The Super-Powered Comic Book Collector
on November 14, 2019
Nowadays, lots of movies are coming out that are based on comic books. We may think we have a deep understanding of the stories and the characters in these and other comics. Compared to Bob Bretall, though, we don’t.
Bretall is no ordinary comic book collector. He holds the Guinness World Record for World’s Largest Comic Book Collection (verified by Guinness in 2016), with a whopping 101,822 unique comics (no duplicates). His collection now tops 105,000, and is growing every month.
Bretall started collecting comic books at the ripe age of 8 years old in Southern California. Once he started, he instantly jumped into it, collecting new comics every month. He has two older brothers, so comic books such as Richie Rich and Uncle Scrooge were a part of his childhood. However, it wasn’t until he laid his hands on one comic book that his passion was ignited.
Which one was it? The Amazing Spider-Man #88, by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr., was his first purchase. In fact, that issue is still his favorite comic to this day. As an 8-year old, he flipped through that comic countless times and cut out lots of pictures, demolishing that original issue. Fortunately, he later bought a replacement copy and even had it autographed by Lee and Romita, Sr.
That was in July of 1970, and Bretall has been buying comics every month since. While he still lives in southern California, he has traveled the world collecting comics. He has bought comics in such far-off countries as China, the Netherlands, Germany, Korea, and Japan.
Interestingly, Bretall does not collect comic booksas a money-making venture. . He cherishes the plotlines and the characters and finds the value of his collection is in the stories themselves. He does plan on leaving his entire collection to his children for their inheritance, and he hopes they’ll “keep at least a few of them as a remembrance” of him.
Bretall’s favorite comic character remains Spider-Man to this day. He credits the character for inspiring his collecting passion. Not all of his comics are superhero stories, though. His favorite current comic book changes every few months these days, but is rarely a super-hero comic. He gravitates to genres like crime, sci-fi, and fantasy, with many coming from Image Comics, his current favorite publisher from whom he gets about 40 titles per month.
All of his comics are inputted into ComicBase, database software that stores every title in his collection. This has come in handy, as the folks at Guinness would randomly ask him to verify that he owned certain titles. He would punch in a few search terms and – poof! – he would know in which of his more than 400 alphabetized boxes to search for that comic.
The majority of his comic book collection is stored in his garage. He does, however, have an entire room in his house dedicated to displaying his collection: his “comic room.” Besides comic books, there are vast amounts of other memorabilia in this room, such as Marvel statues and busts. Bretall has many other comic-related items in his possession, including original comic book art, sketches, and toys.
He is still actively collecting comics to the tune of more than 100 new and older comics per month. One thing is certain. Spider-Man may have been bitten by a radioactive spider, but Bob Bretall has been bitten by the comic-book collecting bug.
For more details, including pictures, about Bob Bretall and his amazing comic collection, check out his site:
Can’t Contain This Collector’s Passion in Just One (Beer) Can
on October 10, 2019
Ever since he was just a boy, Jason Haupt has been collecting beer cans. Though he grew up in South Florida, his parents are originally from England. His father was an airline employee, which meant annual trips to the “homeland” to visit friends and family. Jason remembers an informal rule of drinking in England—if you stood taller than the bar, you could order a drink. He grew taller than that bar at age 12 and became mesmerized by the graphics on the different beer cans. His collection had begun.
Jason’s collection represents not only his childhood but a connection to his familial roots in England. He began transporting the cans home from England—one or two, then three or four, then 12 at a time - increasing his collection quickly over the years.
Jason quickly realized that he needed to preserve the top of the beer can. His dad and his friends would play soccer, and Jason would drain the beer from the cans for them using an old-fashioned can opener Jason would get to keep the cans.
Back in Florida, Jason and his dad would go to flea markets. Dad would look for tools, and Jason would look for beer cans. His collection began to balance more between foreign and domestic cans.
