to fabric stores asking for old pattern books. She would take the books home and pour over the patterns. She began collecting toy sewing machines in 1968 when she was in college. To date, her collection numbers about 20 (center, left). She says she collects with her heart and has never sold any of her pieces.

A few pieces from Carole's collection of Steiff animals.

Steiff Animals

"I fell in love with their faces and craftsmanship."
- Carole, Lawrence

Carole has been collecting stuffed animals since she was ten. She received her first Steiff plush bear from her sister. Carole remembers that she did not like dolls as a child but that she had many stuffed animals lined up in her room. Her love of animals drives her collecting.

Carole's collection has grown to about 53 and includes Steiff squirrels, bears, reindeer, hedgehogs, and zebras (bottom, right). She has received some as gifts, and buys others on eBay, at auctions, and at antique stores.

The Steiff Company of Giengen, Germany, was started by Margarete Steiff. Struck with polio at a young age, Margarete sought a career that would allow her to be independent. A dressmaker by trade, she made a pincushion in the shape of an elephant one day. It was so popular with her nephews that she decided to make more animals.

Norman and his collection of baseball memorabilia.

Baseball

"It was the national past time. I wanted to be a major league player."
- Norman, Topeka

Norman has been a collector of baseball autographs and memorabilia since he was twelve. He was amazed when a boyhood friend told him that he could send away for players' autographs.

Growing up in the 1950s, Norman didn't see many professional games, but he watched them on television and idolized the larger-than-life players. Norman laments that today's baseball players are less accessible to fans. His collection focuses on what, for him, were the romantic years of baseball.

Norman's collection is displayed behind glass in his basement (bottom, left). He occasionally takes pieces out to use in programs for children and seniors. Not a fan of eBay, he prefers to write or email dealers directly. He believes it is difficult to determine the quality of pieces for sale on the Internet.

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Everyone Needs a Hobby: Kansas Collectors and Collecting is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Museum: The House of Muses
  2. The Drive to Collect
  3. Bringing People Together
  4. Living With a Collection
  5. Collecting as Play
  6. Collection as Investment
  7. Working Together: Collectors & Museums

Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org