LAKE PLACID — A hobby is defined as an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. Synonyms include, pastime, amusement, relaxation, diversion, avocation and recreation.
If you go online you can discover hundreds of hobbies that are enjoyed by the rich and famous. Jerry Seinfeld collects Porsches; Jay Leno, cars; Tom Hanks, vintage typewriters, and FDR collected stamps. A few bizarre hobbies include Johnny Depp collecting Barbie Dolls and Angelina Jolie collecting daggers.
Celine Dion collects shoes and Imelda Marcos was known to have a collection of over 1,220 wearable pairs of shoes.
Another type of shoe hobby is collecting miniature shoes. It became popular in the Victorian era around 1840. Tiny shoes were an esteemed symbol of the time. Today, hobbyists collect all types of miniature shoes made of porcelain, glass, metal, wood and figural.
In the book titled “Collectible Glass Shoes,” by Earlene Wheatley, you will find hundreds of photos of tiny shoes with listed values.
Gwen Johnson of Placid Lakes is one such collector. She began collecting miniature shoes when she was 5 years old, growing up in East Hampton, Connecticut. “My godmother gave me my first miniature shoe and every year on my birthday she’d give me another.”
Johnson would take a yearly trek to Maine and stop at antique shops along the way. “There was an older woman who owned an antique shop there. She used to save shoes she collected during the winter and when I stopped by she would have them ready for me to add to my collection.”
The shoes carry themes, like ink wells, candle holders, snuff boxes, ice cream molds, animals, cherubs and more. Johnson’s favorite is one of an ink well. However her most precious was one wood carved by her nephew when he was 12. A shoe clock hung in Johnson’s kitchen was made special for her by her niece Emma.
“I usually pay between $3 and tops of $30 when I find a small shoe I Iike. My most expensive one is probably worth $150,” Johnson said.
The best quality shoes are made in Germany. They are the thinnest. Thicker ones come from France and Japan. You will find miniature shoes often given as promotional souvenirs.
Johnson’s home, room to room, has a shoe theme. There are wall hangings, posters, display cases, key chains, towels, PJ’s, place settings, photos, nut crackers and a novel on her night table titled “Shoe Addicts Anonymous.” Four Christmas shoe/stockings and her tall Christmas tree are decorated with small shoe ornaments. Even her license plate has a shoe theme. Her entire home speaks beautifully of her hobby.
If you are also a collector of small shoes, you may want to connect with Johnson. Appropriately, her email is email@example.com. She’s not an old lady who lives in a shoe with so many children she doesn’t know what to do. She just has her home filled with them ... not children, but shoes.
As Cinderella so smartly commented, “One shoe can change your life!” Johnson’s motto, “I love shopping,” is proof that her prideful collection of nearly 2,000 miniature shoes has changed her life and continues to bring her much joy.