- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

SANTA FE, Texas (AP) - For 17 years, Robert Mitchell, 74, of Santa Fe, has pursued what some would consider an unusual hobby.

The Galveston County Daily News reports Mitchell collects tin cans, some more than 100 years old, in all shapes and sizes from all around the world.

“The Tinman,” as he’s sometimes called, has a collection of more than 10,000 decorative tin cans, which are neatly stored on shelving from floor to ceiling in a 30-foot by 50-foot building.

The extensive collection is open to the public and leaves those who get a chance to peruse the items in awe, Mitchell said.

“Everyone who has walked my aisles did so in wonder and delight,” Mitchell said.

“This all came about as an accident actually while moving from Madisonville to San Leon in 2000. I bought some 1-by-6 boards to double-deck my lowboy trailer to reduce the amount of trips.”

His wife, now former, had a collection of fragile glass figurines she wanted protected, Mitchell said.

“So, I went to a flea market and bought a load of tins to pack them in. The tins were just sitting there, so I put them on the new shelves. It looked pretty cool . so, I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Mitchell, who had a second home in British Columbia, Canada, at the time, would travel back and forth to Texas (3,000 miles roughly) and would stop at flea markets, garage sales and resale shops and buy tins to add to his collection.

The collection includes tins from each U.S. state, as well as from Germany, Russia and the Caribbean, Mitchell said.

He’s also found valuables inside the tins such as exotic pictures, old 2 cent stamps and two quarter-carat diamonds, just to name a few.

“My children no longer buy me shirts or ties for Christmas or birthdays - they buy me tins,” Mitchell said.

“I’ll be the first to admit this is a nutty hobby, but it fits my personality. I’ve Googled this many times and have not as of yet found anyone with a collection as large as mine.

“Most people are totally stunned to see this many in one place. Most of the older visitors will find some tins that trigger a memory from long ago. You can see it on their faces.”

Tynna Kay Mitchell, Robert Mitchell’s wife of 13 years, has been gracious in allowing her hubby’s hobby - turned obsession, Robert Mitchell said.

“I was glad he finally got them all in one place and open for others to enjoy,” Tynna Kay Mitchell said. “He so enjoys going on his tin hunts.

“I even borrow some of his tins from time to time for decorating at our church when I need a certain theme. He jokingly makes me sign for them. He always seems to have what I need.”

Robert Mitchell doesn’t just collect tins, though.

Some of his other hobbies include creative writing (he has three full-length books written so far, which he hopes to get published soon), genealogy (he has traced his family back 40 generations), he has a patent pending on one of his inventions and he’s a single-engine rated pilot.

The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays or by appointment and is free to anyone wanting to see the tin collection, which would take from 150 to 200 medium moving boxes packed tightly to move, Mitchell said.

“I have space for two more 16-inch shelves in the middle, but I think my wife is eyeing that space for her new car,” Mitchell said. “We’ll see who wins.”

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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