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A healthy obsession

Jim and Nida Gyorfy stand near their collections of items, ranging from antique toys to war memorabilia, at their Collectors' Corner Musuem in Idaho Falls. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jim and Nida Gyorfy stand near their collections of items, ranging from antique toys to war memorabilia, at their Collectors' Corner Musuem in Idaho Falls. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Milan Gagnon Post Register

IDAHO FALLS – Nida Sabourin grew up collecting Storybook Dolls in Denver. Jim Gyorfy picked up a stamp habit in New Jersey when he was a grade-schooler. Forty-five years ago, their paths crossed at a USO dance.

Months later their collections – both of them had augmented their early-childhood obsessions with new accumulations – merged in a match made in collector heaven.

The owners of Collectors’ Corner Museum in Idaho Falls have escaped diagnosis for their decades of collecting, but neither has sought it, preferring to have and display everything they’ve worked so hard to get.

“We both brought our collections to the marriage, and then we never stopped,” Nida says. “What usually happens is in every marriage generally one’s a collector and one’s not. That’s what creates balance. We didn’t ever have any balance, and he’d say, ‘I’m going to buy this,’ and I’d say, ‘OK, you can get that and I’m going to get this.’ “

The Gyorfys put the museum together in seven months with the help of 40 benefactors, and they finance it with their Social Security checks, donations and a $4 admission charge.

Collectors’ Corner currently features Jim’s vintage toy guns and Nida’s collection of paper dolls – totaling more than 150 and dating from the late 1700s – along with 60 permanent exhibits in 70 cases.

“Believe me, we don’t have it all out,” Jim says. “One collection leads to another. When you’re a kid, you start out collecting pennies. When you fill a book, you say, ‘What now?’ so you go to stamps or nickels.”

Which leads to cap guns, which leads to baseball cards, which leads to license plates, which leads to action figures, which leads to model trains, which leads to matchbooks, and soon there’s nowhere left to put everything.

So collectors clear out space in their garages, rent out a storage shed, or buy a building on John Adams Parkway and charge admission.

Elaine Gray and Debby Hipps deal with collectors at Grandmamma’s Relics and Gifts and find the experience rewarding, if sometimes strange. The shop caters to no one type of collector in particular and carries ceramic wolves, “Star Wars”-themed Pez dispensers, the once hyper-collectible pogs and a commemorative Yellowstone centennial Jim Beam bottle. As long as there’s a collector out there, there’s a market.

“It’s kind of an interesting phenomenon,” Gray says. “Sometimes collectors pick an area (of collectibles) that’s really hard to find so they’re not buying everything. So it’s kind of a treat when they do find it.”

The store provides a haven for shoppers looking for knickknacks to remind them of grandparents, as well as a spot for browsers to kill a few minutes on snowy afternoons. Cookbooks reflect 20th Century dining trends, and 12-inch LPs give shoppers the chance to hear tunes from crooners long burned-out or faded away.

“We have people looking for something really stupid, and they find it, and they’re happy,” Hipps says. “You do make people happy when you give them something they’re looking for.”

People collect, whether they know it or not, whether it be love letters or Faberge eggs, lint or G.I. Joes, Homies figurines or brand-specific memorabilia like Budweiser pint glasses and ashtrays, the Gyorfys say. Open any closet in any home, look at any refrigerator with more than one magnet on it, gander at any bookshelf that has more books than its owners will ever read. The goal, however, is not to Charles Foster Kane one’s belongings, but to show them off.

“There’s a definite difference between a collector and a hoarder,” Nida says. “Collectors want to share and enjoy their collections as part of their personality, part of their passion, but a hoarder doesn’t enjoy. I encourage collectors because I think collecting is healthy.”

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