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Kansas Collectors - Part 4

Sock monkeyEveryone Needs a Hobby

Living With a Collection

Some people enjoy using their collections in their everyday lives.

By surrounding themselves with the things they have worked so hard to gather, these collectors get to enjoy their collections differently than those who choose to preserve or display them.

Marsha with her Playmobil collection.


"It is a fun way to teach Kansas history to little kids."
- Marsha, Topeka

Marsha collects figures and sets sold by Playmobil and even finds opportunities to use them as a teaching tool.

In 1981, when Marsha finished her master's thesis oral exams on western history and the Santa Fe Trail, she received her first Playmobil figures as a gift. The set featured a family and their covered wagon.

Since then, Marsha has collected more sets that relate to transportation, archeology, and history in general (top, left). In a previous job, she displayed the figures around her office and used them in presentations.

Marsha has reorganized some of the sets to create more accurate Kansas and western scenes. She has even written Playmobil with suggestions for improving accuracy. Marsha regrets that she didn't buy more Playmobil when it first came out since many pieces are now discontinued.

John with his collection of kitsch.


"The uglier, the better!"
- John, Lawrence

John is a collector and also an antique dealer. He says he has always liked "junk." As a child he recalls going to the dump with his grandparents where he was surprised to find tintypes and other personal items for the taking.

Genie  lamp in John's collection.

Today, John lives with his collection (bottom, right). It includes 1940s to 1960s furniture, genie lamps (bottom, left), sock monkeys (top, right), panther figures, velvet paintings, and much more. His house is a testament to his passion to collect.

Never a man of means, John looks for "kitsch" that others pass up for more traditional antiques (kitsch is something that appeals to popular or low- brow taste and is often of poor quality). Off-color and politically incorrect pieces such as ethnic art and nude salt and pepper shakers are highly sought after by John. He says collecting for him is an addiction.


"This is why I don't buy things on eBay: I like to feel it, look at it, smell it . . . I'm into the whole experience."
- Christine, Valley Center

Collectors often influence others. Christine, a vintage clothing collector, has influenced her Aunt Claire who now collects the same. Although Claire collects primarily things from the 1930s and 1940s and her neice has accumulated many pieces from the 1950s and 1960s, they rarely shop together to avoid competition. Although she and Christine are close, they are secretive about where they shop. They simply tell each other that they got a piece from "their favorite store."

Christine has been shopping for vintage clothes since she was 16 years old. She says she likes vintage clothing because of the quality of workmanship and styling.

Primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, Claire's collection reminds her of the glamorous movie stars from that era. Many of Claire's pieces are black, however, it is whether the garment is fitted, tailored, or charming that ultimately influences her decision to buy.

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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