These collectibles are the cat's meow

When it comes to feline collectibles, such as mugs, calendars, knick-knacks, and ornaments, there's almost nothing marketed that doesn't bear the likeness of Felix, Sylvester or Garfield.

Bobbi Schlesselman knows a thing or two about feline collectibles. This third- and fourth-grade teacher at St. Martin’s Lutheran School in Winona, also a supporter of area humane societies, is the owner of a unique seasonal gift shop called "The Cat-Tail," in Fountain City, Wis. The store, which was named because of her love of cats, opened in 1989.

"By having a shop that is cat-themed, I get to meet many fine people who also have opened their hearts to the needs of animals and cat collectors, too," Schlesselman says.

Starting out a cat collection can easily begin with your own unique collection of cat-themed items or from the help of your cat-loving friends or relatives.

"My collection started when I rescued my first kittens," Schlesselman says. "My enthusiasm for them became an opening for friends, students and family to purchase cat items for birthdays and Christmas. … I now have a (large) cat collection, all gathered into one place."


When it comes to collecting cat items, Schlesselman says she tends to lean towards items that are more unique, items she says would be classified as more contemporary, although a few would be country.

"I prefer realistic rather than fanciful," she says.

Some collectors like to choose a theme for their collections, no matter what it is that they are collecting. For example, if they collect cat items, some people will decide to collect only cartoon cats, glass cat figurines or Garfield-related items. Choosing a theme will help to make it easier to find what they are looking for.

"I do like cartoonist Gary Patterson cat calendars and cat-themed calendars from the Lang Company," Schlesselman says. "I love Charles Wysocki and Laurel Burch cat products."

Schlesselman says she's always on the lookout for new cat mugs.

"I look for cat mugs that look similar to any of my own cats or cartoons that express my feelings," she says.

What to look for

In the '70s, most ceramic figures were manufactured in Japan for the American market, Schlesselman says. Cats were a popular subject, especially the Siamese, which was made in a variety of sizes.


There are a number of vintage Japanese cats that have been increasing in value. They are generally marked "Made in Occupied Japan," and were made between 1945 and 1952.

In finding most pieces, collectors hunt out online auctions, street fairs and flea markets, garage or estate sales, thrift shops, consignment shops and antique shops.

"Most of my collection has come from gifts," Schlesselman says, although some pieces have come from garage sales and auctions.

Set a limit

Before setting out to begin or add to your feline collection, determine how much money you are willing to spend.

"Having a spending limit will help you stay within your budget," Schlesselman says. "Buy what fits in your decor at home and display it well."

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