In 1992, after college, Jason had been living in North Carolina. A Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Andrew, scored a direct hit on Jason’s parents’ home. His parents sought refuge from the storm in Jason’s bedroom, the center of the house. The storm destroyed half of the cinderblock home, but not Jason’s room, nor his collection. In fact, not one can rattled off the shelf. Jason had two immediate questions after the storm passed by: “Are you guys okay?” and “How’s my collection?” Soon after Hurricane Andrew, Jason discovered Collectibles Insurance Services. He has been a customer ever since.
Jason’s favorite can in his collection is a Playmate can from the Sunshine Brewing Company in Reading, Pennsylvania. Sunshine’s Playmate beer was quickly accused of trademark violation by Playboy, and the brewing company had to cease production. Jason acquired one of the two variants of the Playmate can, which offered a unique zip top-pull tab. It is in pristine condition and is valued at around $1,500.
His total collection numbers about 775 cans and is valued at $45,000. His renovated attic – his “man cave”—is where he displays the cans alphabetically.
Some of his most unique cans include: a Prince Charles and Lady Diana wedding beer can; James Bond 007 cans (worth between $700-$1,000 each); a Pikes Peak flat top can (his most valuable, worth $2,000); a Burger sparkling ale; and Old India pale ale cone tops.
Jason now looks for cans graded A1+ or better. Also, he acquires cans that maintain the top in place for better valuation.
He refers to two main publications to determine his beer can’s value: Beer Cans Unlimited (formerly the Beer Can Collector’s Bible) and the United States Beer Can Books.
Jason took a brief hiatus from collecting after college but rediscovered his passion in the mid-to-late 2000s. He is selling many of his foreign cans to focus on his domestic collection.
When he was 14 or 15 years old his collection peaked at a whopping 10,000 cans. The Miami Herald even wrote an article about him, as he had the largest collection in South Florida.
One thing is for sure. Jason’s knack for finding new additions to his beer can collection is, well, uncanny.
Love for pizza leads to world’s largest collection of boxes
By: Scott Wiener on October 03, 2019
Scott Wiener didn’t plan on amassing the world’s largest collection of pizza boxes. But nine years ago, he came across a stack of boxes unlike any other. Used to seeing a generic phrase paired with a simple drawing, this explosively colorful design took him by surprise. The box top presented an image of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Even more intriguing was the side of the box, which boasted the odd claim “Limited Edition Tour of Italy Series.” Scott was intrigued.
With this new light shed on an otherwise disposable genre of art, Scott started his collection. With the launch of his company, Scott’s Pizza Tours, visits to pizzerias were a part of his daily life. Friends, family and tour guests took to his interest and helped grow the collection. Before he knew it, he had collected enough boxes to score a Guinness World Record. Scott also wrote a book called Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box (Melville House, 2013). The book and collection were featured on the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, CBS Sunday Morning, and dozens of other outlets.
Soon after, emails started flowing in from companies wanting to display the collection at their media events.
Why the hype?
Pizza boxes were designed to be thrown in the garbage. Saving and presenting them in an artistic context suddenly made them visible in a way not yet seen before. It became clear that something as simple as a pizza box resonates with people even if they aren’t into art. Interested in celebrities, athletes or politicians? There’s a box for you. As Scott says, “Right now, they’re just funny pizza boxes. In a few years, they’ll be artifacts.”
Can’t Extinguish This Firefighter’s Love of Fire Collectibles
on September 06, 2019
Kim Stellhorn was practically raised in a fire station. His grandfather was a volunteer fireman in Illinois. Much of Kim’s childhood was spent with his grandfather taking him on fire truck rides, going to the station, and attending events at the firehouse. His lifelong passion for collecting fire memorabilia started when he was a young man, and his collection has continued to flourish ever since.
In 1971, at the age of 15, Kim himself became a volunteer fireman after his family’s move to Texas. His collecting experience began there four years later, when he started collecting fire patches that were sewn onto uniforms. Many of these patches were acquired through the mail, years before the Internet. By the early 1980’s, Kim was a full-fledged collector, expanding beyond patches and collecting other items, such as helmets, vintage photographs, toy fire trucks, and much more.
