Jack Matthews sits surrounded by George Washington, Uncle Sam and World War II generals and world leaders. The retired Washington, D.C., lawyer, veteran and South Carolina municipal judge doesn’t think twice about his unusual company. They are a part of his vintage toy collection.
His collection of vintage World War II toy soldiers and games, which resides in the spare guest suite of the Beau Ciel condominium he shares with his wife, Miriam, is several thousand pieces strong. Matthews doesn’t know the exact number, although he estimates that he had 15,000 pieces before selling much of his collection when he moved in 2012 to Sarasota.
“I’m really just young at heart,” says Matthews, who collects both vintage toys and newer toy soldiers from around the world. For Matthews, the worth of the toys isn’t their monetary value but what they represent — his upbringing during World War II.
The value of most of his toys is expensive. However, Matthews doesn’t like to talk numbers.
“It’s a fish story in reverse,” he says laughing. “You don’t brag about how much you paid for something, you brag about how little you paid.”
In Matthews’ guest suite, toys in their cardboard boxes line the floor three or four boxes deep, with toy soldiers and figurines filling glass shelves 7 feet tall.
It’s hard not to feel patriotic and nostalgic among the collection of puzzles, games, children’s books, comics and vintage posters depicting American patriotism.
“How Boys and Girls Can Help Win the War,” reads one of Matthews’ comic books from 1944. The items not only bring back memories of his childhood, but memories of a romantic America united by patriotism.
“I’m not a judge anymore, just a big kid with a lot of toys,” he jokes.
IF YOU GO
World War II collectors swap and sale meet
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 20
Where: Veteran of Foreign Wars, 124 S. Tuttle Ave.
Cost: Free admission
Info: Call 365-1918
Contact Harriet Sokmensuer at [email protected]