I’m Your Biggest Fan: Winnie-The-Pooh fanatic forks out $500,000 on toys

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We all want to care about things, but the superfan goes to lengths that far surpass the regular fan.

For eons, we’ve worshipped at the altars of sports stars, pop stars, actors, fictional characters, collectibles, art, cars, and just about anything else we can relate to, that we can buy, that we can love and share with others.

Also known as a ‘fanatic’ (but, let’s face it, ‘fan’ is much more sexy), these superfans have travelled the globe to support their chosen love, spent hundreds of thousands on merchandise, altered their body in dramatic ways, some have even changed their names – and we’ve tracked down the most die-hard and dedicated to telling their story.

Each week we’ll bring you the story of one keen punter who has dedicated their life and time (and money, so.much.money) to supporting someone or something – simply because it brings them immeasurable joy.

And that’s what life’s about, right? Say hi to Metro.co.uk’s super fun superfan series, I’m Your Biggest Fan. This week we speak with Deb Hoffman, who has been collecting Winnie-The-Pooh for the past 30 years, having her love of the character reignited in her 20s, after first receiving a plush toy when she was two.

 

 

The 54-year-old from Wisconsin has held the Guinness World Record since 2009, after documenting thousands of items. Now she’s pushing the 20,000 mark, with her collection spanning several houses and her office, where she works as a software engineer.

What started as a small collection took on a larger meaning when Deb became addicted to getting more and more items – now people travel to see her amazing Winnie-The-Pooh assortment in her self-described ‘Pooh Rooms’.

 


Fascinating.

Oh, and she’s still got her very first toy, 52 years later.

So, Deb, what got you into Winnie-The-Pooh?

It really started when I was a kid. I got my first when I was two-years-old, and as I got older it was always on the shelf but not a big thing. I hit my 20s and started collecting novelty telephones. There was a Winnie-The-Pooh phone, and one day it was gone. I didn’t need that phone for the last six months but now it was gone, I had to have it. This was before eBay and the internet, so I put ads in newspapers across the US where I thought there might be the opportunity to find the phone. Somebody from Florida called and had the phone.

After that, it ended up being a treasure hunt. More and more things started coming out and before I knew it, I was back into Winnie-The-Pooh even more than when I was a kid.

How did your collecting manifest?

 

It was addicting, “what do I have to find next”. That’s part of really what started pulling me in.

 

My husband, he’s supportive, he let me take one of the spare rooms as ‘The Pooh Room’. One day a friend said, “oh my god I bet you have the most in the world”. Then I had to find out.

How did you begin to do that?

It literally took us about a year to document everything. Everything has to be unique, documented, photographed, you need two adjudicators. I’ve got everything from pencils, and t-shirts to mugs, erasers… Every time you turn around I had something new. Sure enough, I had the largest collection in the world. We started counting in 2008 and submitted in 2009. I’ve been the record holder since then. I set it and I’ve kept it.

How many items are we talking?

I had 3,891 to win the first record.

 

I collect every single day, in fact I’m sitting here looking at about 30 items I have to get into the database.

 

 

Before those items, I now have 19,007.

It sounds like a full-time job!

It really has become part of our existence, our life. So much of what we do really has to do with Winnie-The-Pooh. People say, “when are you going to stop collecting?”, it’s become more about the experiences and the people we meet than the thing itself. For one of my birthdays my husband took me over to England so I could compete in the Poohsticks Championship, visit the London Zoo and I wrote to the person who owned AA Milne’s house so I toured his house.

Can you calculate how much you’ve spent over the years?

It’s a loaded question because I’ve had the great honour at having people give me gifts over the years.

 

 

I’ve had so many people donate items. For instance, a lady was going to be getting rid of her collection and she didn’t want to send it to a thrift store, they were collectables and prized possessions.

 

They sought me out and I ended up driving to Ohio, about eight hours from my house, my husband rented a moving truck and we bought back 2,000 items.

 

But I would guess over the past 30 years, half a million dollars (£388,000).

What’s your most beloved item?

Other than my first Winnie-The-Pooh? A lot of people know about the character because of Disney, which is great, and a lot of people know about the black bear cub from London Zoo, Winnie.

 

But a lot of people don’t know that black bear cub comes from Canada and originated in White River, Ontario.

