December 06, 2021

Largest owl collection lives in Leeds

LEEDS – With more than 18,000 collectible owl memorabilia, Pam Barker half-kiddingly thought she might have a world’s record.

Guinness World Records has now certified that she was right.

Barker, 47, sent her count, a video and photographs to Guinness last spring. A couple of weeks ago, she got a certificate verifying her claim.

Barker came into the collection after a friend noticed an ad two years ago in the Uncle Henry’s Swap It or Sell It Guide.

Under collectibles, the ad offered 14,000 owl items for sale. Barker and her friend thought the ad contained a typo and must have meant 1,400.

But when they went to a home in Wilton they found room after room filled with ceramic, macrame and plush owls, owls on beer steins and on towels, owl necklaces, owl statues, owl wind chimes, owl greeting cards. Even a blue toilet seat with a green owl painted under the lid.

The collection – all 18,055 items – had been owned by Dianne Turner, a collector who had recently died. A family friend was cleaning out the house and put the owls up for sale for $7,000. Barker offered about half of that.

“I did it as an investment, then out of curiosity,” Barker said.

It took four people 13 days to pack them all up, and it took Barker months to unpack and clean them. She borrowed extra shelves at her husband’s store, North Leeds Building Supply, to showcase her favorite colored-glass owls and bought display cases so she’d have somewhere to put the owl banks.

“It’s been fun. Like a midlife madness,” Barker said.

On the Internet, Barker found someone who claimed to have the world’s largest collection of owl items, with 8,000. So Barker applied to Guinness and got her collection certified as the world’s largest.

Although Barker didn’t know Turner, she’s put the world record in Turner’s name.

“Her husband gave her three owls after they got married,” Barker said. “That started it all.”

Barker is now selling off the collection, and has priced everything in the store. She’ll sell it piece-by-piece if she has to, although she’d like to find a home for the entire collection.

“My husband would like his store back,” she said.

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