In basements, bedrooms and home offices, in cluttered drawers and neat display cases, the things we collect are all around us.
Whether it’s vintage postcards
, baseball caps or vinyl records, antique flutes, model trains or video-game memorabilia, each has a story to tell.
The Lakewood Heritage Center
, a collector of 20th-century artifacts, itself, is celebrating the stories of local collectors and the things they treasure in a free exhibit through Aug. 30. Here’s a look at three of them.
Brett Martin first played Super Mario Brothers on his neighbor’s Nintendo
when he was 6 or 7.
The mountain of video-game memorabilia — a behemoth in a basement room of his Littleton home — came later, a labor of love over the past 15 years.
“I’ve always been a collector. Pretty much everything I’ve been interested in, I’ve collected,” said Martin, 33. “It runs in my family — but nothing like this.”
Even he didn’t foresee how big his collection, dubbed the Video Game Memorabilia Museum
, would get. When the folks from Guinness World Records came to call, they counted 8,030 items.
Lining the walls and climbing onto the ceiling are Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, Kirby, Mega Man, Link and Donkey Kong in nearly every form imaginable — action figures, plushes, posters, keychains, piggy banks, electronic toothbrushes. Only a small path remains uncovered.
Among Martin’s most prized possessions are two “Mario Oscars, ” bronze Mario statues that were forged by the same company that makes the Academy Awards. The figurines were given to Nintendo employees.
He also holds claim to a protoype action figure of Fox McCloud, the hero of the Star Fox games, which was never mass produced.
His first piece was a figurine of Mario holding a mushroom, a gift from his parents when he was 8.
Discovering eBay in the late 1990s was what really got his collection going, he said. Now, he buys from Internet auctions in Japan.
His two sons, 5 and 4, have inherited his love of Nintendo games, he said, even if they don’t understand the concept of “collector’s item” yet (they aren’t allowed in his Nintendo room). His wife, he said, “tolerates it.”
Overall, his collection is valued at more than $100,000— but he said he hasn’t spent nearly that much.
“I just love the game play
. The worlds are very interesting,” Martin said. “I used to draw and doodle the characters all the time.
“I fell in love with that world,” he said with a laugh, “and I never left.”
Liane Rockley’s collection of antique and ethnic flutes began with a gift.
And then another gift. And another.
“All of a sudden, you have three or four or five,” said Rockley, a classically trained flutist and member of the family that owns Rockley Music Center in Lakewood
Today, her ensemble numbers some one dozen — bamboo flutes, Native American flutes, ceramic ocarinas, a Japanese shakuhachi and antiques that date back to the 1800s. One, a white, ring-shaped instrument, was dreamed up by a man in England.
“A lot of these, I happened upon over the years,” Rockley said. “I didn’t purposely look for them. I just fell into them.”
Rockley has been playing flute since she was 9 and studied flute performance in college. These days, she plays piccolo for the Lakewood Symphony
Rockley said when she was 9, she picked up the wind instrument for rather pragmatic reasons.
From a young age, Rockley has had almost total hearing loss in her left ear. The flute is held to the right, near her better ear. She would have held her second choice, the cello, to her left ear.
She got into the music business after taking a part-time job in the band department at Rockley Music Center. At the time, she was also teaching private flute lessons through the store.
There, she met her future husband, Tobin Rockley, grandson of the founder of the West Colfax mainstay.
Her flute collection holds court in her home office. Her favorite is a rosewood transverse flute, the predecessor to the modern flute. The instrument can’t be played anymore, but when someone brought it to the store to sell, Rockley snapped it up.
“I had never seen anything like it, except in pictures. To be able to hold it in your hands was a cool thing,” she said.
“Mozart’s music, Beethoven’s music, would have been played on an instrument like this.”
John Manion’s world is full of trains. So are the bookshelves of his living room.
A longtime volunteer at the Colorado Railroad Museum
, Manion’s passion is model trains, particularly pint-size versions of the locomotives of a local historic railroad company.
His goal is to build an accurate model of every type of diesel locomotive owned by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad from 1941 to 1990 — including each paint scheme and major rebuild. That will be 96 engines, including a few he will have to fabricate himself.
“I have been called a rivet-counter,” Manion said, “but I have tried to make each model as accurate as possible.”
“I’m a history buff,” he added. “I just enjoy railroads so much.”
Chances are, if you have a question about the Denver and Rio Grande, Manion can answer it. Over the years, he has developed nearly encyclopedic knowledge of this specific railroad, the routes it ran and the engines it deployed. It became part of Union Pacific in 1996.
As a teenager growing up in Denver in the 1960s, Manion would cross the train tracks by the old Gates rubber factory every day on his walk home from South High School.
“If the train was on time, and it usually was, I would see the Colorado Eagle go past as I walked by,” Manion said.
Of his models, his favorite is the Kraus-Maffei, he said, an unusual, slow-to-reverse German diesel-hydraulic locomotive put into service for a short time by Rio Grande in the 1960s.
The story goes, Manion said, that when the train came to a halt, the crew could “smoke a cigarette, drink a cup of coffee and use the bathroom before it would move again. … This was something that Rio Grande train crews weren’t too fond of.”
And that makes him even fonder.
“I have nine models of it,” he said. “Rio Grande only ever had three.”