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A collection of note

September 19, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Janice E. Kelsh remembers Feb. 8, 1979, well.

That's when she awoke in a frenzy in the middle of the night after dreaming she had been chased by toy pianos.

"They didn't catch me," she said. "I must've run too fast for them."

Such a nightmare might have something to do with Kelsh's collection.

Kelsh, 55, is a miniature and toy piano enthusiast, and she has about 400 pieces.

Soon she'll be sharing her collection with a national television audience.

A Philadelphia production crew was at Kelsh's 633 Pennsylvania Ave. home Monday morning filming Kelsh and her collection for "Ultimate Collectors," a new series airing this fall on HGTV - Home & Garden Television.

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Glass/DiFede Productions heard about Kelsh's collection after viewing the Web site of The Miniature Piano Enthusiasts Club, a group Kelsh founded, she said.

"They saw me and the collection and said, 'This is a person we're going to have to interview,'" said Kelsh, who works for the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Md.

The crew arrived at her house at about 10:30 a.m. to film four segments, including footage of her playing a full-size piano.

In another segment, Kelsh sat in her second- floor piano room playing "Ode to Joy" on a miniature Schoenhut piano, with portions of her collection showcased in the background.

The room holds most of Kelsh's toy and miniature pianos.

As the crew set up for the shots, Kelsh said she wasn't nervous about appearing on national television because she's done it before.

In August 1997, she was featured on the "Personal FX" collectibles show, which broadcast live from her home.

Kelsh's collection includes pianos fashioned out of Avon bottles, cigarette lighters, ashtrays, salt and pepper shakers, squeeze toys, door stops, tortoise shells and soap. She also has a palm-sized Cracker Jack prize piano from the 1940s that is valued at $125, according to Kelsh's biography on her Web site.

Kelsh is founder of the Miniature Piano Enthusiast Club, which she started in 1991 after moving from Hagerstown to Chicago. She moved back to Hagerstown in 1995, and the club headquarters is here, she said.

The club has held seven miniature piano conventions across the country and has about 60 members worldwide, including in the Netherlands, England, Germany, Israel and Canada. She's planning an eighth convention to be held in Hagerstown in August 2003.

Kelsh took her first piano lessons at age 8 and began collecting the toy and miniature models in the late 1970s.

"Ultimate Collectors" will air every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 2, but Kelsh said there's no word on when her segment will air.

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