Around the Mall & Beyond

At the Young Collectors Tent, they're on the lookout for even more antique ice skates, African dresses, chopstick rests, cowboy hats, snow globes...

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The Young Collectors Tent at the grand Smithsonian 150th Birthday Party on the Mall hasn't even opened yet, but already the people are swarming in, friends and relatives and enthusiastic visitors, and everyone is talking at once, and the noise level is getting up to four jet engines.

"I've always liked mechanical stuff," shouts Stefan Osdene, "then I visited the Edison museum in Florida where I got a chance to see a lot of appliances. I said to myself, I have to collect these. I love 'em."

Stefan picks up a 1911 porcelain-based electric toaster. "This one's in the Smithsonian," he says with forgivable pride, "and they have several models of Thomas Edison fans, too."

His own Edison fan dates from 1898 and shows the mark of the master: massive and a bit klutzy, but it works. The hand-wound armature is the size of an ankle shackle, built to last centuries. Like everything else on the table, it is polished to look like new.

I wow over a 1910 Hamilton-Beach mixer, a 1925 marshmallow toaster and a Little Wonder Whisk Broom Vacuum Cleaner, vintage 1920, two feet long including the bag.

"I get pieces from collectors, museum auctions, and sometimes from flea markets," says Stefan, 15; he has a commanding presence and is so self-possessed that he has his own business card.

"How many do you have?" I ask, surveying the dozen or so spread out on the table.

"Oh, three to four thousand."

Thousand!

His father says the collection is in several rooms of their Richmond, Virginia, home. The family manages to accommodate it.

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