Calling all collectors


Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 11:24 p.m.

Amother and daughter exchange smiles as they share with visitors their passion for collecting spatulas and potato mashers, of all things.

J.J. LeCompte is the proud owner of a collection of 700 spatulas, which she's been collecting since the age of 15. Her mom, Shirley Ann Scarabino has been collecting potato mashers for five years and has a total of 155.

Such is the zeal of an avid collector — and there were plenty in attendance Saturday at the Florida Museum of Natural History's 28th annual Collector's Day.

The day brings dozens of collectors, their families, friends and neighbors together for a day.

"I became a collector because of my daughter," said Scarabino.

"It started off as a joke," LeCompte said. "I hung one spatula on a wall, and my collection grew from there."

After regularly attending Collector's Day with her daughter, Scarabino decided she would start her own collection of potato mashers.

"It just seemed like the mother-daughter thing to do," Scarabino said.

Though Scarabino's collection has grown, she has yet to include some of the high-tech tools that her daughter has.

Among LeCompte's collection, she owns a spatula that can read the temperature of meat, a spatula with a flashlight, and a talking spatula that says, "Well hello honey, how about toasting your buns?"

Scarabino and LeCompte were not the only pair in the museum with unusual collections.

Robert and Joy Sherman, originally from Maine but now residents of Gainesville, attend Collector's Day every year and show off their primitive and antique tool collection.

"We try to get tools that are unique," said Robert Sherman.

He showed Saturday's visitors an antique apple cutter and a blueberry rake.

"Most people think that blueberries are picked, but in Maine they're wild so you have to rake them," Robert chuckles as he tugged at his overalls.

Antiques were everywhere among the collections on display at the museum Saturday, but there were other collections that were more up to date.

Alan Lehtola Jr., 34, collects play sets and figurines of the hit TV show "The Simpsons."

"I've been actively collecting for seven years," he said. "It's the kid in me."

Lehtola said he started his collection because he loves toys and he's a big fan of the show.

"Even now as an adult, when I buy toys for my nephews, I'll buy a couple of toys for myself as well," he said.

Sometimes history is the reason why collectors acquire what they do.

Laurie Sheldon, originally from Nebraska but now a resident of Alachua, is the granddaughter of one of Coca-Cola's original bottling company owners.

Sheldon said she grew up watching her father, Harold Keenan, work in the Coca-Cola plant after the business was handed down to him.

She has collected Coca-Cola memorabilia since the family gave up the business after 75 years.

"There's nothing like a 16-ounce Coke in a bottle," she said. "It is truly the pause that refreshes."

In all, nearly 50 collections were on display — ranging from stamps and World War II relics to Titanic memorabilia and, yes, even paperclips.

"We look forward to Collector's Day every year," Sheldon said.

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