Jon Thaxton is a serious man. A fifth-generation Sarasotan, he’s a passionate environmentalist, a former (and formidable) Sarasota County commissioner and now the senior vice-president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. His knowledge of Sarasota County government, our comprehensive plan and our history is prodigious, and anyone who asks him a question about a topic—from the Florida scrub jay to affordable housing to the intricacies of zoning to the county budget process—should settle down for a long discourse filled with facts.
So perhaps it’s not so out of character that Thaxton—who never does anything halfway—has become an expert on The Andy Griffith Show, an American sitcom that ran from 1960 to 1968. His wife Dru Greene knew he liked the show from the time he was a boy, so she gave him a box set of all 249 episodes for Christmas about 10 years ago, just for fun. Little did she know it would turn their house inside out during the holidays once Thaxton began to research the show. He’s since become a major collector of all things Mayberry, the fictitious North Carolina town where the show takes place.
Thaxton laughs that he “used to be in the closet” about the collection since it’s so unusual, but the more people heard about it, especially baby boomers who grew up watching it, the more they asked to see it. Now he gives group tours to curious friends. The collection is so large it takes a month to put up, so he doesn’t plan to put it up for another three years.
Posters, framed autographs, original illustrations, set props, a complete train set, canned food, trading cards, Christmas ornaments, T-shirts, even a shower curtain in the downstairs bathroom fill almost every corner and adorn every wall and shelf. Some of his pieces are quite valuable—Thaxton likes to say his collection is “quality and quantity”—and most of his finds come from Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Etsy and other collectors. A favorite piece is Opie’s bedside “lamb” lamp. His most valuable might be a single piece of paper with 15 autographs from 1963.
Thaxton has always admired the show’s values of kindness, honesty, hard work and community involvement, but explains his collection is really the product of his personality. “I have a stubborn attitude and I’m willing to invest the time. It’s amazing what you can do with those two traits,” he says. And he adds, it’s a good thing he limits his interests. “I can’t let things go,” he with a laugh.