Collector Spotlight: This toy story has a happy ending

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Superheroes keep watch from several shelves. All images by Bobby Tabshey

SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Collecting started innocently enough for me. I had toys when I was a child! That’s when my collecting began, first with GI Joe and Hot Wheels, then baseball cards and comic books. Of course everything I collected as a child was current and new out of the store. Even back then, my mother made sure I saved the boxes and kept everything in great condition. She wasn’t thinking of future value, that’s just how my mother was and I’m glad about it now. I still have those GI Joe’s in their boxes.

At one point, when I was around 17 years old or so, my interest in comic books outweighed the others. I took my baseball cards to a comic/card store and sold them to buy vintage comics. I didn’t get as much money as I should have, but it was enough to get a good start on the comic collecting.

I went on collecting comics, not collector quality or quantity, but just for fun and enjoyment and what money would allow. I guess the serious collecting bug hit when I was about 25, married and living in a condo. I went to a toy show in Hartford, Conn., (before the days of eBay) and was walking the aisles when I noticed someone selling a beat up Munsters lunchbox. The price tag read $250 and it didn’t even have the Thermos!

I remembered seeing those lunchboxes as a kid, because my two older brothers each had one. Knowing my mother, I was pretty sure they had to still be somewhere in the house. I immediately went to her house and searched everywhere until I found them. One had the Thermos and the other didn’t. I took them back to the show and was rushed by 4 vendors offering me goods and cash. I settled for $350 for the one with the Thermos. I traded the other one for an Incredible Hulk #181 comic (first appearance of Wolverine) and a set of 1966 Batman cards. My brothers still give me a hard time about that one saying I owe them at least half.

My wife Tracy and son Lucas moved into our new house and my collection went to a spare bedroom (10 feet by 12 feet) and stayed mostly in boxes. When my daughter Liza was born, the collection got moved to the finished basement. That turned out to be a good thing because I had twice the space and even an area to work on models.

In 2001, after 10 years of marriage, my wife Tracy was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor. The removal took place immediately and was initially successful, but she passed away due to post operative complications.

Left with two small kids, ages 5 and 3, I relied heavily on family, friends, work and church to help me through my grief. Another aspect of my life that provided inner peace was the collecting of toys and the joy it brought me. I think the kids seeing me be stable and supportive while grieving, and able to begin the road back to having a normal life helped them handle the tragedy of losing their mother.

My toy collection got so big over the next four years that I finally had to build a 30-foot by 20-foot addition on the house. My collection is divided into sections; Batman, Spider-Man, other superheroes; Star Wars; lunchboxes; GI Joe; Hot Wheels and cars; and 1960s and ’70s TV and movies.

In 2007, I married a wonderful woman. Danielle has 2 boys of her own, twins Zachary and Travis. She’s been very supportive of my kids, my family, and yes, my collection. I’m sure she thinks I spend too much time in the toy room but I keep telling her it’s better than me going out and getting in trouble; in other words, it’s a safe and innocent hobby.

Lucas is now 14, the twins are 13 and Liza is 12, and they like to show their friends the toy room. Adults are fun to bring to the toy room too; usually they have the greatest reactions like “I had that,” or “I remember that.” They refer to me as “The 40-year-old non-virgin,” but it makes me happy and hopefully I’ll be buying and selling for a long time.

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Spotlight your collection or family collecting tradition on the pages of Antique Trader

Does your collection have a family connection? Does your collection cross the generation gap? Do you have a collection you’d like to spotlight on the pages of Antique Trader?

E-mail your story, with captioned photos to sandra.sparks@fwmedia.com or mail to Antique Trader Collecting Spotlight, 700 E State St., Iola, WI 54945, attn: Sandra Sparks.

Photos should be well focused and clear. Remove items from any protective covering that may cause glare. Include a photo of yourself. If sending your story and photos via e-mail (preferred), see directions below.

Format: Save as jpeg or tiff

Resolution: 200 dpi or higher

Size: Original image must be a minimum of 4 inches wide/deep

Compressing files: If needed, files can be “zipped” and we can unzip them here.

Posting files: Large files also can be posted to our ftp site at ftp.krause.com; select Inbound folder, then Antique Trader folder. Either drag image or copy and paste it into the folder.

Photos will not be returned. All material submitted becomes the property of Krause Publications.

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More Images:

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Bobby Tabshey, with one of his not-so-innocent-looking toys. Who is that behind the mask?
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Lucas, Liza and the twins, Zachary and Travis love to show off dad's toys.
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Tabshey says, "It was a lunchbox that got me started going down the collecting road."
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Tabshey says, "It was a lunchbox that got me started going down the collecting road."
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Fun with dad's toys.

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