Every collection tells a story. Here are just a few.

Welcome to Collectors Corner—a place we’ve set aside for collectors to tell their own unique stories about themselves and their collections. We’re constantly adding new content, so we encourage you to bookmark this page and return to it often. We also hope you’ll contribute your own special story.

This Appraiser/Collector is the Proud Owner of Over 60 Guitars

on June 15, 2020

When it comes to guitars, Rod Highsmith knows his stuff! This appraiser and collector is the proud owner of about 60 guitars. The collection is comprised mainly of electric and acoustic guitars from as far back as 1938 until about 1972. There are a few other instruments in the mix, including ukuleles, mandolins, and a few silkscreen guitars that were made during the 1930s. These silkscreen guitars were often souvenir guitars that were made during the depression (for example, one of them has a palm tree design and reads “Palm Beach”).
So how did he get his start as a collector? Rod started playing guitars in the 1960s, and he kept many of the ones that he owned. In 1980, his mother bought him a book about guitars, and it was around that time that he decided that he would like to start collecting. The following year, he started buying guitars to resell and add to his collection.
By 1981, he had around 40 guitars and was, “collecting heavily.” Guitars were much more affordable in the 1980s – they didn’t have a big value yet. They began to appreciate heavily until about 2005, when the value really went south. Only recently has their value begun to climb back up. Fortunately, this didn’t really affect Rod. “[Collecting is] fun for me! I don’t look at it as an investment.”
This doesn’t mean that his collection has no value. In fact, the crown jewel of his collection is a piece that was featured on the cover of Vintage Guitar magazine – it’s a 1952 telecaster that once belonged to Paul Burlison, one of the founders of what eventually became Rock & Roll. Purchased from Paul’s grandson, this piece is “priceless” to Rod and was at one point loaned to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and displayed for two years.
Also notable in his collection are three Gibson guitars made by a group of women known as the Kalamazoo Gals. During World War II, these were women who crocheted and did fine needlework who were recruited and trained to make guitars. “It was magic!” says Rod. The craftsmanship was “extraordinary” and most of these guitars are hugely collectible.
For Rod, one of his favorite aspects of collecting is actually the work he does as an appraiser. “I’m always trying to find pieces to appraise,” he shares. “There are a couple of old guitars that seem plain, but are valuable.” He likes to keep people from sending guitars to the pawn shop – where they likely won’t get the full value of the item. For an appraisal of your vintage guitar, you can find Rod at peaceguitars.net.

For Sports Memorabilia Collector, Life Consists of “Family, Work, and Sports”

on May 12, 2020

Rodney Hannah is the proud owner of a “massive” collection of sports memorabilia. This includes autographed baseballs, baseball cards, and autographed photos and jerseys. With sports being his only hobby, Rodney’s life consists of “family, work, and sports.”

“I started collecting baseball cards at age six,” he shares. “I can remember buying my first pack in 1973, and I just kind of got hooked.” A sports fanatic from his childhood, he collected cards until about 1989, and then he stopped for a while, mainly due the realization that everything was mass-produced. “Thankfully, I didn’t sell everything – I just put it away in boxes.” About ten years ago he caught the bug again, and now his collection has grown to include approximately 100,000 baseball cards, 400-450 baseballs, 30-40 jerseys, and around 50-100 signed photographs.

Rodney and his 13-year-old son love to attend NBA games and baseball games, where they get in-person autographs. Both father and son enjoy the hobby together. Rodney says that he knew from an early age that he loved collecting. “I never threw anything away – I saved ticket stubs to Cardinals games and any autographs I got.” His favorite item in his collection is a Mickey Mantle signed baseball, which he got autographed in person.

The most valuable piece is a poster autographed by Michael Jordan. This is a literacy poster that was posted in libraries in the late 1980s. “There are very few in existence,” says Rodney. “I’ve only seen 4 or 5 others that are signed and authenticated.” Other notable items in the collection include a jersey signed by Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, a Larry Bird autographed jersey, a baseball signed by Ted Williams, and a collection of Hall-of-Famer signed baseballs.

About 90% of Rodney’s collection is displayed at his home in a special room. The remaining 10% is displayed in his office. The cards are organized by year, and the Hall-of-Famer baseballs are grouped together, but everything else is displayed in no particular order. For insurance purposes, he photographs every new purchase that he makes. In fact, he has an entire Facebook page dedicated to his cards and memorabilia so that he can keep a record of everything.

Baseball Card and Video Game Enthusiast Views Collecting as an Investment

on April 21, 2020

Eric Naierman got his start collecting baseball cards in the early 90s. Like many collectors, he realized that the card companies were overproducing cards at the time, and this made most of the cards that he was collecting almost valueless. They still held a nostalgic value to him, but he stopped collecting after high school.

Around 2015, Eric opened his own dental practice and began making a living. It was around this time that he came across a CNN Money article about the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie card. “It’s his famous rookie card with him jumping in the air, dunking,” says Eric. “It became an iconic card.”

