Collection Connection: one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure

Written by Drema Drudge, Feature Writer | Photo by Bonnie Manning, Feature Photographer

Thousands of lighters, an LP album collection. Piles of old signage. Kelly Corbin of Fort Wayne has been a collector since the fourth grade. When asked just what she collects, she laughs and doesn’t seem to know where to start. It soon becomes clear that what she gathers is collections.

In Corbin’s case, like found like: her boyfriend, David Seel, enjoys amassing things as much as she does. Soon their first home was filled with the “unusual and antique,” says Corbin, who works in a group home for the disabled. Their walls are graced by a harpoon and its ilk. They love chicken crates. A chicken incubator was among their earliest together purchases.

Corbin isn’t sure how much their trove is worth, but she does feel it is worth more together than separate. If she had to guess, she’d say maybe $100,000.

Travel and hotel memorabilia, reminders of their travels. Beer steins and signs. Their first house quickly became too cramped for them and their collection, so they moved. Their current house is actually two – while their primary residence is full of their treasures, the second one houses just their things.

Pretty ladies – old pottery pieces with pin curls, paintings of them. “Dogs” taking over the living room. That chicken incubator? They use it as a coffee table.

Kelly Corbin isn’t sure how much her collections are worth, but if she had to guess, she’d say maybe $100,000. “I’m never stopping,” says Corbin. “It’s one of the biggest highs I can get.”

Kelly Corbin isn’t sure how much her collections are worth, but if she had to guess, she’d say maybe $100,000. “I’m never stopping,” says Corbin. “It’s one of the biggest highs I can get.”

“I’m never stopping,” says Corbin. “It’s one of the biggest highs I can get.”

Unusual salt shakers. Food themes in (where else?) the kitchen, where Colonel Saunders looms large.

Perhaps her favorite collection is her iconography. “I don’t worship them,” she says of her statuary, but she is repeatedly drawn to the shadow box holding a real crown of thorns that Seel brought back for her from one of his trips.

Victoria Fox is also a collector. Ironically (or maybe not so much), she and Corbin are friends and used to work together, although Fox is currently a private nurse. She says she has “lots of junk,” but it doesn’t sound like junk at all. Vintage clothes, including hats and shoes, old medical equipment, nursing items.

Her favorite pieces are her Disney art. She has about 10 pieces of art from beloved Disney artist “Shag” (Josh Agle). She met Shag at the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. Then again at the 50th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion in 2009 where Shag was at a cocktail party. It thrilled her.

She also has a flock of owls. She and her husband have a ’70s rec room with knotty pine and floor-to-ceiling flashback décor: owls, mushrooms and gnomes. It was an “accidental” owl collection – when her friends heard she had some, they kept bringing them to her.

“I come from a long line of hoarders,” she says. “(It’s) organized hoarding.” She has been collecting since she was a teenager. When Fox’s grandmother passed, Fox pretty much transferred her grandmother’s pantry to her own: ancient boxes and bottles of spices, Pyrex, dishes from the ’70s.

Her collecting gene also comes from her father, a history war buff. She used to be a Civil War re-enactor along with her father. She had hooped skirts and dresses and all of the accoutrement and only recently got rid of them.

She’s still accumulating, but she’s being more careful now due to space limitations. As to what she’ll do with it in the future, she thinks maybe her stepdaughter will want to keep some of the things such as the Disney art and her Barbies.

When asked how much it’s all worth she says what perhaps makes a collection worth the most: “I really don’t feel like much of it has ‘true’ value. It’s been used and loved.”

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About Drema Drudge

Drema Drudge received her MFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University and has had her fiction most recently published in The Louisville Review, Mused, ATG, Mother Earth News, and Penumbra. She is a frequent contributor to the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Drema is married to musician Barry Drudge. They have two grown children, Mia and Zack. Feel free to visit Drema's website where she explores her passion for writing about art at dremadrudge.com.

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