MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By: Robert Tate
Photos courtesy of Boyd Huppert/Lisa Lundstrom and Robert Tate
Posted: 04.12.2016

file 20160412214508 Auto miniature collectingMr. Dennis Erickson and just a part of his collection

This is a story about the late Mr. Dennis Erickson, who died on Dec. 3, 2015 leaving behind a 30,000 toy car collection in his home.

Mr. Erickson was a very serious toy car collector. Mr. Erickson had acquired his massive collection over a lifetime starting at 9 and was very proud of his unique collection.

He had meticulously displayed them throughout his Eagan, Minn. home in every room of the house including the bathroom walls along with the kitchen area as well. His display cases were all hand built and covered with Plexiglas for his own personal enjoyment. Mr. Erickson would travel to toy shows along with visiting antique shops, flea markets, online stores and other various avenues to find that certain automotive toy treasure. It was his great passion.

file 20160412214800 Auto miniature collecting

Erickson had worked as a civil engineer and he was very talented and creative with his hands at building and constructing great looking display cabinets. The custom-made cabinets had displayed many of his great treasures of miniature toy cars. Erickson’s home served as a full-scale albeit unknown automotive miniature museum.

Before his death, Mr. Erickson had lived with both of his parents until they both unfortunately passed away. Mr. Erickson was an only child. As his great journey of collecting miniature toy cars would continue, he would never marry nor have any children. After his passing in his sleep, it would later be said that all of his estate and collection would be donated to his great church of worship in Lakeville. The church was his family and offered spiritual guidance that was an important part of his adult life. Mr. Erickson and his collection should be a part of history because he has left a great legacy of collecting for so many years that will someday help the youth and other programs within the church community.

As a toy car collector myself, looking at the images from the several news articles that were published about Erickson’s collection, I could see clearly that there were a great deal of rare and unique collectibles.

file 20160412214830 Auto miniature collecting

I could see that many automotive model scales and toys were represented throughout the entire collection. From Hot Wheels to 1/18th scale die cast replicas along with old tin toy cars and pedal cars which are very well represented throughout this unique collection. Some of the toy manufactures that are represented and displayed throughout the collection are no longer in business today. The Erickson toy collection could easily turn into a six-figure project for the church and it could be one of the largest toy car collections in the world.

file 20160412214905 Auto miniature collecting

In 1965, I started collecting toy cars along with automotive material at the age of 8. I still have my automotive toy treasures from when I was six years of age that my mother and my two late sisters gave me for my birthdays. In 1971, I started to attend toy shows at the age of 14; it was there that I had the pleasure of meeting enthusiasts like the late Richard Teague and Chuck Jordan, who was vice president of General Motors. I also was honored to meet Herb Jackson, Julian Thomas and Ron Pittman of Batavia, Ill.

file 20160412214949 Auto miniature collectingThis is a small sample from Robert Tate's personal collection

When I first started this journey, it was just a very small group of collectors, today its well into the hundreds. The toy automobile collector and enthusiast will be concerned with five things: scale and size detail, workmanship, historical background and sometimes color.

For me, it has been a rewarding and fascinating hobby. I have had pleasure of meeting toy collectors from all over the world with the same interest. I wanted to take this time to show regular readers of the MotorCities’ Story of the Week some of the automotive miniatures that I have in my personal collection.

Although I don't have 30,000 cars, I do have a large collection that I'm very proud of. Over many decades, I had the great opportunity to display some of my automotive toy collection at the Chrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., which is now FCA. I also had the opportunity to display some of my automotive collection at the General Motors Technical design Center in Warren, Mich., the College for Creative Studies main lobby and the National Automotive History collection when they were located on the fourth floor that was authorized by Ron Grantz, who was the curator at the time.

file 20160412215021 Auto miniature collectingThis is a small sample from Robert Tate's personal collection

Recently, I had the opportunity, to have my 1955/56 Dodge La Femme brochure material become a part of the great exhibit “Women Who Motor” at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford house.

In conclusion, collecting is a lot fun and very enjoyable. As a collector and automotive historian, I would also like to take this time to thank all the MotorCities Story of the Week readers for supporting me and reading my interesting stories.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing this story to the MotorCities Story of the Week Program. (Bibliography: Gryboski, Michael. “Minnesota man leaves entire estate and collection of 30,000 cars to his church,” Christian Post Reporter, March 22-2016. Images by Lisa Lundstrom. Kare, Huppert Boyd. “Church discovers 30.000 cars in donated house”

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area.