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Susan Suazo-Martinez— “Everyone knows it’s Slinky”

Susan has 1,500 “Lazy Spring” toys, garnering her inclusion into the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
February 28, 2017
  • Susan Suazo-Martinez
  • Susan Suazo-Martinez
  • Susan Suazo-Martinez
“All Slinky toys make an odd white noise, which is actually quite soothing. The simplicity of the Slinky—just playing with it—it relieves a lot of stress.”

“Everyone knows it’s Slinky”

The practice of collecting goes way back. The Egyptians collected books from all over the known world, housing them at the Library of Alexandria. Today, folks enjoy collecting coins, stamps, antiques, comic books, and even Slinkys. Yes, Slinkys.

When not tackling the myriad issues involved with telecommunications at the Laboratory, Susan Suazo-Martinez spends her time hunting for exotic versions of the Slinky, a “Lazy Spring” toy invented in 1943 by Naval engineer Richard James. Sue owns close to 1,500 of the springy things, from the original metal designs to exotic versions that glow in black light or are adorned with custom paint jobs created by regional artists. 

“I don’t know when it got out of control,” Sue says with a smile, “but it’s out of control.”

These are just a few examples of the many types of Slinky toys that Susan Suazo-Martinez has collected over the years.

How it all started

Sue was 14 years old when she started working in her uncle’s café in Vaughn, New Mexico.

“The place had a couple of vending machines—the choices were either small rubber balls or tiny Slinky toys,” she recalls. “So every time I felt quarters burning holes in my pocket I would buy a Slinky.”

As her collection grew, Sue began to learn the basics of negotiation that most collectors cultivate over time.

“Eventually, I got to know the vending-machine owner really well,” she says. “Whenever he showed up to replenish the machines, I would trade with him. I would tell him which Slinky toys I had and which ones I wanted. Such trading expanded the collection even more—different colors, different shapes, that sort of thing.”

Susan Suazo-Martinez poses with the oversized Slinky that caused quite a stir in the airport at Myrtle Beach. Note the books Guinness World Records 2017 and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, both of which have written about her Slinky collection.

Slinky causes trouble

One particular Slinky caused Sue quite a bit of grief. She was vacationing in Myrtle Beach when she discovered a huge Slinky at a pizza place that had carnival games with prizes. One of the prizes was the oversized Slinky.

“I tried to convince the manager for me to buy the Slinky,” Sue relates, “but she was uncertain. Days passed, and finally I made contact with the owner, who acquiesced and actually delivered the Slinky to me before I was going to board my plane headed home.”

Caught unprepared, Sue stuffed the Slinky into her carry-on bag. Naturally, the large, coiled object drew immediate attention when viewed through the security equipment. To the security guard, the supersized Slinky looked suspicious.

“Before I knew it, I was rushed into a small room,” Sue says. “Then the local police showed up, followed by the ATF and the FBI. At one point, when I tried to show them that it was just a Slinky, some of them pulled out their guns! All because of my Slinky.”

Once the authorities discovered that the suspicious object was just an oversized Slinky, they let her go. Sue missed her flight, but she got to keep her prized Slinky and also had a story to tell about the perils of collecting Lazy Springs.

Recent notoriety

In 2015, Sue’s collection earned a spot in the Guinness World Records, although the record did not formally appear until the 2016 edition of the book. In 2016, Sue learned through a journalist that she was also listed in the book Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

“It was my brother-in-law who gave me the idea of pursuing a world record,” notes Sue. “After doing some research, I began corresponding with Guinness. It was quite an ordeal, one that took weeks, but it was really exciting when I finally made it in.”

Susan Suazo-Martinez shows her certificate from Guinness World Records, which states that she has the largest collection of Slinky toys, which in 2014 amounted to 1,054. Since that time, her collection has grown to about 1,500.

Despite these achievements, Sue says it’s not over. “I should be banned from eBay, Amazon, and from every toy store in the world,” she says with a laugh.

It turns out that there are exotic types of Slinky toys produced in China. Many of these toys are available only in that country.

“I want so bad to travel to China and come back with a suitcase full of Slinkys,” says Sue. “Some of the metal ones are quite unique—they have such beautiful artwork produced, I think, by using an airbrush. I really want those.”

Susan Suazo-Martinez works for the Laboratory’s Telecommunication Services Group (NIE-TS). Those who have needed phone issues resolved have likely worked with Sue.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.