The article was discussing how the value of that card throughout the years had outpaced so many other common investments. Eric had never considered cards as an investment before, and this idea intrigued him. Rather than invest in typical stocks and bonds, he could make an investment in something that actually piqued his interest – something he would actually want to own.

He created a budget for himself, went on eBay, and found cards whose value fell within his range of affordability. He realized that his new investment had lots of utility – it was something he was excited to own, but it could also later be sold or passed on to his kids.

His bug for collecting was reawakened, and he began making regular purchases on eBay of cards that he always wanted during his childhood, along with others that he felt would also be good investments. He spent a few years learning the market and how it fluctuated as well as studying the best time to buy and sell certain cards. He admits that he made many mistakes at the beginning, and he has since learned from these mistakes and honed his skills as a collector. After getting a few years of collecting experience under his belt, it wasn’t long before he became interested in something new.

While making a purchase from Heritage Auctions, Eric was looking at the website and stumbled upon a picture of an unopened Super Mario 3 video game in its original factory seal. He was surprised and intrigued to find something he had loved so much as a kid being auctioned on this site. Now he had set his sights on a new collectible: factory-sealed video games.

The knowledge he had picked up from card collecting served him well in this new arena. The video games brought him even more nostalgia than the baseball cards, mainly because they were games he had grown up playing. He was especially intrigued by the fact that video games came with an original seal, indicating that the game is still in its original condition. This adds a level of intrigue not found with other collectibles such as cards, comics, and coins, which were never individually sealed. He realized that he got particular enjoyment as a collector from owning collectibles that had a huge impact in world and cultural history, still preserved in their original state.

The challenge? Sealed video games were quickly becoming a bigger investment than baseball cards. In fact, some of the games were selling for five figures or higher! His brother-in-law made a recommendation: why don’t you find others who are interested in joining you and purchase the video games together?

Eric took this advice and started asking around. He was taken aback by how many people were interested in getting involved. He put together a partnership and the group began purchasing the games together. Eric was able to gather over $1 million in capital to make these purchases, which was so notable that the New York Times mentioned him in their story about video game collectors. He named his partnership the Vintage Video Game Club.

Eric estimates that there are about 250 games in his collection at this point, with his most valuable games being a sticker-sealed Mario Arcade, followed by a factory-sealed Castlevania in its first print “hang tab” box. He has taken a particular interest in the very earliest prints of these games with their original factory seal still intact. Eric says, “When I realized the cultural significance of these original Nintendo games and their impact on the future of e-sports and gaming, as well as their remarkable rarity, I knew these were the games I wanted to have.”

You can follow Eric’s collecting journey and featured games from his collection on Instagram @vvgclub.

What's She Collecting? A Model Horse of Course!

on March 09, 2020

Every little girl has had the phase – the one where she loves horses and has her very own model horse collection. For some people, this is more than a phase – it’s a lifelong passion. Just ask Corina Roberts, who was surprised to discover that the majority of her fellow model horse collectors are over the age of 50.

“I have my older sister’s horses,” shares Corina, “I was pretty much a from-birth collector.” When she turned 18, she figured that she was now an adult who shouldn’t play with horses, so she put them away for a few years. She later realized that that, “Adults just play with more expensive toys,” and she was happy to start collecting again under the influence of her motorcycle-enthusiast husband.

Corina recalls that there was a specific moment when she realized that she was a collector. “I was standing in a feed store looking at some Breyer horses, and I was finally looking to see how well they were painted, how nice the markings were, how good the shading was – the things you look for when you’re showing a horse. And that was my ‘aha’ moment. I realized that I had a collector’s mindset.”

The first horse that Corina spent a significant amount of money on was a limited edition horse for $150. This horse is probably worth $700 or $800 now. Today, Corina will spend in the neighborhood of $200 on an unpainted resin horse that was cast by the artist. She then enjoys customizing the horse by painting it. Some of the most impressive horses in her collection are those made of artist resin – particularly those by artists Sue Sifton, Kitty Cantrell, and Maggy Jenner Bennett.

All of her horses are displayed on shelfs in a 10’ x 10’ bedroom. She tries to avoid storing anything in boxes, believing that if you have to store your collection in boxes, you have too many items! Her collection has an estimated 700 pieces in it – this includes an entire collection that was recently gifted to her by a friend.
One of the most interesting aspects of collecting model horses is the social factor. Corina, along with other collectors, enjoys participating in live model horse shows. Somewhere around 1970, people started photographing their model horses and a thing called “model horse photo showing” emerged. This evolved into the live shows that exist today.

Models in the Mountains is the show we host here [in California],” says Corina. “We are in the heart of the Angeles National Forest.” This show starts on a Friday with an art day and a model horse retreat so that people can relax, socialize, eat food, do artwork, hike, and have a pleasant day. On Saturday, the day of the show, there are up to 19 showers who may bring several hundred horses with them. The day is non-stop! “We are trying to promote the shows and build a sense of community,” says Corina. They also promote art, because, “There are talented equine artists [out there], and with the birth of the internet we’ve been able to connect across the world.”

