Susan Suazo, Slinky

Susan Suazo holds the Guinness World Record for her Slinky collection. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Susan shares how her quest for a Guinness World Record started and why one of her Slinky toys caught the attention of state and federal enforcement agencies.

How do you describe your collection?

I collect Slinkys. When I set the Guinness World Record in 2014, I had 1054. Today, I have closer to 2000. My Slinky collection includes metal and plastic models, miniature ones from vending machines, multi-coloured, the traditional metal ones that people are used to seeing in stores, along with Slinky toys and novelty items. Slinkys lend themselves well to promotional items. I own a number that have company logos printed on them and one with the likeness of Whoopi Goldberg that I picked up at a garage sale for three dollars.

I may approach Guinness World Records about re-establishing my record — I don’t think my original record has been challenged. Maybe when I do that, I’ll talk with them about my flyswatter collection, too.

When and why did you start your collection?

It started one Christmastime when I was a child when my parents gave me and my siblings each a Slinky. I opened mine before Christmas; I secretly opened it on a number of nights to play with and re-wrap. I accidentally tangled mine so I unwrapped my sister’s Slinky and exchanged them so the one I would receive was in new condition. I never got caught because my sister, Maria, never took hers out of the box to realize it wasn’t really new. I offered to buy her Slinky a couple of weeks later with some money I earned from doing chores. It was evidence.

Shortly after that, I started working my first summer job at my uncle’s cafe in Vaughn, New Mexico. It was a tiny don’t-blink town that only existed because two highways intersected there and it was a convenient stop for truckers. At the cafe, there were two vending machines that had toys in the tiny plastic bubbles. One machine had tiny high-bounce rubber balls, the other one had tiny Slinkys. I was kind of amazed at the colours and shapes the Slinkys came in — squares, stars, triangles. Whenever I had quarters from tips working at the cafe, I’d buy a Slinky. Soon enough, I was negotiating and trading with the vendor who came to refill the machines. I must have bought that vending machine out three or four times over the summer. A friend of mine then offered me a larger triangle-shaped Slinky. She also found a larger star-shaped Slinky. I realized there were all sorts of shapes and sizes and absentmindedly started a Slinky collection.

It probably wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I had more money — money I could have used somewhere else — that I really started collecting. My husband and I found and refurbished two old candy display cases to display my collection. I filled them both, so we started putting the Slinkys on the walls and ceiling. My brother-in-law exclaimed, “Who does this?!” I replied, “I know, it’s ridiculous.” He rolled his eyes and commented that it must be some kind of record. I got to wondering about that. I went on to the Guinness World Records website and noticed records for tin cars, Hot Wheels, and other toys but not Slinky. So, I approached them about my collection, they sent me a package of information, and it went from there. I’m so proud of this collection.

How do you display and store your collection?

I have a room in my house dedicated to the collection. Occasionally, I’ll take a Slinky out to bring it to work with me but they are contained in that one room. They hang down from the ceiling and are on shelves. Everything I have is out on display. Although, I do have duplicates that I keep in storage. Those aren’t part of the official collection. I’ll sometimes give away duplicates if someone wants a souvenir.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?

I understand that there is a wooden Slinky that’s probably about 14 to 15 inches around. Someone told me they had one years ago but they gave it away to an orphanage when they moved. I didn’t know this person back then but they do have a picture of the Slinky. I want it so badly but I can’t find anything like it.

I have a cool story about a Slinky I do have in my collection. My father had a timeshare in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We were in town driving down the main tourist strip when I noticed a pizza restaurant that had games and toys. They had a Slinky in their display case that was about 12 inches around and 12 inches high — it was as big as a dinner plate. I saw that thing and made my dad circle the block because I wasn’t sure it was a Slinky. He circled the block and before he could even stop the car, I hopped out. I went inside the restaurant and sure enough, it was a Slinky.

The games could only be purchased with tickets earned at the restaurant, you couldn’t buy them with regular money. The Slinky cost 2500 tickets, which was basically $25. I’d been collecting Slinkys for a while at that point. Every day, I called the restaurant to talk with the manager or owner about acquiring the Slinky before I flew back home but they wouldn’t let me buy it with money. On the day that we left Myrtle Beach, my dad dropped me off at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and started his drive back home to Greenville. I was in the airport when I heard my name called over the PA system. The owner of the pizza restaurant drove to the airport with the Slinky to give it to me. I didn’t have to buy it or anything!

I had already checked my bags, so I had to put the Slinky in my carry-on luggage. I took out my items, placed the Slinky inside the bag and packed everything back into the middle of the Slinky. Then I had to go back through security again and my bag got flagged. Security saw something large and coiled inside and thought it was suspicious. I told them it’s just a Slinky toy but people can’t imagine a Slinky being that big. They pulled the bag aside and took me to the rooms behind security. Airport security was there and the state police were called. I tried to explain the situation but they would not believe it was a toy.

I missed my flight. The ATF and FBI were called. I told them to let me take the bag out to the tarmac so I can open it to show them. My reasoning was, if it’s going to blow up out there, it’ll just be me and my little bag. They weren’t having any of it and actually wanted to detonate the bag. At one point, no one was paying attention to me or the bag, which was about six or seven feet away from me. I leapt to the bag and ripped it open, throwing everything to the floor. My fingers were bleeding. They pulled their guns. They gave me the “what for” but saw it was a toy. I got in all sorts of trouble, but it does make for a good story.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a similar collection?

I would encourage anybody who wants to start a collection to do it! My collection brings people around. I’m a local celebrity. People ask me about my collection and want to come by to see it. I like that attention and it kind of fluffs my ego.

View Susan’s Guinness World Records listing.

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