The Key to Collecting Disneyby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
Collecting Disney merchandise is a very personal thing, and it's important to know there's no right way to do it. For some, it's about nostalgia, a chance to remember a wonderful trip, a happy time or their favorite place in the world. For some, it's about the game, and gotta-get-them-all. For some, it's about making their home look as much like their happy place as humanly possible.
Again, let me stress that there's no right way to collect—but let's take a look at a few approaches. You might already be doing these, or maybe these will point you in a great new direction.
Focus on one Disney property
The first collecting approach is to focus on one Disney property and try to find any items that feature that property. In my experience, this is the most common. There could be a character, park attraction or film that makes you smile every time you think about it. That could be Mickey Mouse, Beauty and the Beast, Space Mountain, or the planet Tatooine from the Star Wars films. The key here is to find items that feature that property. T-shirts quickly come to mind, but keep looking for new ways to expand that collection.
For example, if Beauty and the Beast is indeed your passion, by all means get that shirt with Belle and the Beast dancing—but keep on looking for unique additions. For example, Bon Jour Village Gifts in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland has glassware themed to the movie (with character images etched into the glass or simply a large goblet fit for a beast). Years ago, Uptown Jewelers on Main Street USA had a series of princess bells—figurines that rang when swung back and forth. My sister bought a Belle bell (we still call it that). The point is that the possibilities are endless in what you can find on your subject.
Focus on a favorite item
The next approach is to focus on a favorite item that you have interest in, and look for examples of that item from across the Disney universe. For example, you may like mugs. Go ahead and collect Disney mugs. They come in all shapes and sizes and with images of anything you could want on them. You can buy a giant mug like they had on the 1990s Friends TV show with Minnie Mouse's image on the front drinking coffee, and a mug that comes in the shape of Darth Vader's helmet. You can build a mug collection from all corners of Disney.
You may not like mugs, but may like antique toys, figurines, thimbles, artwork, or spoons. Fans of any of these items will find a home collecting Disney.
Along those lines, you can also dovetail your love of Disney with another interest. I'm a big watch guy. I love watches of all kinds, so having a Disney watch collection was a no-brainer. I'm a fan of the big cheese, Mickey, himself—and happily, finding Mickey Mouse watches isn't so difficult. What interests me most here is Disney's partnerships with fine watchmakers. The Mickey Mouse Rolex is a little out of my price range (and yes, they exist), but I've got great Mickey watches in my collection from Bulova, Timex, Swiss Army, Skagen, and Seiko (check out my article on Disney watches to see my favorite).
If you like crystal, visit Arribas Brothers. If you like jewelry, don't get me started (did someone say Pandora?). It's not difficult to combine your love of Disney with other interests.
Finally, you may just love everything Disney and want it all. Your interests have changed over the years and you add to your collection as new and innovative items become available, and Disney comes out with new things. You love the theme parks. You love the movies. You love the characters and you love all merchandise. You have a wing in your house dedicated to all things Mouse (or a basement—anyone who knows me is chucking right now). All kidding aside, it's fun to just collect it all and go with it.
I tend to fall into the last category. I collect whatever interests me. I have artwork, coins, figurines, Disney Dollars (which are unfortunately no longer sold by Disney), and crystal. You name it, I'm sure I've at least looked at it. That said, while I love all in the Disney Universe (movies, TV shows, and so on), my true loves are Mickey Mouse and the parks. I've had a variety of different collections over the years, but most have revolved around one of these two subjects.
I also have as much fun playing supermarket sweep at World of Disney and getting as much as possible every time I visit, but over the years, it's become less about volume and more about trying to pick one or two special things to remind me of each visit.
Now, we're going to take a look at an example from my own vast list of collections (and there are many). As I said, the theme parks and attractions have always been a main focus of mine. Bringing in another interest, I've always had a thing about keys (don't ask me why). There's something about antique keys I've always liked, and they've always caught my eye at flea markets and tag sales. So imagine my glee while browsing the Shop Disney Parks smartphone application at seeing a series of Disney skeleton keys based on park attractions.
This is a set of eight skeleton keys. They are metal, roughly 5 1/4 inches in length and retail at an admittedly steep $34.95 a piece. As far as the keys, themselves, there isn't a lot of rhyme or reason to the subjects they've picked, and I actually kind of like that. I picture some Disney designers choosing their favorite attractions at random or coming up with a great design challenge in making these skeleton keys.
There are three skeleton keys dedicated to the Haunted Mansion: one with the hitchhiking ghosts, one with the familiar Haunted Mansion logo, and one with the really cool Hatbox ghost (both part of Disney Parks history, dating back to the creation of the attraction, and new as it was recently added).
There is a skeleton key with the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. A skeleton key from Pirates of the Caribbean is part of the collection. One has the image of the clock from "it's a small world." There is also Mr. Toad from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (now departed from Walt Disney World; Disneyland is so lucky).
Finally, there is my favorite, the skeleton key with the image of the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle.
Again, this is a rather random collection, but in my mind, it makes it that much more special.
What I've done with similar series in the past is picked up one each time I visit the parks. With this one I'll admit that I stepped up the pace and got two or three. Within a year, I had the whole set. Then, of course, Mickey being Mickey, they added a few more, albeit with a twist. The new skeleton keys are from Star Wars, featuring Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper. I do not yet have those. I've resisted figuring they weren't part of the theme park key collection (resisting the gotta get them all mentality), but those are semantics and my guess is I'll break down and get them sooner rather than later.
Aside from wanting to show off my new skeleton keys to Mouseplanet readers, I chose them as an example of a great collection. There aren't too many of them, so getting them all isn't that difficult. They're not too too expensive. They're kind of unique and break out of the T-shirt, mug, and keychain mold. Most importantly, when I look at them, they remind me of the great times riding those attractions. They also bring the added bonus of dovetailing nicely with my skeleton key infatuation.
The skeleton keys are still for sale (though I had trouble locating the Pirates skeleton key when researching this article) at the Disney parks, on the Shop Disney Parks app ,and at the Disneystore.com (just search on "key" and they'll come up).
There are so many other examples of collections like this that will similarly bring back good memories, give you the satisfaction of having them all or simply add to that growing behemoth of a Disney collection you've got going at your home. Pardon my "key to collecting" attempt at a pun, but the key really is collecting what you love in the way that makes you happy.