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Collector Spotlight: Walter Krueger


Walter Krueger owns what could be the largest private Wizard of Oz collection in the world. Walter talks about his lifelong admiration of the classic tale and his plans for sharing his collection with other enthusiasts.

Describe your collection.

I have one of the world’s most complete collections of Wizard of Oz memorabilia. I’ve spent my life collecting items and learning the history behind them.

My collection is approaching 10,000 items, including books, dolls, toys, original costumes, replicas, and many others. The oldest item in my collection is a Woozy sculpture hand-carved by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. He created it for the children of his neighbours. The sculpture made its way back to the Baum family after many decades and they gifted it to me. One of my newest acquisitions is the original costume worn by the character, Dorothy Gale, in the television series, Once Upon a Time. That character is based on Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

When and why did you start collecting?

I was first exposed to the Wizard of Oz at a physician’s office. My grandmother took me for an appointment and gave me a Wizard of Oz colouring book to pass the time. I opened the book to an illustration of a whirring cyclone and a little girl looking out the window. That captured my attention; I needed to know what happens to that little girl. I was three years old at the time and since that point, I’ve been collecting and learning all I can about the tales of Dorothy and her friends.

My mom was a collector of dolls, so I grew up with a curiosity about toys and collectibles. I never set out to hold a record for the number of items in my collection; for me, it’s a personal journey. I love the message in the movie about dreams coming true. Any dream we dream could essentially come true.

How do you display and store your collection?

The costumes I have are on life-size mannequins. Everything else is in a glass case or on a shelf. I’ve learned preservation techniques from friends who are also collectors. I keep sensitive items away from sunlight, use acid-free tissue and archival boxes for items in storage, and I always have my eyes on the temperature and humidity levels in my home.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Wizard of Oz memorabilia?

My Holy Grail is to open a children’s museum. I want to give my collection purpose and reason by sharing it with other people. I’ve kept it mostly to myself until this point, but where’s the fun in that?

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Wizard of Oz collection?

Don’t!

All joking aside, I say people should collect what they love. Don’t look at it as an investment, because the market for collectibles goes up and down regularly. Sentimentally is the best way to collect, you can never go wrong.

What resources do you use to acquire knowledge about the Wizard of Oz and connect with other collectors?

I go directly to the source when I can. For my recent Once Upon a Time purchases, I contacted the show’s costume designer, Eduardo Castro, to learn more. He was delighted to know the items found a good home and it’s valuable for me to learn more about the items directly from the source. If I can’t find someone directly involved, I try to get in contact with descendants or other people who played a role in the production of an item. There is a lot of hearsay and speculation involved in collecting. I’d rather be certain about authenticity and history.

I started a Facebook community about 10 years ago. It’s grown to about 7,000 members. I do receive a lot of questions through that page and by email. It’s not uncommon to see me in the middle of the bread aisle at the grocery store responding to another collector’s question. It’s been an interesting journey down the yellow brick road for me.

Join Walter’s Facebook community to learn more about the world of Oz collectibles. Follow him on Instagram to see more of his personal collection.

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