Note: This article was initially published on the WUFT site on 1/24/17.
Two hundred collectors gathered for the 38th annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Although collections vastly differed, all were bound together by a common thread: a story.
Myena Kerns—Teddy Bear Collector
Myena Kerns said her teddy bear collection stemmed from a childhood love.
“I had a teddy bear when I was a child,” she said. “It was my companion growing up and all through my life.”
Unlike most collectors, Kerns doesn’t acquire new items through purchases or donations— she creates her own.
“They’re fun to make,” she said. “Each one has a distinct personality and each one of them looks different.”
The Newberry resident — who said she takes bear individuality to heart — pointed to a brown bear sporting a bright red bow tie sitting high on a large pile of stuffed animals.
“This is considered our baby,” she said. “His name is Wellington. He wears baby clothes.”
Although Kerns has been collecting since her childhood, the first bear she made was a gift.
“I made stuffed toys for my children and grandchildren, and it just evolved from that,” she said.
Jennifer Lewis — Spatula Collector
Spatula collector Jennifer Lewis said her 28-year spatula collecting journey began as a joke.
She said middle school friend gave her a spatula for Christmas, a riff on their shared love for the ‘Spatula City’ commercial in the “Weird Al” Yankovic film “UHF.”
“That started it as a silly thing, but then I really started to notice them everywhere,” she said.
The Gainesville native said some of her favorite spatulas — out of a collection just shy of 2,000 items — were Florida Gator themed but she has grown particularly fond of a spatula she calls “the gnarly and big one, with the bull.”
When asked about the total value of her collection, she said value is decided individually.
Mark Shelton — Superhero Mask Collector
Mark Shelton said his mask collection stemmed from the bond he shares with his son.
“I’ve liked superheroes since I was a little kid, but now I’ve got an 8-year-old son,” he said. “When I started getting costumes for him for Halloween, he liked them so much [that] he wanted them for Christmas.”
Holiday gifts for his son sparked their regular mask-collecting excursions, Shelton said.
Shelton’s collection not only allows him and his son to become their favorite superheroes but other characters, too.
“So far the number one that the kids love is the Ash Ketchum over there,” he said, pointing to a plastic mask of a cartoon character from “Pokémon.”
Shelton said his son continues to inspire him to collect everyday.
“We both enjoy superheroes and going out and finding new masks,” he said. “This is what we like to do.”
Shelton’s son isn’t the only force driving his hobby, he said.
“I do it just to bring joy to people and watch the kids smile after they put them on.”
Miriam Elliott — The Beatles Memorabilia Collector
Self-proclaimed “Beatlemaniac” Miriam Elliott said she has been collecting merchandise from The Beatles since she was a teenager.
“I would use my meager babysitting money,” Elliott said, laughing.
Her love for the band was ignited when she saw them play in Jacksonville in 1964 at the Gator Bowl.
“That’s been a thread throughout my entire life, it’s a big influence to who I am as a person,” she said. “The fact that I’m involved in peace and justice activism — a lot of that was the direction they led me in.”
Although Elliott said she has always loved buying The Beatles items, she didn’t realize she was a collector until she came to Collectors Day for the first time.
“One of the collectors said to me, ‘Do you collect anything?’ I said no, but then I thought for a minute. I said, ‘I do have a box full of Beatles stuff.’”
That conversation prompted her to organize and actively add to her collection, she said.
Elliott has now been presenting her passion project at Collectors Day for 33 years, making hers one of the longest running collections featured at the show.
While her collection is impressive, she said she doesn’t just come to Collectors Day to show off her assemblage.
“Among the collectors who know each other, year to year, we find things for each other and pass them on,” she said. “It’s a nice camaraderie.”
When asked about her favorite item in her collection, she pointed down to the necklace she was wearing that featured a discolored Beatles logo written atop a miniature brown book.
“The gold lettering has worn off because I used to wear this to school and handled it a lot,” she said.
Opening the book revealed it was an accordion filled with photos of the The Beatles’ faces.
“I was able to look at the lads between classes, because I got them right here close to my heart,” she said.
As she stood over a frame encasing her first Beatles concert ticket, Elliott said “People would describe collectors as being obsessive, or bordering on hoarding. But it’s really a passion. Each person here has a passion for whatever it is that they’re exhibiting.”