A Wisconsin woman continues to break her own Guinness World Record for the largest Winnie the Pooh memorabilia collection.
Deb Hoffman has 23,632 unique Winnie the Pooh items. There are no duplicates.
She re-certified her collection with Guinness World Records in February 2023 and got the plaque in June.
Since 2008 she has held the record. Back then she had just a meager 2,891 pieces. Now she has more than 23,000 pieces and the collection grows week after week.
She updates her record with Guinness every one to two years. Her home is full of stuffed animals, watches, toys, paintings, costumes, clothes, jewelry, and more - all Winnie the Pooh related.
So why does she keep collecting?
The answer is simple: "I’m having so much fun collecting, meeting people, doing different things. Boy, I just don’t see an end in sight," Hoffman said.
This collection has taken her all over the world - to France, Canada, England, and other countries.
She has met many people, and the collection has grown into something greater than just a museum of Winnie the Pooh items. She has become the curator of memories for people who have donated to her project.
Hoffman said she often receives messages like, "You know what, I don’t have room for this. I need it to go to somebody who is going to appreciate it. But it continues, and that way I know my memories are safe somewhere."
People send her boxes upon boxes of Winnie the Pooh memorabilia. In fact, someone saw a Scripps News Milwaukee storyfrom 2021 and gifted hundreds of items before they passed.
"I am shocked and amazed how often the items are not duplicates," Hoffman said.
She also wants to keep growing her collection so that no one catches up to her.
"I would like to say it's friendly, but I'm very competitive, and so yes I would probably do most anything to keep the title," Hoffman said.
The Winnie the Pooh collection started somewhat by accident. Hoffman started collecting novelty phones in the 1980s, like a pickle phone or a hot dog phone. Then she found a Winnie the Pooh phone. She never bought it, but someone else did.
When Hoffman discovered it was gone, she felt she needed to have it. So, she put ads in papers across the country in search of the item. She finally got it, but it was missing a piece. So she went searching for the missing part of the phone. That sparked the thrill of the hunt inside Hoffman.
She has been collecting Winnie the Pooh items ever since the early 1990s.
"It’s like a treasure hunt. A forever treasure hunt," she said.
None of this would have been possible without the help of her husband, though.
"It's really important that Gary, my husband, also loves it. If he didn’t like it or didn’t have fun or he wasn’t included in the experiences, I don’t think that I would continue," she said.
Hoffman described Gary as her enabler, in a loving way.
"The excitement for me really was watching the excitement on Deb’s face," Gary said.
He helped create the database and software that Deb uses to catalog each item.
"I always told Deb, I said as long as there’s room in the bed for me, you can take as much room as you want with the collection."
Deb was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records multiple times. She also published a book called "How It All Began: How Collecting Items Became Collecting Experiences."
It chronicles her 30-year journey collecting Winnie the Pooh items, the people met, and the places she went. It's available on Amazon.
"I frequently ask myself what would I be doing today if I had not become the Guinness World Record holder? Would I have gone to England? Would I have gone to Canada? Would I have gone to France? Maybe, but not in the manner in which we’ve gone."
The book is also meant to serve as inspiration for people to go all into their hobbies and passions because it can open a world they never knew existed.
"You know what, whatever it is in life, go do it, and have fun. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow," she said.
As for what will happen to Hoffman's collection in the future, she plans on donating it.
"I always say, when I go to the big honey pot in the sky, I'm actually going to donate the whole collection to the museum in Canada where Winnie the Pooh's story actually started."
The museum will need a big display room because Hoffman's collection is growing a little more every single day.
In other world record news from Wisconsin: Hoffman isn't the only world record collector in Wisconsin. Gerda Scheuers, from Ripon, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest Smurf collection, with more than 11,455 unique collectibles.
Also, two friends recently set a record by flying to all the lower 48 states in the fastest time ever: 38 hours and 13 minutes.
This story was originally published by James Groh of Scripps News Milwaukee.
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