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Kansas Collectors - Part 2

Sock monkey

Everyone Needs a Hobby

The Drive to Collect

"I'm more happy when I'm out hunting."
- Pat, antique store owner and collector, Topeka

People collect for many different reasons. Some begin collecting by accident after receiving a gift. Others collect things that remind them of their childhood or other happy times in their lives. Some collections tie people to their ancestors or ethnic group.

Most collectors enjoy the thrill of the hunt and some even admit to being obsessive about their hobby. Whatever the reason for collecting, it fulfills emotions that lie at the heart of our personalities.

Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village

World Class Collections

A few collections have become major records of American history. Because they are so extensive, some of these collections have formed the backbone of world-class museums.

Famous automobile manufacturer and industrialist Henry Ford began accumulating vast stores of cultural and industrial artifacts, including American buildings, in the 1940s. Ford arranged his collections at Dearborn, Michigan (top, left), into two sections--an outdoor historical village and an indoor museum. Ford wished to show "the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used."

Ford's vision has developed into Greenfield Village, one of the most visited museums in America.

The Business of Collecting

The collecting impulse is so strong and so widespread that companies now market goods specifically to collectors. Examples include Franklin Mint, Avon decanters, and more recently, Ty Beanie Babies. While often these items are mass produced, many collectors delight in building a complete set.

Franklin Mint

The Franklin Mint is the world's most famous private mint. It has minted (made) legal coinage for many countries and has created medals for U.S. presidents, the United Nations, and the Olympics.

Franklin Mint artists and craftsmen also create a wide variety of collectibles. Limited runs are made of many items to interest collectors. During the United States bicentennial, the mint created patriotic collectibles. Other popular items include presidential collectibles and those commemorating space exploration.


Selection of Avon bottles in the museum collection.

For collectors of the Avon decanters (first produced in 1967), the goal is often to collect a complete set of items. Decanters of this era were made in the shape of cars, people, chess pieces, trains, animals, etc. Other collectibles include boxes, brochures, and magazine ads. These items are widely available at swap meets, flea markets, and garage sales.

Avon decanter collectors look for bottles in good condition that have their original box. Boxes in mint condition raise the value of the bottle.

Beanie Babies

The small stuffed animals known as Beanie Babies came onto the market in 1993. Their relatively low cost and cute names caused them to become favorites with children and adults. Soon Beanie Babies were increasingly sought after, traded, and sold for higher and higher prices.

Stores and clerks were overwhelmed with the demand. Customers pushed and shoved and even yelled at each other in an attempt to get the last example of a particular Beanie Baby.

Today, some Beanie Baby collectors have regrets about getting caught up in the frenzy. They have a lot of stuffed animals whose value has not gone up as they had anticipated.

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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