CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Tom Holbrook has always been a collector.
At one point or another, the 69-year-old has collected everything from baseball cards to stamps, from coins to glassware.
But it wasn't until he was browsing through a bookstore and discovered a book on antique advertising collectors that he found a collecting niche that would quickly become his overriding passion.
In the book's index he came across a description of the Peanut Pals - a nationwide club devoted to collectors of Planters Peanuts memorabilia.
Although members of the club are interested in acquiring all types of Planters promotional items, the Pals are primarily obsessed with the company's mascot, the top hat-wearing, cane-wielding legume known around the world as Mr. Peanut.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1978 and is now comprised of more than 450 members. The club is recognized by Planters as its one and only official fan club.
Holbrook's own fascination with the iconic spokes-peanut started slowly.
At first, he began picking up Planters items whenever he'd come across them at yard sales, flea markets and antique stores. Then he attended his first his first national Peanut Pals convention in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1984. There he met other collectors who were just as nuts about nuts as he was.
"Once you get involved in these things, you make friends and it's as much about camaraderie as it is about collecting," said the Charleston resident.
Since becoming active in the club, Holbrook has assembled one of the nation's largest collections of Planters-related items. He has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the company's 100-plus year history and its various advertising strategies.
"Really, they were marketing geniuses," he said as he pointed out various pieces of his extensive, meticulously curated collection.
Over the years Planters has given away just about every Mr. Peanut-themed item imaginable. There are nightlights, salt and pepper shakers, playing cards, clocks, letter openers and much, much more.