ORLANDO, Fla. – It all started with a silly old bear.
Winter Haven, Florida, resident Deb Hoffmann received a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal from her parents when she was 2 years old. It went everywhere with her.
“I loved Winnie the Pooh as a kid, and maybe I had eight different stuffies back then,” she said.
Now, the 56-year-old has the largest collection of Pooh and Friends memorabilia in the world, a Guinness World Record she’s held since 2008. Hoffmann’s more than 20,000 Winnie the Pooh items are divided between her Florida and Waukesha, Wisconsin, residences. And she’s considering buying another home to house her keepsakes.
When she was in her 20s, Hoffmann began collecting novelty telephones shaped like hamburgers, hotdogs and more.
“I think collecting is like in my DNA, so I think I was doomed from the beginning,” said the website designer for TechAnalysts, a company Hoffmann owns with her husband, Gary.
She came across a Winnie the Pooh phone in a store she frequented. An item she passed up on multiple occasions, it sold six months later. Hoffmann was consumed with finding it and placed ads seeking the phone in newspapers across the country.
Someone responded, and Hoffmann got the phone — but it was missing the butterfly. And so, a new hunt began. As she searched, Hoffmann discovered Hallmark released a set of six Winnie the Pooh ornaments. A natural collector, she acquired all of them.
“I kind of like got sucked in, and before I knew it, I’m like, ‘Oh, look at that. There’s a Pooh. I better get it right away!’” she recalled. “I ended up having a bunch of them and more than I even realized.”
One day, a friend remarked that Hoffmann’s mass of Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, clothes, kitchenware and more was probably the largest in the world. Curious, Hoffmann applied to Guinness World Records and documented 3,891 unique pieces, as duplicates do not count toward the total. A GWR certificate provided proof of her passion and a new world record.