By Mugambi Mutegi

I’m a man. I love collecting objects/stuff.

Those two sentences are a display of mutual inclusivity. Here and here are articles that explain further.

As many of you may have noticed — ladies especially — (normal) men in your lives do indulge in one form of this behavior or another.

More importantly, they keep these collectibles for years, if not “until death do us part.”

As the above links illustrate, there are no restrictions on what one can collect. It could be aged whiskey bottles, artwork or books. For some people it’s stamps, watches or even pens.

Anything goes.

Over the years bobble heads, mementos and unique key rings have piqued my interest.  My favorite is an Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone bobble head that sits next to my television set back at home.

I have since MATURED into the REVERED art of collecting fridge magnets from different countries, whether or not I visited these places.  My single condition when doing this is that all items should be unique. PS: It is at this point that you spring off your seat and applaud me, thank you very much.

I have fridge magnets from Paris, South Africa and, predictably, quite a number from Chicago. Others are from the Philippines, Ecuador, Germany and the Netherlands.

A man’s refrigerator is a vital component in his house, one that should remain beautiful; on the inside and outside.

There is a good reason for this winding narrative, and his name is Rick Tuma.

Rick is a graphics designer at the Chicago Tribune and has worked at the newspaper for 30 years since joining as a cartoonist in 1983.

Other than being quite the illustrator, Rick fulfills man’s life’s calling – being a collector. He does this in a manner best described as astonishing, flashy and admirable.

The father of five collects toys: Action figures and cartoon “celebrity” figurines, among others. Remember the “anything goes” qualification I mentioned earlier? Apply it here.

Rick started collecting toys as a kid after his grandmother let him buy a set of army men.  Since then, he has piled them on and has to date collected over 2,900 different characters.

Name a toy character and Rick definitely has it. Shrek, Donkey, Batman, Kung Fu Panda, Sponge Bob and Nemo are some of them.

Yoda, Sheriff Woody, Mike Wazowski — from Monsters Inc –and Snoopy are also part of the pile.

A jovial Wakko – from the Animaniacs series – with outstretched hands is Rick’s favorite because “this is the enthusiasm I hope to bring to each day.”

Where does he find the space for all of them, you ask?

More than 350 of them can be found arranged neatly at his Tribune work station. There are toys on either side of his computer; more have filled his glass cabinets, while the rest are on the floor.

From an outsider’s perspective, there is no room for other toys, but I’m sure Rick can find space for just one more.

Unsurprisingly, Rick’s desk is quite conspicuous in the newsroom and has been a prime stopover for people giving orientation tours of the fourth floor.

I stopped by Rick’s desk on my third week at the Tribune, and we had a lengthy chat about his interesting collection. Here are some of the things I picked up.

Some of the toys belonged to his children — four daughters and one son. Once his kids grew up and got over their toys, they handed them over to dad to add to his collection.

Every Christmas, his children buy him more toys. A case of reversed roles, huh? However, none of his kids have followed in Rick’s toy-collecting footsteps.

His wife is also not very “excited” about the collection, Rick says.

Illustrating what I said at the start of this blog post, Rick is very attached to his toys. Is asked him where he keeps the other toys that are not at his desk.

“2,600 toys at home in storage bins,” he says.

He has at least four large bins and three boxes in the basement and around 30 toys set up around his home office computer.

Why not give them to young kids, I asked.

“I have given out a few, but I am always afraid they may not get the amount of care they deserve. They may get broken or something.”

Now that’s a man who loves his toys.