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Tigard man is king of the collectibles

Gerald Barron is a collector. Of what? It might be easier to list the things he doesnt collect.


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tigard resident Gerald Barron collects toys. Lots and lots of toys. The former transportation director has thousands of toy cars, planes, trains, busses and other items, which he has been collecting for the better part of three decades.Gerald Barron’s home doesn’t look much like the houses on either side of his quiet Tigard neighborhood.

With its brick façade, quaint cottage feel and authentic red British phone booth out front, it would be more at home in the English countryside than his street near Metzger.

For years, Barron’s house was known for the large double-decker bus parked outside.

“It was a landmark,” says Barron, 79. “Now the neighbor’s say, ‘We’re by the phone booth.’”

Inside Barron’s house is his true pride and joy. He calls it his collection.

‘It’s just fun’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tigard resident Gerald Barrons collection includes more than 1,000 pieces of M&M merchandise, including candy dispensers, phones and figurines.Barron is a collector of, well, just about everything.

“I collect phone booths, double-decker buses, M&M’s, toys, pedal cars, you name it,” he says. 

His living room, kitchen, dining area and stairwell are covered in M&M’s memorabilia.

“They’ve taken over my drain board, and I can’t put plants on the windowsill anymore,” Barron says, taking a tour of his living room and kitchen, which is crowded with giant plastic M&M’s candy characters. “They’re on the fridge; they’ve taken over the walls and the floors.”

Everywhere you look are small round creatures, each brightly colored and emblazoned with the famous “M” insignia of M&M’s candies.

You name it, Barron’s got it.

The anthropomorphic candy dispensers, phones and figurines dance, sing and talk at the push of a button.

It’s a collection Barron has been accruing for several years. He says he isn’t sure about a final tally, but he estimates he has about 1,000 separate pieces of M&M’s merchandise.

“It’s just fun,” Barron says. “It gives me something to do. Now, when I go on a trip, instead of looking at the Eiffel Tower, I’m looking for M&Ms.”

But M&M’s are only the latest of Barron’s obsessions.

“Toys, toys, toys,” Barron says, as he steps into a room filled with glass cases of model cars. 

“This is what I do,” he says, gesturing at his rows and rows of model cars. “I don’t have a favorite. They’re all my favorites.”

Hundreds of cars of all shapes and sizes are on display, along with small model busses, miniature London phone booths and other items. The floor is littered with children’s pedal cars — he has about 25 of them, he says. 

“And I’m looking for another one,” he says.

The pedal cars often come worn and battered from years of abuse, but Barron says he enjoys fixing them up, finding parts and getting them back to their original beauty. 

“It’s great fun,” he says, examining a few of the large cars on his living room floor.

And that’s not all. Not on display are 43 cartons of toys he has stored away, he says.

“When you find something, it’s a real treasure,” Barron says. “The trouble with M&M’s is that I’ll think I’ve got it but maybe I don’t, so I get it and then I’ve got a duplicate.”

So with all these collections, the question remains: Why?

“I don’t know why I do it,” he says. “It’s just fun. That’s all I can say.”

Barron says his love of toys came from his childhood. 

“I grew up during the Great Depression,” Barron says. “We didn’t have much money and toys, so now whenever I see something I like, I buy it.”

He quotes the sign he has hanging in his house. 

“’The only difference between adults and children are the price of the toys,’” Barron reads. “It’s very true.”

Like all of his collections, Barron says his obsession with M&M’s merchandise started innocently enough.

“I bought this one red figure, and when you pull his arm, candy comes out,” he says. “It was too cute.” Then at a thrift store some time later, he began to notice more and more of the toys.

“I’ve tried to find out how many things M&M makes, I have over 1,000 things, and there are more still out there.”

‘I’ve got them all’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - This M&Ms candy phone is one of thousands of collectibles Gerald Barron owns in his Tigard home.Barron says he doesn’t really eat that much candy, but he finds the colorful M&M dispensers too much fun to pass up. 

“They move, they play tunes, they talk, they’re movable. They are really, really quite clever, it’s amazing how they made them and how they work.”

But the true start to his collecting craze began about 30 years ago, he says, when his wife bought him an Avon bottle of aftershave in the shape of a Jaguar sport scar.

The company made 78 bottles, each in the shape of a different vehicle. 

“And I’ve got them all,” he says, proudly.

From there, Barron moved on to collecting toy cars.

After awhile, Barron’s collection became too much, and he began selling parts of his collection. 

“We were running out of room,” he says. “I went to a swap meet and sold a ton of toys and made some money, and that meant I could buy more toys.”

Before retiring, Barron was director of transportation services for the David Douglas School District near Gresham. He was in charge of the district’s fleet of school busses, driver’s education vehicles, maintenance vehicles and other modes of transportation.

Barron says he is always on the lookout for the next item in his collection.

“I look in thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, swap meets,” he says. “If there’s a pedal car, I’m a sucker, and I’ll probably buy them.”

In his garage is a 1965 London taxicab, which he can be seen driving at local events. 

“It’s unrestored, just the way I got it,” he says.

Despite the impressive collection, Barron says he has never attempted to catalogue the thousands of items he has in his home. 

“I don’t even know how many cars, planes, trains, buses and everything else I have,” he says. “It’s a lot, though.”

Barron says the feeling of finding a hidden gem for his collection can’t be beat. “I really thoroughly enjoy when I find something I don’t have. I just yell, ‘Oh man, that’s great!’”

So what’s the next big thing Barron has to have? 

“This is enough,” he says. Then he thinks for a moment. “Well, I am kinda into Betty Boop stuff, too.”




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