Many of the fire-related items in Kim’s collection were given to him, either through his own firefighting connections, his grandfather and family, or friends. As he describes these items, he says, “I have such a wide range of items, each with their own story.” One such story involves his sister and brother-in-law, who were missionaries in Russia in the early-1990’s. Kim’s sister tried to take some photographs of a Russian fire department, to share with her brother, but she forgot to load the film. However, the Russian firemen became suspicious of an American taking pictures of their department because this was just after the end of the Soviet Union. To alleviate their concerns, Kim asked his sister what the department needed as he would try to donate some items. The department did not have money to buy anything and there was very little production of fire equipment, or anything else at that time. So, Kim sent some items from his collection: gloves, hood, magazines, and a patch. The mayor and the fire chief in this small town in Russia were so excited that someone in America would share something with them, they decided to have an elaborate celebration, replete with the entire fleet of local fire trucks and demonstrations of their indoor and outdoor equipment. They also reciprocated by giving Kim’s sister a Russian fire helmet, hood, gloves, a leather belt with a fire axe, a winning competition ribbon, and a cloth calendar, which all became part of Kim’s collection.
Kim’s collection includes three pieces from as far back as the 1920’s and 1930’s. These include a flood light from a truck in his grandfather’s fire department, an attic ladder, and a bell.
The value of his collection, according to Kim, is “priceless.” He describes nearly every piece he has as “one-of-a-kind,” with great sentimental value – much more than monetary. About three-fourths of his collection are unique pieces that family and friends have given him, as well as items he acquired himself as a firefighter. He has picked up some of his items, such as some of his toy fire trucks, at local garage sales.
Overall, Kim has around 1,000 pieces in his collection – about 400 patches, 30 helmets (some from Austria, Belgium, Russia, and France), as well as other items including badges, belt buckles, commemorative pocket knives, beer steins, and multiple photographs. He also has a significant number of toy fire trucks, including about a dozen Russian trucks that actually have the Soviet Union flag on the side – from before its dissolution in 1991. Other types of trucks he has are Franklin Mint collector fire trucks, Tonka trucks, and Matchbox special edition trucks.
Kim singles out a particularly interesting item in his collection: hand-drawn membership drive posters for his original volunteer fire department (Arcadia Volunteer Fire Department, in Texas). He was given these posters by the artist herself. They are 11” x 17”, and were placed in businesses in 1961 to encourage people to join the Arcadia Fire Department. Kim had them framed, and they now hang in his office.
In addition, Kim’s collection expands to other artwork and books. He has over a dozen numbered collectible Christian firefighter prints by artist, Jim Davis, and autographed books by firefighters and authors, “Red” Adair, Dennis Smith, and Dave Houseal.
His collection is stored in a devoted space, called his “Fire Room.” As Kim points out, there is not much wall space left in the Fire Room!
Kim’s fire collectibles, spanning almost 40 years, includes some truly remarkable pieces. His passion for collecting is not getting extinguished anytime soon!
The Lure of Fishing Leads to Collection of Fishing Lures
on August 05, 2019
Dan Magers loves to fish and, like many fresh and salt water enthusiasts, he uses lures to catch his prey. A quarter century ago, Dan became as fascinated with the lures he used as with the sport of musky fishing. After inheriting a case of lures from his grandfather, he started a collection of his own. As an Idaho, then a Montana resident, he began with old freshwater musky lures. Later he advanced his collection to include saltwater lures used by tuna and marlin fishing fans.
After paying what he calls “stupid money” for an old musky lure ($6,000 for a new in-the-box handmade lure from 1908), Dan realized he was a “collector.” As such, he became an admirer of Joe Yee, the renowned Hawaiian lure crafter. Yee started making lures in the 1950s and crafted them his own way with the materials that were available in the Hawaiian Islands including surfboard resin, tire weights and shell. The fish heads that he hand carved, hand painted and then encased in resin are Dan’s favorites. So expert is Dan on the Hawaiian lure craftsman that he wrote a limited-edition book, “Joe Yee and His Lures,” which was published in 2015.
