Like many collectors, Joe B. got his start at a young age, collecting baseball cards, coins, newspapers of special events, and the occasional comic book from the store racks. “My mom used to give me silver coins that she would find as change, and she also gave me coin books to put them in to organize and save.” These coins were among the first items that he intentionally collected.
Today, Joe’s collection is comprised mainly of two parts: his comic book collection and his collection of KISS memorabilia. His first purchase was X-Men #49, which he bought in 1968. He was just six years old at the time! “My oldest comic book is from 1942,” shares Joe. “It’s Camp Comics #1. It was a comic sent out to the men at war. Inside were cartoons like Bugs Bunny, but the cover had a picture of a pretty girl so it seemed like an adult magazine to others and not a cartoon book.”
Joe now has over 11,000 comics in his collection. The most valuable item is Amazing Spider-Man #1, the first solo comic of Spider-Man from 1962. “I bought this book over 15 years ago,” Joe shares. Besides this piece, the collection is full of other valuable and “quirky” comics, including an independent comic from 1971 called, Air Pirates Funnies #1, which has Mickey Mouse on the cover. “The problem is that Mickey is in an airplane with a package marked, ‘dope’ strapped to the plane. The publisher did not have the rights to print a book with Mickey Mouse, and Disney sued them and had the comic banned. There weren’t many printed, and it was printed on very cheap paper, so only a few now exist in ‘like new’ condition. I own one of only eleven graded as 9.8, NM+, which is the highest grade known for this book.”
As far as his KISS merchandise goes, Joe has been a fan since their 1975 album, “Alive,” was released. He did not consider himself a collector until he purchased his first KISS comic in the early 90s. He soon discovered an entire subculture of KISS fans who hosted annual fan-sponsored conventions. At the time, the only way to find vintage items to collect was at these conventions – or at flea markets. “My first major piece was a set of original 1977 Mego KISS dolls. I followed that up with a KISS transistor radio, a lunch box and thermos, bubble gum trading card sets, a jigsaw puzzle, a board game, a ViewMaster reel, Marvel Comics, and more. All of these items were from the 1970s.”
Joe has also collected newer KISS items such as action figures, magazines, and face paint kits. “KISS took marketing to a whole new level, and there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of items with the KISS logo on it!” Joe explains. In fact, KISS was so invested in their marketing that when their first comic book was printed, they pulled a very unusual marketing stunt: they had the book printed with some of their own blood. Each band member contributed, and they were photographed pouring their donated vials into the vat of red ink. Joe now owns a copy of this infamous comic book. In 1985-1986, he was able to meet the members of KISS while working for a music magazine. “I received guest passes at a few concerts, meet-and-greats, and their MTV unplugged reunion concert! I’ve seen them over 25 times in concert,” he shares.
Overall, Joe’s favorite item is probably his KISS pinball machine. While many collectibles are not meant to be handled, Joe loves that he can play with the pinball machine. “I can also share it with others without worry of it getting ruined and losing value.”
To catalog his comic book collection, he uses a computer program called ComicBase. This program stores a listing of the full collection and provides updated pricing on a weekly basis. The program is stored on Joe’s computer and in the cloud. “It’s a great tool that allows me at all times to know exactly what I own and the estimated value.”
For Joe, the best part of collecting is the ability to enjoy what he’s built. “All the learning, successes, and mistakes that went into amassing this group of items is very satisfying,” he shares. Joe believes that he’s always been a collector at heart. “Most ‘non-collectors’ think that collectors and hoarders are one in the same, but they are very different. I think a collector is by nature a nurturer; we get the most enjoyment and satisfaction from caring for and protecting the things we love.”