Featured collector – Rachael Fretter

Number of Pieces:  3000 and counting!!

Favourite Collection/Piece:  Due to my extensive collection it’s difficult to choose one specific favourite as I have several.  Washing Cat from the Hopscotch Collection is a particular favourite as this started my collecting journey.  Gangs Chair from the Home Sweet Home range as this prompted me to join the collectors club (there was a little information leaflet in the box).  The Curio Shop from the Teddy Bear Collection as marked my 200th piece and was also a Christmas present from my parents.  Other particular favourites include special one-offs and auction pieces but one piece that is very dear to my heart is a specially commissioned piece by Peter in memory of my dad which features a train, several bears and the family dog.  What is even more special about this piece is the level and attention to detail by Peter (he captured the muck and grease from my Dad’s engineering overalls and replicated this in miniature).  I am somewhat sentimental about these pieces.

Collects:  Virtually everything ever produced by Peter and Colour Box

My Collecting Story

I started collecting in 1988 whilst on a family holiday in the Lake District where I purchased Washing Cat in a small gift shop.  A few days later I came across some miniature pieces and bought Pony and Foal and Doe and Fawn.  I put them on display in my bedroom and I thought nothing else about them until a few years later when I came across more pieces on a day trip.  However, I came home empty-handed due to my limited pocket money.  

In 1990 I received Gang’s Chair as a Christmas Present from my parents.  In the box was a little information leaflet about the collectors club.  I joined in the new year as member 15702 and that was the start of the collecting bug and I’ve not really stopped since.  

My collection slowly grew during my teenage years with pocket money saved and splurged in Teignmouth Gifts every year whilst on summer holidays.  My collection in the 1990s focused on Hopscotch, Miniatures, Home Sweet Home, Teddy Bears and Personality Pups with family often buying me pieces for Christmas and Birthday.

Initially, the Pennywhistle Lane and Golly collections did not appeal but in recent years I have built up a sizeable collection of both of these ranges. 

My parents have always been hugely supportive of my collecting bug often buying me pieces as Christmas and Birthday presents. I received the Curio Shop one Christmas which coincidentally tied in with being my 200th piece. There was even one Easter that I opted for Captain Arthur Crown rather than chocolate!! Dad’s contribution was always accommodating my collection by buying cabinets or making shelves. I can remember one Christmas being presented with a box full of brightly coloured crepe paper that was hiding lots of pieces. Mum and Dad had managed to purchase a collection of Home Sweet Home pieces and these became new treasured pieces to add to my collection, which also meant more new shelves for Dad to build! 

During my mid-teens my parents indulged my collecting habit by booking a week-long holiday in the Boarders meaning that I could go and visit the factory and buy pieces from where they were actually made – a dream come true and very insightful. 

As a teenager and having to rely on my parents I was unable to attend many events but did manage to go to an event at Spalding and another at Peterborough. Again great ways to add to my collection and also meet Peter to get pieces signed. 

Before heading off to university in 2000 I worked for a year saving funds to get me through my first year, however, my first real year in work also tied in with the Grand Millennium Event that took place in Lauder and Berwick. Mum and I headed up and saw the new factory along with a range of pieces that would be auctioned off in Berwick a day or two later. I was struck by a piece called Pearls of Wisdom. A cat piece with a bicycle, this had the inspiration from the TV show Last of the Summer Wine, and a character called Marina who would cycle. I was sold and I wanted this piece! Auction day arrived and I had managed to save some funds due to receiving a bonus at work, so was ready with a paddle in hand to bid. Auction lot after auction lot was sold and then it got to Pearls of Wisdom and the bidding started with me participating, bidding got so far and I soon realised that my savings were not going to stretch, I mentioned this to mum begging her to match what I had already bid up to, reluctantly she said yes (on the proviso don’t tell your Father). On I carried on bidding and again ran out of funds, “mum can I have more” I pleaded only to hear “No, Rachael this is starting to get a bit out of hand I think you should leave it and buy something else!” Reluctantly I had to duck out of the bidding around the £300 mark. Not much I know but aged 18 it was an incredible amount. On the bidding went until the gavel was struck at £1600 followed by an almighty intake of breath from the audience. I still often wonder who ended up with that piece and where it is now! Oh well, it was just not meant to be. I did however come away with a couple of pieces from the Auction, Strong Bear and Blaze bear. 

As a teenager and student with limited funds, it was not always easy to grow my collection but I must say mum has been truly instrumental in tracking down pieces for me, often finding items in charity shops, car boot sales and antique shops. A couple of years after the sad closure of Colour Box mum decided to try and track down pieces I still needed mainly for my Bear collection. She did an excellent job managing to track down a brand new Birthday Greetings Colourway from Fishpools.

I have spoken quite a bit about mum and she can often be seen by my side at events keeping me company and helping me indulge in my obsession. She has often asked me what I would be collecting or be so passionate about if it was not for the work of Peter. The honest truth is I have no idea. Collecting has been such a big part of my life that nothing else as really appealed to me like the work of Peters. It has been the one consistent thing in my life, constantly bringing me joy and happiness and it is something that I can never see giving up. I don’t really drink, never smoked and certainly never done drugs, but collecting is my habit and I guess is a bit of an obsession, but it’s something I love. Friends do find it all a bit bonkers but they appreciate my uniqueness of what makes me, me! Where ever I go I am always on the lookout for pieces, and when dad was alive he always said I could spot a cat or bear pieces at 100 paces. Mum too has also been trained in the art of spotting Peter’s work from distance but as for Paul my husband, well don’t even go there!  Although he may not be able to identify a piece has done a great job in installing cabinets in my collector’s room and helping make this website a reality. 

I have been lucky to have ideas turned into pieces, Tasty Morsel, Pop to the Shop and Easter Surprises from the Colour Box days and then more recently The Rescue which was only available from Collect It Magazine. A real honour to see ideas transformed into pieces made available for collectors.

From reading this I imagine some might think that I have everything Peter has produced but I still have gaps in my collection mainly colourways, specials and a few limited editions. I live in hope that one day I will have a full collection – one can but dream. During my 30-plus years of collecting I have amassed a collection of probably over 3000 pieces (and growing as I write this) which includes colourways, specials, promotional pieces limited editions, pieces specifically made for the USA and Australian markets etc. In terms of specials and one-offs, I have a few including a specially commissioned piece, of a bear on a sledge being pulled by another bear wearing antlers! In 2008 I went to the Westbury event and got somewhat carried away with bidding and came home with a bear version of Galloping Horses. This is a highly prized item and one I really do treasure. However, I was living off baked beans on toast for several weeks after this purchase and indulgence! 

I also have some of the early bonzes and also collect any literature relating to Colour Box or Peter’s work and even have branded display boards and signs that were used in the shops. 

As you can probably tell I am hugely passionate and serious about my collection but I also derive a great deal of pleasure from sharing my knowledge and helping fellow collectors with information and tracking down rare and elusive pieces.