Editor’s Note: This is the second profile in a monthly series on people and their collections.
By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Leroy and Gaynelle Thomas could be jokingly referred to as a couple of collectors or the collectin’ couple. The Thomas’ each have a collection of unique items, accumulated over a lifetime mostly as gifts.
Gaynelle collects dolls, while Leroy has a vast collection of diecast car and trunk coin banks.
“I started collecting about 30 years ago. The first ones I got were from Portales City Bank and Five Point Dog Food,” Leroy Thomas said.
Gaynelle Thomas said her collection started out similar to her husband’s, in that she would get dolls as gifts, and over the years they accumulated into the collection she has now.
“I’ve always loved dolls, and they just started giving them to me. He (Leroy) has been responsible for most of them,” Gaynelle Thomas said.
She is quick to share the stories behind some of her favorites.
“My son went to Russia for work a couple years ago and brought me back a Russian grandma doll. He also lived in South Africa and sent me some dolls that were made there,” she said.
Leroy Thomas has been collecting coin banks so long some of the businesses they advertise no longer exist. His collections includes True Value, Ace Hardware, Texaco Motor Oil and the Dallas Cowboys banks. There is even a vintage McDonald’s bank advertising 15 cent hamburgers. Even though they look like model cars, Thomas made it clear that they were banks.
“Every one of these up on this shelf is a bank. I’ve got between 300 to 350 of ‘em,” said Thomas as he pulled down two banks from the shelf to demonstrate how they worked. Each bank had a coin slot, and had different ways to get the change out. Some had secret compartments that allowed it to be emptied, while others had customized keys.
Leroy Thomas owns a local printing business, and he and his wife settled in Portales in 1960. They met in their home state of Texas while Gaynelle was attending college in his hometown of Amarillo, and he was just a high school student. Leroy Thomas said he bought the business almost by accident.
“I went in to get some printing done, and the woman said her husband couldn’t do it because he was sick and couldn’t work. I said sell me the place and I’ll do it myself. He showed up to my house that night in his pajamas and we made the deal. This was in June 1970, and I took over on the first of July,” he said.
Gaynelle Thomas said her all-time favorite doll was one her husband bought at the KENW-TV auction.
“He thought I would like it, which I do, and placed the winning bid on it,” she said as she stroked the doll’s dress.