The Calhoun resident, who previously lived in Smyrna and represented the area for three terms in the Georgia House of Representatives, will be among several toy enthusiasts showing their work at the A.C Gilbert Heritage Society’s National Convention on Saturday at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest Hotel, which is about two miles north of the Cobb Galleria Center in Cumberland.
There will be hundreds of original vintage A.C. Gilbert erector sets, chemistry sets, microscope sets, American Flyer train displays and other toys from the early 20th century on display.
Gilbert is known for his invention of “red box” erector sets, but other inventions include enameled wire used in modern electric motors, according to the A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society. Gilbert’s toy company was in operation from 1913 until the 1960s, and was one of the largest toymakers during its period, selling over 30 million metal box erector sets, the society says.
Erector sets include metal girders, wheels, bolts, nuts and hundreds of other parts. You can build up to 200 different models with one set, says Tom Lindsey, a retired real estate broker from Jasper, who is the Southeast’s region president of the preservation organization.
The convention will be a rare opportunity to see a wide variety of the toys, because, although they are metal and many original parts have withstood the test of time, Lindsey says the convention does not make it into the Southeast often.
“(The North is) where a majority of our members … live, so we normally have it in Chicago or St. Louis or somewhere away from the South.”
He thinks the concentration of the Industrial Revolution in the North and its effects are why more of the toys were purchased there, and why they stayed there.
“In the ’20s and ’30s, there were no toys in the South like that … so I guess they stayed (up North),” Lindsey said.
Sauder has been collecting Gilbert toys and memorabilia for nearly 20 years, and won the “Best Model” award for the third year in a row at the convention in Chicago last year. His winning entry, a 1920s “Coney Island Fun House” that has more than 2,000 moving parts, will be at Saturday’s convention.
He described the convention as a good family event that will be of interest to people of all ages, and hopes it will inspire others to get involved in the hobby.
“The youngsters have probably never seen toys like this, but they were a common fare for me. And adults will get to see the toys that they probably grew up with,” said Sauder. “It’s a great family-oriented opportunity.”
Enthusiasts may also want to meet Gilbert’s grandsons, who are scheduled to be there.
Lindsey added, “We’re a dedicated bunch … and we like to show it off.”
To learn more about The A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society or how to make an erector set model, visit www.acghs.org.
Want to go?
WHAT: A.C Gilbert Heritage Society’s National Convention
WHERE: Atlanta Marriott Northwest Hotel, 200 Interstate N Parkway SE
WHEN: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2p.m.