The most valuable items in his collection are the lures signed by Yee before being cast, then the fish heads, and then the real shell lures from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hawaii. These are made by extracting the glassy part of the inside of oyster shells or pearls and then pouring the pieces of shell into the lures. Dan owns about 150 such lures.
His collection traces the advance in lure technology from those made in the 1930s and 1940s for rowboats to the high-tech lures now used on high speed motorboats for deep sea fishing. Dan says he paid $40 to $50 for most of his pieces. “They are now worth 10 times that. The total value of my collection is about $125,000,” he says.
He keeps his cataloged, labeled and numbered lure collection at home and organizes them by size for display purposes. Dan points out that making one-at-a time handcrafted lures takes a great deal of time. “It takes four to six hours to make a single lure, which is a tricky process. As a result, true lure craftsmen are becoming scarce,” Dan laments. “Handmade lures still fish better, but few people fish blue water enough to know that, or to pay the premium they cost over mass produced foreign imports,” Dan explains.
Dan also has a company, BFD Big Game Lures, which makes handmade lures. Profit is not Dan’s objective; he does it because he loves the hobby and the evolution of the lure making business.
From One Minimoog Synthesizer to My Collection of Instruments
on July 03, 2019
Vince Pupillo has always had an interest in electronic musical instruments, but it wasn’t until 2005 that his collection started to flourish. “I owned and played a Moog Minimoog Synthesizer back in the 1970s, but that instrument had to be sold at one point to pay for college,” Vince recalls. “I purchased another vintage Minimoog in 2005 though, and then began acquiring additional instruments after that.” Vince’s collection, some of which is now on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has items dating back to the early 1900s, with the 1929 RCA Theremin being his earliest item to date.
Yet Vince didn’t consider himself a collector until seven years later, when he purchased the vintage synthesizer Yamaha GX-1. Vince points out, “That was a big deal, and the collection had already begun to resemble a real collection by that point.”
Vince’s collection now includes an array of vintage electronic musical instruments, including electric pianos, synthesizers, vintage theremins, effect pedals and processors, organs, mixers, PA systems, guitars, guitar amplifier systems, electronic percussion instruments, CDs, record albums, laser discs, paraphernalia associated with electronic music, as well as other electromechanical instruments. The collection also includes the earliest prototypes of the Minimoog Synthesizer, which Vince considers “the granddaddy” of all portable synthesizers.
Many of the items have famous artist origins, with amplifier systems once used by The Who, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Yes, and many others. His synthesizers were also utilized by famous musicians including Queen, Jack Bruce, ELP, and Genesis.
Within Vince’s vast collection, you can find subcollections of many important instruments through time. Included in these subcollections are some of the earliest Fender Rhodes pianos that Harold Burroughs Rhodes manufactured to teach veterans how to play music during World War II. Vince’s collection spans to latter day versions of the Fender Rhodes, which include digital electronic (MIDI) capability and were built for Chick Corea.
When asked what Vince’s favorite piece in the collection was, he responded without hesitation — the Keith Emerson Modular Moog, which is presently on loan with two other Emerson keyboards to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This is arguably the world's most famous and iconic electronic music synthesizer because of its towering appearance, its incredibly compelling sound, and also due to the way Keith Emerson used it, both musically and as a stage prop,” Vince explains. “On top of that, the music of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and of Keith Emerson in general, is a deep favorite of ours. I have loved his music from the beginning so to have his synthesizer in the collection is beyond special for us. It's an honor and dream come true.”
The Keith Emerson Modular Moog is also the most valuable piece in Vince’s collection, with several thousand items ranging from small pieces that can easily be held in the palm of your hand to large items that require a forklift.
