‘Life swap led to my love of fridge magnets’: says UK’s biggest collector
When we struggle to bring back the shopping and dirty clothes from our travels, this Cardiff man got home souvenirs and fridge magnets and has Britain’s biggest collection now. How did he manage to do this?
Although I was thrilled to meet UK’s biggest fridge magnet collector, I couldn’t help but wonder how big was his fridge to accommodate all of his fridge magnets?
Enter his house and the living room doesn’t look any different from most others. The kitchen is where the normal-sized fridge is kept. The color of the appliance peeps through the small empty bits between his collection of fridge magnets. Look on the opposite side and there’s a wall covered with fridge magnets. Similar to this there are three rooms filled with fridge magnets, souvenirs, and flags from all his travels.
Then we sit in his lush green garden and Tony Lloyd, UK’s biggest fridge magnet collector starts narrating his story on how he started off picking those pretty little things during his travel.
“I was always interested in traveling and observing the arts, crafts, and cultures of the world. A life swap started my journey to becoming UK’s biggest fridge magnets collector”, said Tony sipping on his cup of tea. His family exchanged lives with another family in Australia. This, according to him, changed his life and made him realize his love for fridge magnets.
During his one-year stay in western Sydney, he taught at the school that his exchangee taught. “One of them invited me to dinner one evening and her fridge was covered in fridge magnets and I had never really seen them before. I enquired where she got those from. She said she got them on her travels and that she’d never leave the place without picking these small things. I loved that idea”, said Tony explaining how it all began. “The first one I bought was a very simple one of the Sydney Opera House”, he added.
By the end of the year in Australia, he had collected close to about 200 fridge magnets. “It was like a vacation but then school was in the middle. I chose to travel and explore the country anyway”, said Tony.
Since then, he has traveled to about 115 countries and has fridge magnets, souvenirs and flags from about 110 of them. Sadly, some countries don’t have any such memoirs that he could bring back.
After this, everywhere he went, he absolutely had to get some souvenir home. “There are some countries that you can’t just buy souvenirs like Mozambique. That is a very sad country and it’s back in the news this week with some terrible news about some conflicts with terrorists. I was only there for four days and I couldn’t get a postcard, no flags. One boy on the beach said he’s willing to sell his father’s small wooden artefact and I didn’t want to leave that place without a souvenir so I got it home”, said Tony.
As he collected more and more of them, he realized that they do maps and flags which appealed to his interest in Geography. He also saw some more crafty ones that showed landscapes, landmarks, and famous buildings/monuments that excited his art and design mind. “I liked the maps. In Australia, I picked the ones up that showed different states”, said Tony pointing at his collection from the first place he started his collection.
His hobby of collecting magnets continued after he moved back to Britain too. “The first places that I picked up were obviously touristy spots. Like London, Bath, and Stratford-upon-Avon. But it was quite a while before I saw one of Cardiff”, said Tony. He claims that Cardiff has about four to five good souvenir shops. But the first Cardiff fridge magnet he got was from the Cardiff market. In this city, fridge magnets are produced in small-scale industries. There are no factories that do mass production.
He then pulls out two huge metallic placards clad with fridge magnets and points out one and says that’s his favorite one. “I like the rubberized magnets the best. They’ve got a certain way they can etch into the rubber which makes it have a lot of very fine detail and that appealed to me the most. ”, said Tony explaining why he liked that the most.
Every time he’s asked to give talks at various associations, clubs, and universities, he carries these placards as his collection is massive for him to carry them all.
While traveling and collecting fridge magnets is one facet of his life, Tony teaches English to people from non-English speaking countries. “I teach them how to pronounce words and speak well. It’s all online now”, said Tony.
At the moment, Tony enjoys spending time in his garden. Talking about his lockdown days, Tony said, “I have got to know more about my garden during the past two years than ever. I now know that my garden has some pretty primroses. I love sitting here with a book or with my iPad, spending time listening to the birds chirping and doing all that I had missed out on doing.”