The Collectors’ Corner Museum, located in Idaho Falls, Idaho, is home to just about every collectible known to mankind: stamps, coins, Beanie Babies, military clothing, toy cars, dolls, trains, Peanuts characters, buttons, Coca-Cola memorabilia, and much more. I am greeted warmly by Jim Gyorfy, who curates the museum along with his wife Nida. Since I’m the only visitor, I’m offered a personal tour.
“Everything has a story,” Jim says. “There’s a person and a memory connected to it.”
That, in short, defines “collectible” in his eyes.
The first collection I’m shown more closely is an array of Pez dispensers. They have been produced in just three countries: Slovakia, Germany, and Hungary. At the top of the case sits a toy gun – a Pez dispenser that had an extremely short shelf life after a consumer was shot in the eye with it.
A Japanese doll set impresses as the dolls’ pale skin is composed of seashells and coral ground up with paste, and the clothing is meticulous and intricate.
Another doll collection is that of the Madame Alexander First Ladies. Painstakingly faithful, they are modeled after the Presidential First Ladies and the exact look they had on Inauguration Day. Women were sent to the Smithsonian to nail down the exact look from dress to makeup to hair. In all, about 36 made it to the market.
Matchbox created a special line of cars for its fiftieth anniversary: one for each state, packaged with a mini-license plate. The cars were custom-designed for the state (e.g., California is a classic surfer’s car from the 60’s), and some were not evern a traditional car (e.g. Colorado is a snowmobile). They were issued in the summer of 1999, appearing in stores like Target on a rotating basis. Six only showed up din McDonalds Happy Meals. The result is that the couple did a lot of hunting and bought a lot of Happy Meals…but after two years, they completed the collection (and ironically, Idaho was one of the last).
They also have the first car Matchbox ever issued – a blue steamroller in 1968 – and a coal truck carrying coal all made out of coal.
Their Idaho Centennial collection includes hats, mugs, a commemorative plate, and a gold-plated rifle (one of 100 made). Jim himself participated in the celebrations, building floats.
During the Civil War, coins used to be melted down to provide material for the war effort. In their place, paper, or “fractional” currency was issued (for example, there would be a paper bearing 50 cents for a 50 cent coin).
As Jim frequently mentions, the collections would not have meaning without the people behind them. The museum has received a large amount of donations, and the Smurf collection is one of them. It was donated by a mother whose daughter died of cancer.
“When the mom saw them on display, she cried,” Jim remarks.
Jim and his wife have been married for over 50 years. They were both collectors before they met, so it’s not surprising this common passion took root the way it did. Once they retired from Better Homes and Gardens, the museum became their full-time occupation.
“Collecting was a part of my past, a part of my life. It brought back a fond memory. A fond memory usually covers up a bad memory.”
The museum opened in 2003. It has been featured on TripAdvisor and RoadsideAmerica, and prospered from word of mouth. There’s a warehouse with more stuff, and like a traditional museum, one room is devoted to a featured collection (currently it’s war-related collectibles).
“I’m very selective now,” he says. “I make a story with the display.”
And they’re clear that there is a difference between an investment and a collection.
“If it’s about value, it’s an investment, if not, a collection.”
The Collectors’ Corner Museum is an Idaho homegrown treasure. It will continue on for decades, as the couple’s children are in line to assume operations in the future.
The couple has a deep pride and appreciation for their collections and for the community they live in, and it’s shown in every inch of their museum.