 

About 20 years ago now my husband and I started going up there to a festival they hold during the weekend the bear cub was sold to Lieutenant Harry Colebourn. One of my best friends is from White River now. And she found a print of the original bear cub, framed, on top of a Harley Davidson – which originated where I’m from – and she gave that to me. That print means the world to me. Where do you keep it all? I’ve tried to maintain a sense of not looking like I’m a nutcase where it’s all over the place. It’s pretty much in the one Pooh room; that’s where there’s an explosion. There is also a property that is our office, which has a 43 X 24 [foot] display room for more of the collection. We also have two houses, so the second house has a room that has started for Winnie-The-Pooh. How much time do you dedicate to your collection? I have to say, it’s probably a half an hour to an hour a day, looking for things, documenting. On a daily basis I’m getting messages and phone calls from people who want to donate something, or have me help appraise an item. I got a phone call from someone also wants to come and tour the room. You should start a museum! Wouldn’t I just love that! The one display room, people will walk into the room and stop talking because it’s a sensory overload with all the colours and everything arranged. I think if I could do a museum I think it would be really popular. Anytime there is something, an interview or show, that runs, the people that will contact me to say “boy!” People want to be able to feel comfortable. Being a collector, they’re put down for it. When they find someone who’s done it and done it very publicly, inevitably I’ll find someone who says “you made me feel good”.


Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/10/17/im-biggest-fan-winnie-pooh-fanatic-forks-500000-toys-10936888/?ito=cbshare

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About 20 years ago now my husband and I started going up there to a festival they hold during the weekend the bear cub was sold to Lieutenant Harry Colebourn. One of my best friends is from White River now.

 

And she found a print of the original bear cub, framed, on top of a Harley Davidson – which originated where I’m from – and she gave that to me.   That print means the world to me.

Where do you keep it all?

I’ve tried to maintain a sense of not looking like I’m a nutcase where it’s all over the place. It’s pretty much in the one Pooh room; that’s where there’s an explosion. There is also a property that is our office, which has a 43 X 24 [foot] display room for more of the collection. We also have two houses, so the second house has a room that has started for Winnie-The-Pooh.

How much time do you dedicate to your collection?

I have to say, it’s probably a half an hour to an hour a day, looking for things, documenting. On a daily basis I’m getting messages and phone calls from people who want to donate something, or have me help appraise an item.

 

I got a phone call from someone also wants to come and tour the room.

You should start a museum!

Wouldn’t I just love that! The one display room, people will walk into the room and stop talking because it’s a sensory overload with all the colours and everything arranged. I think if I could do a museum I think it would be really popular.

 

Anytime there is something, an interview or show, that runs, the people that will contact me to say “boy!” People want to be able to feel comfortable. Being a collector, they’re put down for it.

 

When they find someone who’s done it and done it very publicly, inevitably I’ll find someone who says “you made me feel good”.

 

 

Fascinating. Oh, and she’s still got her very first toy, 52 years later. So, Deb, what got you into Winnie-The-Pooh? It really started when I was a kid. I got my first when I was two-years-old, and as I got older it was always on the shelf but not a big thing. I hit my 20s and started collecting novelty telephones. There was a Winnie-The-Pooh phone, and one day it was gone. I didn’t need that phone for the last six months but now it was gone, I had to have it. This was before eBay and the internet, so I put ads in newspapers across the US where I thought there might be the opportunity to find the phone. Somebody from Florida called and had the phone. After that, it ended up being a treasure hunt. More and more things started coming out and before I knew it, I was back into Winnie-The-Pooh even more than when I was a kid. How did your collecting manifest?


Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/10/17/im-biggest-fan-winnie-pooh-fanatic-forks-500000-toys-10936888/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

e all want to care about things, but the superfan goes to lengths that far surpass the regular fan. For eons we’ve worshipped at the altars of sports stars, pop stars, actors, fictional characters, collectables, art, cars, and just about anything else we can relate to, that we can buy, that we can love and share with others. Also known as a ‘fanatic’ (but, let’s face it, ‘fan’ is much more sexy), these superfans have travelled the globe to support their chosen love, spent hundreds of thousands on merchandise, altered their body in dramatic ways, some have even changed their names – and we’ve tracked down the most die-hard and dedicated to telling their story. Each week we’ll bring you the story of one keen punter who has dedicated their life and time (and money, so.much.money) to supporting someone or something – simply because it brings them immeasurable joy. And that’s what life’s about, right? Say hi to Metro.co.uk’s super fun superfan series, I’m Your Biggest Fan. This week we speak with Deb Hoffman, who has been collecting Winnie-The-Pooh for the past 30 years, having her love of the character reignited in her 20s, after first receiving a plush toy when she was two.


Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/10/17/im-biggest-fan-winnie-pooh-fanatic-forks-500000-toys-10936888/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

 
 
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