LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) — He was known as a “numbers guy” for 55 years. Then, one fateful day, Logansport resident Clarence Kapraun turned his back on the infinite possibility of sums and found favor in letters. But it was only one letter, really … specifically, the “Ms,” as he said.
“The Ms” are this retired math teacher’s name for his M&M collection.
What began approximately two decades ago with just a few pieces has multiplied into more than 3,000 figurines, watches, thermoses, bedsheets, pillowcases, table covers, blankets, salt and pepper shakers, nightlights and beyond.
He even has seven of the 3-foot tall, barrel-bodied characters that can be found in stores stuffed with the plain, peanut and other assortments of M&M candies.
“It got out of hand,” he chuckled, explaining how his fascination with the candy characters began.
About 20 years ago when Kapraun and his wife, Barbara, visited a friend in Florida, “he showed me that he had a collection of plastic peanut M&M characters. I thought it was cute.”
Upon returning home, Kapraun started searching for the characters at garage sales and auctions.
He even saw it as an opportunity to help others. For example, he said, there was a couple who came to his property after learning he collected the characters. “It was around Christmastime, and the couple needed money. He lost his job.”
Kapraun bought the couple’s collection, which had been a three- to four-year project, for $1,000. “It was all nice stuff,” he said, “but I didn’t really need it.”
What he saw, though, was that the couple did need his help. He gladly provided it, and as such, spring-boarded his newfound “career.”
Ever since, Kapraun has traveled throughout Indiana and to various states in search of anything to add to his vast array of characters. His assortment is overwhelming, from the Boyds Bears figurines wearing the M&M logo to the Bradford Mint/Department 56 galleria Christmas-lighted decorations cast in M&M fashion.
He even has his family helping him add to the collection.
One of his daughters, Michelle, gave her father characters from Las Vegas, while his other daughter, Deborah, sent some pieces from her home-base of China.
His son and daughter-in-law, Gregory and Sue, provided the European selection with characters from England, Denmark and France.
“I do have some very unique items,” Kapraun said, claiming that the Chinese ones are some of his favorites.
China “doesn’t have all of the advertising possibilities that we do,” so instead of seeing an M&M label on packaging, “a red character will have his hand out, holding half of an ‘M’ of candy.” By being able to see what the “inside” of the candy looks like, people would know what they’re buying.
Kapraun also admits to enjoying the multiples he has. While one character might still be in its box, another of the same character will be opened for use, which usually means playtime. After all, he said, many of the items are toys and should be available for children, but there are some meant for adults.
One example is his other go-to piece, which consists of three M&M characters that stand atop each other. When connected to the phone line and a telephone call is received, the characters light up and move. They even repeat “It’s your phone. It might be the president calling.”
Laughing at the telling of this story, Kapraun said it’s the small things like this collection that have made him so happy after retiring.
And, that’s exactly what Barbara wants for her husband. “It gives him something to do. I can’t complain. I had a huge collection of decorative tin cans and salt and pepper shakers. We enjoy collecting. It’ll be hard to part with, but we’ll have to eventually,” she said of the thousands of items collected between the couple.
Until that time comes, though, Kapraun is content to sell some of his characters and buy more of those he does not yet possess. He would even be willing to buy back his own characters — at least, that’s what he told his daughter, Michelle.
“I took about a dozen to Michelle’s garage sale in Fort Wayne. The next day, someone had made an offer to buy all of them. The woman told Michelle that she knew someone who had a large (two-car garage) collection and would like these,” he said, adding that after a few more minutes of conversation, Michelle suddenly asked the woman where she was from.
Turned out, the woman was one of Kapraun’s friends.
In the end, Michelle halted the transaction and told the woman who she was. Chuckling at the memory, Kapraun admitted that “I would have bought them back from her.”