Vince’s pieces vary in value, ranging from two to seven figures per item. The entire collection is worth several million. And yet, Vince still thought something was missing. Vince wanted to preserve the legacy of electronic music and share it with the world, ultimately hoping to make a difference in people’s lives.
That’s why in early 2018, Vince founded the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project (EMEAPP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides education about, access to, and research on electronic music. Vince continues to curate the collection at EMEAPP to this day.
To learn more about Vince’s collection or take a virtual tour, click here.
Teenage Beatles Fan Grows into a Life-Long Beatles Collector
on May 29, 2019
When does a Beatles fan grow into a Beatles collector? Mark Lackey, who is retired from the military and is now a meteorologist residing in western North Carolina, had to give that question some serious thought. “I think my first Beatles (related) record purchased was the Capitol 45 RPM single, Listen to What the Man Said, in 1975. I paid $1 for it. I was a 12-year old die-hard fan of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 radio show and I loved Paul McCartney & Wings. By the following year, I purchased my first Beatles album, The Beatles 1967-1970. It was a double LP and therefore a big purchase for me,” Mark explains.
To make that purchase (it turned out to be an investment), Mark had to save up his allowance for several weeks. At this point, he said he was a kid mainly interested in the musical acts of the current mid-seventies era, but he knew and liked several of the more popular later Beatles recordings. “My deeper interest in The Beatles was still a few years away,” he said. “I remember for Christmas, an aunt got me the Ringo's Rotogravure album, which had the Top 40 hit, A Dose of Rock 'N' Roll on it, and I started to note that anything I'd heard with one or more of the Fab Four on it was something I enjoyed listening to.”
But he still wasn’t a collector. Mark obtained a copy of the soundtrack from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in 1978. “I recognized a few of those songs from my copy of The Beatles 1967-1970 and then one day, I figured out that ALL of the songs on that double soundtrack album were Beatles songs. I slowly got drawn in to not only the music of The Beatles, but all of this legend, lore, and pop culture that still surrounded them nearly a decade after they had broken up. I went to the library and checked out the Hunter Davies biography, The Beatles. I had been ‘sucked in’ at that point,” Mark says.
“When I turned 16 in May of 1979, I got a job at a grocery store making $2.90/hr. I started saving to buy a car but that was slightly delayed because I also started buying up all The Beatles albums I could find. So it was about this time that I first considered myself somewhat of a collector—not a ‘serious’ collector—but someone with a more than average interest in getting ALL of The Beatles music available,” he emphasizes.
“In early 1980, at the age of 16, I made my first ‘expensive’ Beatles purchase. It was a box set of all the stereo British albums called collectively, The Beatles Collection. I remember being crushed later in the year when my mother came into my bedroom to announce she had just heard on the news that John Lennon had been killed.”
The first time Mark ever paid what he considered an “exorbitant amount of money for a single record” was in 1986. It was an original first pressing of John and Yoko's Two Virgins LP. He paid $65 for it (even though the original price tag sticker on it said $1.98).
During the eighties, Mark started getting serious about “filling the cracks” in his Beatles collection. “By the nineties, I decided to complete my collection of all of the ‘post-Beatle’ Beatles stuff because the talent didn't just end in 1970, right? So I starting acquiring all of the John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr material. Getting ‘everything’ by Paul proved very difficult because so many things were limited releases.”
An inventory of Mark’s complete collection is available at mybeatlescollection.com. Currently, his holdings (including bootlegs and official recordings) include: 1036 CD titles, 623 vinyl, 209 video disk titles, and 11,561 individual tracks. Mark points outs, “These are just the latest numbers. I am constantly adding to the collection.”
Of course, any conversation about The Beatles eventually gets to the controversial “Butcher” cover LP (Yesterday…And Today). The cover features the group holding doll heads and raw meat. At the time, many considered this a Beatles protest against the Vietnam War.
