Collection fit for the King
Conyers man honors Elvis with memorabilia

CONYERS - Elvis Presley lives in Conyers through a collection of records and memorabilia that, like the King, is as big and gaudy as one of his iconic rhinestone jumpsuits.

Tim Hunter, who operates Lingering Memories Antique Mall with his wife, Dawn, claims to own the largest private Elvis Presley memorabilia collection outside of Graceland. In all, he has more than 1,100 items including 233 vinyl albums and 45 RPM records.

He said the collection took him about 20 years to build that is on display at Lingering Memories, located at 1403 Old McDonough Highway.

Along with the framed albums that line the wall, Hunter's collection also includes Elvis Pez candy dispensers, Barbie and Ken dolls made as Elvis and Priscilla Presley, busts and a bottle of The King cologne for men among other items. Hunter said the collection's estimated worth is about $80,000.

Hunter said he is certain he owns the largest private collection of Elvis Presley items in the United States, but hasn't verified it. He said the collection is definitely the largest in the Southeast based on Elvis Presley collectable conventions he has attended. "No one comes even close," he said.

Why would anyone devote so much to Elvis? The automatonic bust of Elvis that sits behind the counter would tell you, "Don't criticize what you don't understand."

"I loved Elvis as a kid," said Hunter, 49. Though he never got to see Elvis perform, Hunter's mother and aunts were big fans and the records they owned were the beginning of Hunter's collection. The rest were purchased "here and there" over the years.

Today marks Presley's birthday, which would have been his 74th. Presley had such an impact on American music that most people refer to him as the king of rock and roll. His influence has grown since his death on Aug. 16, 1977.

That day left an indelible mark on Hunter, who was riding in the back of a limousine to the burial of his grandfather.

"The driver had the radio on, and he turned to us and said Elvis Presley had just died," Hunter said. "When we got to the grave site, there were a lot of people crying. You would have thought they were crying for my grandfather, but really I believe they were crying for Elvis."

Elvis aficionados know of Hunter's collection and have come to Conyers, almost like a pilgrimage to Graceland, to see the items. Elvis impersonators, including Conyers native Mark Eskew, have also come by Hunter's business to take a look at or even to make an offer on an item.

"I've seen ladies come in and just take their time to look at everything," Hunter said. "Sometimes, I can hear them sing an Elvis song as they look."

Hunter said the collection is not for sale, then added quickly, "If an offer is made, I'll listen. Money talks."

The first pressing of Presley's self-titled debut album can fetch $1,800 simply because Elvis was present during the pressing of the first 500 records. A special edition of the soundtrack to the Presley movie "Clambake" has a wedding photo of Elvis and Priscilla Presley because the movie was filmed the same time the couple married.

One item that is probably off the table regardless of price is an original 1960 Elvis Presley wooden bust complete with gold chain.

"I used to have 11 of them, but one by one I sold them," Hunter said. "This is the last one, so I can't let go of it."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.