One toaster is sufficient for most people. And in this carb-conscious era, many people can live nicely without one.
But there are others who own as many as 1,000 or more of these humble gadgets. Members of the Toaster Collector Association, they're coming to Toledo for a convention tomorrow through Saturday at the Clarion Hotel.
The ocTOASTERfest is open to the public at no charge Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon and 2 to 4:30 p.m., and will include verbal appraisals and sales of old toasters.
Snicker if you must, but the little appliance has a glorious history that says as much about ingenuity as it does about breakfast.
"I guarantee you'll be amazed," said Chris Steiner of Silver Lake, Ohio, who is organizing an exhibit of Ohio-made toasters. Two other special displays are being organized by collector Darryl Lippman of Sylvania. One is called "50 Unusual American Toasters, 18th-20th Centuries," and the other is a smaller assortment of antique kitchen appliances that were made in Toledo, including a copper steam cooker, a Wal-Fill baker that made waffle sandwiches, and a green granitewear combination burner, broiler, grill, and toaster.
Mr. Lippman, a health-care consultant and university professor who formerly was presi-
dent of Mercy Health Partners, started his toaster collection about 20 years ago when he happened upon a heart-shaped toaster at an antiques mall in Allentown, Pa. Made in 1929, it has tear-drop handles and a push-button mechanism that turns the toast over. "It was unusual and intriguing, so I decided to buy it," he said.
Mr. Lippman now has about 100 toasters. "My collection is small compared to a number of others who have more than 1,000 toasters. I admire them for their knowledge and the size of their collections," he said. Although rare toasters can cost several thousand dollars, there are many in good condition available for less than $50 for people who are just starting a collection, Mr. Lippman said.
Toledo-made appliances from left: Swartzbaugh Manufacturing Co.'s burner/boiler/grill/toaster combo and Wal-Fill Baker; the Ohio Steam Cooker patented by Toledo Cooker Co.
The oldest toaster he'll display, dating to the late 18th to early 19th century, is a hearth toaster made of wrought iron and designed to be set up near a fireplace. The bread was placed in a basket that turned on a hinge so both sides could brown.
His collection also includes toasters that move bread conveyor-belt style and pop down rather than up. One line of toasters - the Toastrite, circa 1930 - is made of porcelain.
Mr. Steiner's collection started with a search for a toaster like the one his grandmother had - a Toast-O-Later, which used little sawblades to walk the bread from left to right past the heating elements. "It had a hole in the side where you could watch the toast go by," he said by phone from his Akron-area home.
He said the earliest toasters were called "perchers" (the bread was placed in a rack that leaned against the heating coils). "Flat-bed" toasters were similar, with the toast in a horizontal position. Burned fingers were common until the "flopper" came along, featuring a door that rotated the bread as it was opened, he said. "Swingers" and "turners" were toasters that had a crank on top to turn the toast. "Tippers" were toasters that had a side-door opening.
The first pop-up toaster arrived in 1926, Mr. Steiner said. It had an automatic timer to control the degree of browning, but manual models - and what he called "the smoke test" - remained the norm for many years.
The Sixth Annual Toaster Collector Association Convention runs tomorrow through Saturday at the Clarion Hotel, 3536 Secor Rd. The event is open to the public Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon and 2 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. Information: 419-885-5955 or www.toastercollector.com.
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