You can see Archie Bunker’s chair in the Smithsonian Institution, but you sure won’t find any of the kitsch sold to promote yesteryear’s most popular TV shows-stuff like Batman cutlery, Monkees tambourines, Rifleman chaps, or Mr. Ed talking hand puppets that whinny ”Willlburrr” when you pull the string.
To see those things, you have to visit the TV & Toy Museum in Orlando, Fla. More than 2,000 oddball items are displayed there, from Gomer Pyle bubble-gum cards to the museum’s most valuable piece, a Soupy Sales lunch box worth $1,000 or more. To add to the atmosphere, old commercials run continuously on a big-screen TV, and theme music from shows like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis plays in the background.
”Everyone can relate to what’s here because kids have been raised by television for generations,” says Kirk Holcomb, an obsessive collector who opened the museum last year with his wife, Joanne.
Visitors to the museum’s shopping-mall location at 6303 Grand National Drive are encouraged to bring in TV memorabilia they want to sell. Most of the acquisitions in the growing collection have come from toy buyers who scour garage and estate sales around the country for forgotten treasures. Anything in its original package or signed by a show’s stars is worth more. Still, you might want to hold on to your Deputy Dawg bubble bath. You never know what it will fetch.