When Paul Adney, Sr. suffered a work-related accident, he needed an incentive when he enjoyed a good day in his recovery. He found “incentive” in collecting die-cast NASCAR cars.
“I probably started collecting in 1985 or 1986,” Adney, Sr. said. “That is when I got hurt, in the fall of ‘85. It was maybe that winter when I decided I needed to get this car or that car when they had them out.
“I got hurt and I was bedridden for a long time. It was a choice between soapboxes and NASCAR, and I always was a fan of cars. I started collecting just numbered cars. If they didn’t have a number on them, I didn’t want them.”
Over 25 years later, Adney, Sr.’s collection includes over 2,000 pieces, a portion of which is now on display at Fennimore’s Doll & Toy Museum. Also on display is the collection of Fennimore native Jeff Hagen.
Mary Davis of the Doll & Toy Museum said Andey Sr. and Hagen’s collections will be on display at the museum through October, when the museum closes for the season.
“We like to use Fennimore collectors, so this is very exciting for the museum,” she said.
As Adney, Sr.’s collection grew, so did his interest in NASCAR. Soon he found himself watching the races each weekend.
“I got into watching them more and more on TV,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you the first race I watched Dale Earnhardt run in, but I liked the way he did things.
“When [Earnhardt] got hurt a couple of times and drove that car anyway, it gave me the incentive to get out of bed. With the Lord’s power and guidance, that is what we did. We got out of bed.”
“He was about six months confined to bed on machines,” Paul’s wife, May Adney said.
Naturally, Adney, Sr. has more Dale Earnhardt pieces in his collection than any other driver. He also has several Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace pieces.
Adney, Sr. left no stone unturned in the process of shopping for cars to add to his collection.
“I carried a list in my wallet,” he said. “No matter where we went, I had a list for each size and if I run across them that I was hunting for, no matter where we went, if we found it we bought it and checked it off.
“I’d shop from here to Arizona, all the way across country. [May] would go grocery shopping and I would go car shopping.”
Prior to its inclusion at the Doll & Toy Museum, the large collection had spent several years in storage, explained Paul Adney, Jr.
“Mom and dad leave for the winter,” he said. “They used to have a house and the whole basement was done up, and that was his oasis. He could go and occupy himself and look everything over.
“They had to sell the house when they had to leave for the winter. Dad no longer had room for all this. He had told me he wanted me to get rid of it, but I didn’t want to see it go.”
Adney, Jr. began to talk a few years ago with members of the Doll & Toy Museum regarding the possibility of displaying his father’s collection.
“Maybe it can give a little twist to the museum and get a few extra people through the door that maybe would not come through,” he said.
Adney, Jr. scoured his father’s collection earlier this year to find pieces to display in the museum.
“It was quite an undertaking to try to go through everything,” he said. “We had to figure out what we had room for and what we could get out.”
Adney, Sr. did not know his collection would be displayed in the museum. Adney, Jr. surprised his father upon his return from Arizona this spring.
“I went up and met mom and dad the day they got back from Arizona,” Adney, Jr. said. “I had arranged it with one of the gals at the museum to let us in after hours.
“We pulled into the parking lot and I asked him to read the paragraph at the bottom of the newspaper about his collection. He was grinning from ear to ear when he was walking though. He was really happy.”
Adney, Sr. called the surprise the greatest of his life, even topping a surprise birthday party organized by May in Arizona.
“I just couldn’t believe that they were there,” he said. “It took my breath away, it was highly emotional.
“It’s priceless. It was something that was done out of his heart and I’ll always appreciate it.”
Jeff Hagen is among a select group of individuals who collected for such a length of time it is difficult to remember when a collection began.
“I started collecting a long time ago,” he said. “I was still in school I’m sure.”
Hagen grew up racing dirt bikes and three wheelers, which made collecting die-cast race cars a natural fit. He also has a collection of beer cans and coins and once collected baseball cards.
“There was a lot of things I was collecting over the years, but this is my biggest collection by far,” Hagen said.
Unlike Adney, Sr., Hagen is not quite sure how large his collection is.
“I’ve never sat down and actually counted them,” Hagen said. “I’ve been told enough already that I need to sell some.
“I don’t collect hardly anymore. So many different companies have started making them, it just flooded the market to where it took the fun out of it for me.”
Similar to Adney, Sr., Hagen found a piece of paper to be a great ally in managing his collection.
“When I was collecting I had a sheet of paper I carried around with me and it had all of my collection list on it, what I had and what I was missing,” Hagen said. “I’d pull that out and I’d sit there in the aisle and go through ‘I got that one, I got that one, I got that one.’”
As a collector, Hagen aspired to complete sets of certain cars, explaining he didn’t want “a little bit here and a little bit there.”
One of the prides of his collection is his Racing Champions 50th Anniversary set, of which he has each car but one.
Hagen’s collection found a home in the Doll & Toy Museum thanks in part to a visit to deliver cookies courtesy of Collision Specialists.
“I had never really been in here and when I come in I was overwhelmed,” he said. “For someone who has never been in here, you could walk through here 10 times and see something new every time.
“I knew it was going to be a good cause, to bring people in here and help the museum.”
Hagen does have advice to share with those interested in starting a collection of any kind.
“Look at what you can afford. It adds up fast,” he said. “It takes time and it’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. This is years of my collecting and I can’t even remember when I started.
“It’s been fun, I will say that.”