When Celebration Church in Lakeville, Minnesota, was willed a home from a longtime parishioner and usher, they had no idea that the contents inside would be 30,000 toy cars with what the Startribune has reported, is worth an estimated value of six figures.
Dennis Erickson lived a very quiet life, alone, in the home he grew up in, but every Sunday morning he flashed his bright smile as he greeted fellow parishioners. In early December, when the bachelor Erickson passed away at the age of 69, the church discovered that he left his Eagan, Minnesota, home and its contents to the church, but did not have anyone to oversee his funeral. They lovingly took care of the latter and when it came time to visit the house to inspect the contents, they were shocked and speechless to find 30,000 model car collectables literally everywhere.
The cars were not just in a hobby room in the otherwise spacious four-bedroom home. Instead, the amount of toy cars reached from “floor to ceiling,” including hallways and even bathrooms. And wherever there wasn’t a car tucked into the smallest space, there were numerous cans of cleaners.
Lakeville church inundated by interest in 30,000 scale model cars left by usher who died. An update on KARE at 5. pic.twitter.com/8ZB61O012K
— Boyd Huppert (@BoydHuppert) March 25, 2016
In addition to the toy car collectables, Erickson also had seven pristine vehicles in his garage, including a Ford Model T and a 66 Rambler. One of the cars was willed to a good friend, while the church has already begun to sell the other vehicles.
As any collector knows, paper documents also add value to a collectible. Erickson stuffed a file cabinet with complete detailed records of his drivable, as well as toy, vehicles. This critical piece of information has reached collectors who have already contacted the church. He meticulously wrote in perfect handwriting every little detail of what he did with each drivable vehicle.
Although Erickson regularly attended car shows and frequented antique shops, his collection was a secret. He collected cars for six decades, as he started collecting cars at the age of 9. The civil engineer also purchased many cars online, several of which arrived after his death.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) March 27, 2016
The chief financial officer of Celebration, Lisa Lundstrom, has the Herculean task of overseeing the entire estate for the Lakeville, Minnesota, church parish. There does not appear to be any sort of direction from Erickson on what they should do with this vast collection. Although she is not fully decided on how she will proceed with selling off the estate, Lundstrom has already figured that she will need to bundle these lovingly cared for treasures.
“If I tried to sell it separately, the rest of my life would be Dennis’ life.”
This sentiment is also shared by Rev. Derrick Ross who also wishes that the collection be sold as a single piece to a single entity such as a collector or a type of museum.
“I would like more people to see it and experience it.”
Cars were Dennis Erickson’s life. He was an only child who never married, nor did he ever have children. He lived alone in his parents’ home. His participation at the church happened purely by accident one Sunday when his mother requested that he drive her there. From then, he regularly attended services on a weekly basis and became an usher.
The money from the sale of the items will all go back into the church coffers to help fund their youth program and to pay for remodeling. Rev. Ross believes that this is the gift that will keep on giving.
“I believe that using the gift that Dennis gave to impact future generations is exactly the way he would have wanted it to be.”