So how did a couple of dog people who aren’t too keen on the color orange become the custodians of the world’s largest Garfield memorabilia collection?
“Well, I kind of married into the whole situation,” admits Robert Kothe, of Long Island, N.Y., who refers to himself as the “cataloguer” as well as a “world-class enabler” of the Garfield obsession of his wife, Cathy Kothe. “You can either embrace the whole situation or become suicidal, so I figured I might as well embrace it.”
As for Cathy, she says her personal passion for Garfield started in the ’80s (enough said). “What I love about Garfield mostly is his attitude,” she explains, going on to cite some of her favorite fat cat quotes, for example: “I’m not overweight, I’m undertall.” “I’d like Mondays better if they started later.” “A diet is ‘die’ with a ‘t’ on the end.” Also, she adds, “I’ve always like the look of Garfield, I always like the expressions on his face.”
Over the years, she’s amassed more than 12,000 items (including duplicates), and her official item count — 6,190 — has earned the collection a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Their house is filled with everything from Garfield wall clocks and keychains to books, banners, model cars, stuffed characters, a bowling ball, a slot machine and even two children’s amusement park rides meant for 3-year-olds, she says, adding, “But of course, being that it’s Garfield, I have been known to ride it once or twice myself.”
The two have shared their love of and tips for collecting in a book, Loves Garfield: The Semi-Official Garfield Collectors Handbook, with a foreword written by Garfield creator Jim Davis himself. They are donating a portion of the book’s profits to the North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill shelter.
“Our dirty little secret is that we’re dog people,” Robert says with a chuckle, adding that they’ve fostered 40 pooches from the shelter over the years and are not particularly fans of felines.
Also, while he doesn’t “mind orange,” he adds, “Cathy doesn’t like the color.” She elaborates on the irony, saying, “Well, I always tell people I would never decorate my house with orange, and they look at me like I have 10 heads. Just because I have orange Garfields all over the place doesn’t mean I actually like orange!”
While Robert downplays his part in amassing the collection, he does admit to having “what we call ‘Gar-dar,'” he says. Cathy adds, “Gar-dar is, we could be walking past a store and out of the corner of his eye [he looks] and says, ‘We have to go in there, there might be Garfield in there.’” He’s usually correct. And it’s cost them.
“We have probably spent $60,000 over 20 years. And I’ve got to tell you, if your wife’s going to be into something, it’s a lot cheaper than jewelry,” Robert says. He adds that, to outsiders, they might appear to be crazy, and that he understands it.
“If you don’t understand the collector mentality, you’d think there’s something weird going on,” he explains. “I joke that the only difference between hoarders and collectors is that collectors have a theme. We’re not crazy. We’re regular people who have way, way, way too many Garfields. It’s go big or go home. And we went big.”
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