Collector Spotlight: Deb Hoffmann
How do you describe your collection?
My collection includes non-duplicate, unique Winnie the Pooh & Friends collectibles from the 1940s through today.
Almost daily, I purchase or have donated/gifted a new Pooh item. The collection started out with collecting plush and beanies but quickly grew to include anything classic, Disney, baby, or original Winnie the Pooh & Friends. This includes t-shirts, mugs, figurines, pens, shoes, books, wall art, kitchen gadgets, ornaments, jackets, stickers – if you can add a character to it, I probably have it.
In the beginning, collecting was about the items themselves. I love finding something I don’t already have. Today, it is more about the experiences my husband, Gary, and I have because of the collection; the people we meet, the places we go, things that happen because of having a Guinness World Record. My first Guinness World Record was set with only 3,891 items but today I have 20,684. I am amazed how many Pooh fans reach out to me through my website, MostPooh.com, looking for help reconnecting with a Pooh item from their childhood. I assist and answer every email. I am also humbled when someone wants to donate their Pooh collection because they are downsizing. I am honored to be the curator of their collection and always say they may visit their collection anytime.
When and why did you start your collection?
As with most kids, my parents gave me stuffed animals. When I was two, my father gave me a plush Winnie the Pooh. I fell in love with him – he went everywhere with me. Eventually, yet apparently, temporarily, I grew out of playing with stuffies. When I was in my 20s I worked across the street from a novelty phone store and started collecting phones. There was a Pooh phone in the store for six months then one day it was gone. For six months I hadn’t needed it but now I did. This was prior to eBay and the internet, so I put ads in newspapers and finally found it. It was missing a butterfly in Pooh’s hand so I had to find the butterfly.
That year, Hallmark had a line of six Pooh ornaments. I found three in-store but had to hunt for the others. I think it was the thrill of the search and the hunt that pulled me back to Pooh. Before I knew it, I had a room dedicated to Pooh and friends. One day, Gary’s best friend was looking in the room and said, “I bet you have the most Poohs in the world”. Was that possible? I had to find out! I downloaded the forms from Guinness World Records in 2007. After a year of counting, I submitted my database of shirts, mugs, clocks, magnets, purses, shoes, jewelry, jackets, wall art, frames – anything from the Pooh franchise. Sure enough, 3891 unique items was the record.
How do you display and store your collection?
The Guinness World Record collection can be seen in a few places in our home. There are various curios and bookshelves. I have one closet dedicated to Pooh pajamas, t-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts. The mugs are in the kitchen cabinets. However, most of the collection is in one 12’ x 12’ bedroom plus a 12’ x 24’ display room in our office building. Unlike many collectors, I don’t keep my collection in the original boxes or with tags. Everything comes out of the packaging and is displayed. I loosely try to keep like items together – Classic Pooh together, holiday-themed items together. I wear the shirts and shoes. I use the mugs and glasses.
When I get a new item, it is photographed and logged in a database Gary created. I record information including purchase location and price, manufacturer and year produced, item type and description, and in which room it will be displayed. Gary also created a phone app that allows me to enter description keywords, manufacturer, and type. It returns photos from the database, so when I am shopping I don’t mistakenly purchase a duplicate item. With books especially I need to see the front and back covers to know if the cover layouts and not just the stories are unique. When I only had 13,000 items in the collection, I was pretty good at knowing if I had an item. With over 20,000 items now, I need help.
What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?
I am extremely lucky to have both a 1960/1970s and 1980/1990s version of the cast walkaround Pooh costume used at the Sears stores and the Disney parks. Up until December 2020, my Holy Grail was finding the costume used in the 1980/1990s. I searched for nine years. In December, I was contacted by someone who had one. When a Sears store in Oregon went out of business, the costume was found in the original crate in a closet and the owner contacted me. Needless to say, I was delighted! Nine years prior, I acquired the 1960/1970s costume. That seller contacted me with photos and I saw it was an actual park version. I had never considered even looking for a park costume! The next day, Gary and I got in the car and drove 24 hours to pick it up. It is in beautiful condition. This costume is the version with the oversized head. Traditionally, he wore a ‘hunny’ pot with a bee on his head. The hunny pot could be removed and replaced with other headwear. When I purchased the 1960/1970s Pooh, he came with a Santa stocking cap. My Holy Grail is finding the hunny pot and bee for the costume.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Winnie the Pooh collection?
When I started collecting Winnie the Pooh, the process was about finding individual items. I would see a Pooh, decide if I could afford it, and maybe buy it or save up for it. Then it became a process of how to display the items. But, somewhere along the way, I realized it became about the people we met and the experiences we had because of collecting. Don’t get me wrong, I love finding new and fun Pooh items. However, we’ve met so many wonderful people who have become friends – people we would not have otherwise encountered. We’ve gone places and done things we wouldn’t have done if not collecting Pooh. We’ve been able to, even in a small way, affect other Pooh fans’ lives. This is so humbling.
My advice is to be passionate about your collection. Let your collection impact both you and others in a positive way. Connect with others who share your interest. Figure out a Holy Grail item and enjoy the process of finding it.
Above all, have fun!