JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Mickey Jilton was born to be a Mickey Mouse collector.
The 85-year-old Johnson City businessman said he was named partly for the famous Walt Disney animated character. His mother was taken with an early Mickey Mouse cartoon and his father's favorite baseball player was Mickey Cochrane, a catcher who played for the Philadelphia Athletics and later the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s.
So when he was born, his parents decided to name him Mickey. It was a few years later, about the time of his 15th birthday, that Jilton learned of the origin of his name. He spent the next 70 years collecting Mickey Mouse things.
And while there are many enthusiasts who collect other colorful characters from Walt Disney, Jilton has limited his efforts to Mickey Mouse alone. There are a few items that include Mickey with his girlfriend, Minnie Mouse, and his pals Donald Duck and Goofy.
"I got a Mickey Mouse T-shirt for my birthday and it went on from there," Jilton said. "People started giving me Mickey Mouse toys and sweaters for my birthday and Christmas."
—Looking For A New Home
His collection now includes more than 3,000 items, including stuffed figures, toy cars and puzzle books. There are also Mickey-themed board games, bandages and clothing in the collection.
Jilton said he is selling his cherished Mickey Mouse collection to raise money to help his 69-year-old brother, Robert, who is battling cancer.
"I'm looking to sell the collection as a whole," Jilton said. "I think this would be something that a restaurant or other business could display to bring in customers."
The collection was valued at $295,080 by appraiser/auctioneer Kimball Sterling in June 2010.
He said Mickey Mouse is a beloved character who is still known worldwide. Jilton said Mickey Mouse was born in 1928 when he starred in his first black-and-white movie cartoon, "Steamboat Willie."
"He's the most merchandised figure in the world, and is the most recognized graphic figure in the history of the world," Jilton said.
—It's Mickey Time
Jilton's Mickey Mouse collection includes some items produced by Walt Disney Enterprises, which was what the company was called from 1928 until it became Walt Disney Productions in 1939. Included in his collection, Jilton said, are 123 iconic Mickey Mouse watches. He said the popularity of the first Mickey Mouse watches made in 1933 helped the Ingersoll Watch Co. escape bankruptcy.
"The company was debt-free in eight years," he said.
His own love for Mickey Mouse translated into a business venture in the 1990s when he operated a shop, "Mickey and More," which sold licensed Walt Disney merchandise on Mountcaste Drive.
Jilton, who was elected to the Washington County Commission in the 1980s and served briefly as the county's assessor of property, said he has "so many unique things" in his collection. He remembers playing with some of the items himself when he was younger. A Mickey Mouse spinning top was one of his favorites.
Jilton said his own two daughters enjoyed several of the Mickey Mouse toys when they were children.
"It will be very hard to give up this collection," Jilton said. "There is so many good memories."
Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com