Treasures of Thurston County

Auction of little-known Kips Garage Museum includes antique toys, model trains, farm and transportation gear

Based at Kiperts Korner Feed in Tumwater, some 601 lots are listed online now for sale on Tue. and Wed.

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Some boys never stop playing with toys, even when they grow into men and even when their toys become full-size rail locomotives.

Craig Kinnaman of Tenino was such a boy, now a man, and he’s collected and restored hundreds of antiques toys and various gadgets. He’s selling about half of his collection next week, via an online auction.

The auction catalog includes some 601 items: full-size trucks and buggies, model trains, ride-on toys, logging and aviation memorabilia, cast-iron and stamped metal signs, posters – nearly all of them antiques. Some items are beautifully restored, others have aged with grace.

Many of the items are local: the City of Olympia’s safe, a wooden sign that advertised HOWEY’S (a grocery store that operated 100 years ago on Capitol Way in downtown Olympia), the sign from the old YELM POST OFFICE, a couple of items that advertise Olympia Air Service, for example.

The auction is active now and will conclude next Tuesday and Wednesday. To see all of the items, go to Aumann Auctions and see the Kips Garage Museum Collection.

Museum?  Yes – Kinnaman assembled these items in his own personal museum, the best-kept secret in Tumwater, over several years. It’s located in a corner of his business, Kiperts Korner Feed, the farm and animal supply business he started “from nothing” in 1990. The location is on Old Hwy 99 just south of the airport, but you shouldn’t go there to see the auction items –  there are some 5,100 photos posted on the Aumann website.  

Other items of note include:

  • A high-voltage switch that’s oil bathed so it would never spark, hand-painted with a portrait of Reddy Kilowatt, the mascot shared by scores of electric utility companies since the 1920s.
  • A ride-on pedal car designed as a tri-motor bi-plane, painted with “Olympia Air Transport” livery, and several others, including a ride-on shaped like a WWII bomb.
  • An electric washing machine from 1912
  • Several model railroad engines, cars and related, including both factory and scratch-built made-by-hand, running on 7-1/2” gauge, Standard Gauge, O-gauge, Buddy L, and 200 series sets.
  • Buggies, farm and passenger trucks from as far back as the 1800s

Many of the items were hand re-decorated by renowned artist John Hannukaine, who lives in Tumwater and whose work ranges from fine art portraits to commercial signs to automobile pinstriping.

“The auction house flew three people out to take photos and write catalog descriptions,” Kinnaman explained.  “We worked 12 hour days, four days straight” to put the auction information together. “So there’s lots of pictures and a lot of descriptions. A lot of auctions you get two or three pictures, at best, and you get nothing else, because the guy died, and most people don’t know the story behind the items,” he added.

“That’s what’s cool!  I’m still here, and I’m not dead!” Kinnaman confirmed, explaining that he’s planning to be around for many more years.

What’s he going to do with the auction proceeds? 

Remember that locomotive?  There’s a 22-ton train engine sitting on the tracks behind the farm supply store. “It’s going to take a lot” to restore it, Kinnaman said. “There are only two of this model in the world. That’s a piece of history, and it needs to be preserved.” 

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