|Peter Fritz Farewell|
|Legendary collector and playset dealer Peter Fritz passed away July 16, 2017, after a long illness at Hartford Hospital, according to his daughter Amy.
Peter was one of the first, along with Jim McGough, to document the sets and bring that information to light. First it was word of mouth, in the early 1980s. As the 90’s rolled through, Peter became famous not in his own newsletter, which he tried publishing, but through Tom Terry’s PFPC magazine, and most importantly in his Toy-A-Day auction ads in Toy Shop newspaper, long before there was an eBay. His investment in advertising in Toy Shop resulted in rising prices for playsets as more and more people connected through the auction, eventually reaching stratospheric heights for the day. Yet he took a lot of heat from some over the pricing issue. Where others said playsets were just toys, Peter argued playsets were valuable antiques.
He spoke often of the “Golden Era” of sets at Sears, 1959 – 1963 that in his opinion were sets with richer colored flat plastics, and he collected those himself, becoming highly knowledgeable during the process.
“Your dad was a big part of the cameraderie for several years as the magazine supporters gathered at the OTSN Show in Chicago. I got to know him personally then, and was happy to support his sales endeavors by reselling stuff to him - some of which I had 'beaten' him out of at auction. He was always delighted to get that elusive stuff, but I never let on that I was doing it for him,” says Paul Gruendler.
Peter was part of a small group of strangers in one particular sales room at the Old Toy Soldier show in Chicago, and I was lucky for it. Dressed in cowboy hat and blue jeans looking like anything but a toy collector -- maybe an adventurer or something -- and when he heard we hadn't opened a mint set he nodded to step away from the group.
"C'mon, lets go open a Western Town" he said. I grabbed Kath and off we went, down the halls to his room and Peter selected one of several he had and we opened it. Just like that, making a thirty or forty year yearning a reality. It sealed the deal for me being in the hobby, I had not heard of such generosity to a stranger before.
In seeking out sets for his Toy-A-Day operation Peter was aggressive, his goateed look contrasting with a beat-up cowboy hat; he had hawk-like eyes that could see a set a mile away and a good set from two miles. He became an extensive traveler headed for toy shows. With Toy-A-Day partners like Jim McGough and Francis Turner he expanded a devoted following for Marx playsets, perhaps unwittingly founding the hobby along with similar-minded greats like Gene Scala. People stayed up past midnight calling in bids, or to check their bids against the toys they sought.
Peter was a good man who freely gave information; where few others had opened mint sets and knew correct colors, he was one you could ask and get straight information. And more than anything, he made it fun.
Alan Murray: “I would not be in the hobby except for Peter Fritz. I was on a trip to the Northeast for fun (single) and stopped at a large shopping/flea market in about 1982, looking for comics and baseball cards. There was Peter hawking a Western Playset for $200. I told him that I would never believe someone would spend that much on a plastic toy. He persisted and talked me in to getting a Disney TV Playset, because I was a Disney fan. I bought it, loved it and proceeded over the next 6 years or so to buy a dozen playsets from him.”
A falling away from the hobby began when there was a personal issue with another dealer who tried to emulate his success. Peter’s travels altered and over time, it seemed other collectors lost track of him. But Peter had gotten into Star Wars toys; he saw a new era of collectibles and followed that path.
“My father died at Hartford Hospital in CT after a long illness. “ writes Amy Smith. “A triple aortic aneurysm back in 2000 changed his life drastically and his involvement in the toy world was reduced to buying toys he loved online and in local shops. His apartment was filled with many antique toys at the time of his death. While he couldn't sell anymore, he did find joy in returning to solely being a collector. I guess everything comes back full circle. He use to have a keychain that said, "He who dies with the most toys wins." I think he was trying his best to win in the end.
Paul Gruendler, after hearing the news of Peter’s death, writes: Very sad to share the passing from this world of my old hobby pal, Peter Fritz. I have been missing him for years, having heard over three years ago from one of his family about his failing health and a desire for privacy. I am thinking a lot about him today, as I used to years ago - every Veterans Day, in particular - I seemed to think about him more during the fall, and more particularly during late September, recalling many an Old Toy Soldier Show, Chicago.
I am very happy that I grew to love the plastic figure and playset Collecting Family, as I consider myself a part of it since the birth of my first son in 1980. Thankfully, I got in early on the Marx Toy Company liquidations by buying toys and playsets the way Peter did: from the guys who actually cleaned out the factory model rooms and warehouses. And so, this is how I met Peter Fritz.
We bid against each other, and so learned to respect each other early on. But it was good-natured bidding, as I am very open-hearted about my hobby. The sets I was interested in were the ones I had enjoyed as a (younger) child! I soon became quite knowledgeable about sets, not only because of my prolific purchasing as my hobby expanded. Peter, Art Rostel and many others would call in to chat and swap toys and toy stories. The playset network grew wider for me as I traveled extensively for my job, visiting the guys I had gotten to know on the WATS phone - including the original people who had bought out so many Marx assets
I think at one point that Peter had published a newsletter too. I was happy to send hundreds of negatives of the Marx toys I had photographed and accumulated to Tom which, along with his own and many others', got the magazine off the ground and through seventy-six issues. Peter was a big part of the cameraderie for several years as the magazine supporters gathered at the OTSN Show in Chicago. I got to know him personally then, and was happy to support his sales endeavors... I cannot say that my own family is as close to me these days as I would like them to be... One of my sons has turned out to be a collector himself; he likes stuff made in the Nineties.
And a final passage from Amy, Peters beloved daughter, written before Peter’s death.
“Some of you might remember me as the little girl who would sell you sandwiches and sodas at my dad’s Massachusetts show. Forgive me for not speaking about playsets directly. Marx playsets were the torment of my childhood. I could look but not touch. They were my dad's prized possessions. I don't think he loved me more than the time I helped him bid on a playset and he got it for cheap because no one would bid against the little girl.
Many of you knew/know my dad. His name is Peter Fritz. He did the Toy-a-Day auctions and put together the collection of the Sear's toy catalogs. My father's health took a turn for the worse many years ago and he has not been active in the toy show world since. I won't go into too much detail to protect his privacy. He is estranged from his family. I really miss my dad from those years as well as the toy world family I grew to love. There was not a single vacation in my childhood that did not revolve around a toy show. I also know that I really don't know much about him. I would love to read some of your stories about him. The good, the crazy and the bad. I know my father was quite the character.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like to share some stories with me." Amy Smith
And so we must part, Peter. Farewell as you enter the next phase, God Speed and Good Luck. From all your friends.