Mark explains, “The Butcher covers (the first pressings of the Yesterday…And Today LP) are classified as first state (most valuable - alternate trunk cover was never pasted on to jacket), second state (alternate trunk cover is pasted over butcher cover, but under a bright light butcher cover is detectable underneath), or third state (trunk cover has been professionally removed from second state). I have four Butcher cover LPs.”
The Yesterday... And Today (Butcher Cover LPs) are among the more valuable and interesting pieces in his collection—but not the most valuable. Other examples of valuable pieces in Mark’s collection include Decca 45: My Bonnie/The Saints by Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers (aka The Beatles) (Decca 31382 stock copy), which is very rare and was worth $30,000 in 2013; and Vee Jay LP: Introducing The Beatles (mono “Ad Back” version), worth $8,000 in 2013.
When asked what other individual items would be of particular interest to Beatles fans or collectors, he replies, “The collection is not only vinyl but also includes lots of CDs, videos, USBs, cassettes, VHSes, Beatles Rockband stuff, posters, etc. I have all the bootlegged material that I am aware of and a few odds and ends. Of course, the vinyl is the most valuable of my holdings from a monetary standpoint.”
His Beatles collection is so extensive that Mark devotes an entire room in his North Carolina home to exhibit his items. So expert is Mark that he used to have a blog and do a radio podcast on a regular basis from 2007 to 2016. “I was more in touch with other collectors and fans then,” he says, “but these days the collection is mainly for my own enjoyment.”
You can check out Mark’s collection at mybeatlescollection.com.
“I didn't mean to collect over four bookcases of Sailor Moon, but here we are…”
By: Sarah Forde on February 09, 2017
I became a fan of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon when I was in high school. I managed to scrap together enough money to buy the comic books, and I used to record the TV episodes on VHS tapes.
After college, I started working full-time while selling my artwork online. From 2006-2012, I built the majority of my collection. It started with DVD box sets and dolls. I don't think I meant to end up with four and a half bookcases, but here we are and now I have over 600 licensed items!
The series is in revival with the 25th anniversary, a new animated series, and stage musicals in Japan. A few things in the collection I bought while I was in Japan in 2013, which was my greatest Sailor Moon experience! I got to meet up with other collectors and fans while doing a LOT of shopping! Most of these friends are people I've known online for years so it was really incredible to hang out with them and share our love of Sailor Moon.
In the last few years, there's been an avalanche of new merchandise coming out in the USA and Japan. It's been challenging to try to keep up with the new stuff while also keeping an eye on collecting the vintage merch. The prices for the older items have also skyrocketed! This means a lot of my wish list items are unaffordable for me right now, but I'm in it for the long run so I'm hopeful.
In 2014, I had a daughter, so I'm not as focused on merchandise news as I was in the past. Though I don't have as much time and money to dedicate to my hobby, I love waking up every day to my sparkling, shiny collection!
How my search for stamps led me to my wife
By: Dan Walker on December 01, 2014
It was back in 1979, and I was in Newark, NJ, for a show. Actually, it was my first time exhibiting—in this case, with my collection of Grenada postal history. I was probably a bit nervous about being a novice exhibitor, especially when I met Patricia Stilwell. She was a veteran postal history exhibitor, but we managed to hit it off well enough to start seeing each other.
The rest, as you might say, is history. Because that chance meeting led to a marriage that has lasted more than 30 years.
It was definitely a philatelic wedding. The wedding cake was decorated with Grenadian postmarks from my collection and Irish postmarks from Pat’s. And to send us off on the honeymoon, our wedding guests tossed used stamp hinges instead of rice!
Editor’s Note: Dan Walker is the former owner of Collectibles Insurance Services. His collections have covered British Borneo, Romania and the Civil War era US Revenue stamps. He is best known for his research and published work on the West Indian island of Grenada. A winner of the American Philatelic Society's Champion of Champions Award, he is now actively engaged in the collection and study of the Feudatory States of India, including multi-frame exhibits of Barwani and Soruth. In 2014, Dan was elected to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, an honor conferred on just 369 philatelists in the world since the Roll was established more than 90 years ago.