Matchbook Holders – A Unique and Storied Collectible

on February 10, 2020

Andy Denes is a collector of a unique item called the matchbook holder. The matchbook holder is a 20th century version of a match safe (a small, portable box that holds loose stick matches). Rather than containing the loose matches in a box, a matchbook holder wraps around a familiar folding cardboard matchbook.
Andy discovered matchbook holders as a collateral collectible for a matchbook collection. An obscure but inexpensive item, Andy says they are, “Small enough so that I could assemble a large collection in a small space.”
The paper matchbook was invented in the 1890s, and in 1904, the matchbook holder was first patented as a container into which a matchbook could be inserted. After the 20 matches from the paper book were spent, you would toss the empty match cover away, but the holder would remain in your pocket, ready to cover up the ad on the next matchbook.
Matchbook holders became a sideline product for many companies that were manufacturing base metal, leather, and plastic advertising novelties. Silver, gold, and even platinum matchbook holders would be marketed by the likes of Tiffany, Gorham, and Cartier, often with matching cigarette cases. Reaching a high point between the world wars, matchbook holders continued to be manufactured in the 1950s, but their production has since decreased.
The U. S. produced the most matchbook holders, but there were thousands, from base metal to gold, made in England. Besides the United States and England, Andy’s collection also includes examples from Canada, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, South Africa, Germany, France, and Japan.
These matchbook holders are often tapered like a matchbook itself, but a different style of flat matchbook with balsa wood matchsticks was popular in Central Europe. Andy doesn’t collect matchbook holders for this style, but they exist, and they include styles made by Fabergé and other famous European craftsmen.
The collection has grown to over 3,000 matchbook holders, and Andy has had to restrict his acquisitions to only those produced in the United States. Says Andy, “I’ve accumulated quite a lot of information on the history of these obscure collectibles, and I keep telling myself that I will someday write a book. We'll see.”

Model Train Collection Represents a Load of Memories

on January 14, 2020

It was a Lionel train set around his parents' Christmas tree that sparked Bob Pettitt’s passion for trains at the young age of six or seven years old. Years later, Bob is a collector with a vast model train collection comprised of over 9,000 items and accessories – a collection worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $90,000.

The trains and accessories are displayed on three different train layouts. Bob’s 750-square foot, two-car garage is home to the first one. After running out of room in that first space, he expanded to include two more layouts in two separate buildings. The remainder of the collection is displayed on shelves that circle the perimeter of the rooms. These train layouts include a number of complete passenger train models, such as the City of Los Angeles, the City of San Francisco, the Southern Pacific Daylight, and the Santa Fe El Capitan.

“The whole collection is special to me because it represents my childhood and my memories.” This unique collection is full of accessories that hold a special nostalgia for Bob. His favorite piece is a scratch-built model of the Pomona, CA home where he grew up. He lived in that house from the age of four until age seventeen, and his father scratch-built this model many years ago.

Another piece that holds a special memory is a model of a Greyhound bus. This reminds Bob of a time in 1954, when at the age of seven he attended the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. Greyhound Bus Lines had just introduced a new bus called the Super Scenicruiser, a double decker bus made by General Motors Corp. They would take one of the cruisers out of regular service, bring it to the fair, and a marketing manager would sit in the front seat and tell people about the bus over the PA system.

Fascinated by the bus, Bob sat inside of it and eventually memorized the marketing director’s spiel. Before long, he asked the marketing director if he could be allowed to deliver the speech over the PA system just one time. “I must’ve done a half way decent job,” says Bob, because the marketing manager asked him to deliver the speech at the fair every day, all day long, for the remainder of its run. With his parents' permission, Bob accepted the offer and received free tickets to the fair in exchange for his work.

Besides buses and buildings, Bob’s accessories also include airplanes – another vehicle that holds a fascination for him. Bob recalls the unique opportunity he was given to fly in the cockpit of a Lockhead L 1011 on a flight from Portland to Mississippi. “That was one of the thrills of my life,” says Bob, “so I have a model of that plane flying over the layout.”

He also has a model of a United Airlines jet – commemorating a real-life crash in Portland where a plane unfortunately ran out of fuel and crashed just before arriving at the airport. His personal connection to this incident was that the City Manager of United Airlines came to a class he was teaching (as a professor and Business Division Chair at what is now Concordia University) and spoke about the crash.

Because all of the pieces are so closely connected to Bob’s own memories, his layouts and models are unique. He’s proud of the one-of-a-kind pieces that he owns. Just one more example of this? Besides collecting model trains, Bob is also part of running a small TV station, KRHP Channel 14. He is currently working on a model of the station. “I finally found something that I could use for the satellite dishes,” says Bob. “I don’t imagine there’s another person in the country with a model of those studios.”


Jukebox Heaven & Happy Days

on December 20, 2019

John Belott’s love of jukeboxes dates back to the year 1968—when he was just eight years old. He and his twin brother, Joseph, were born and raised in Telford, Pennsylvania. As far back as he can remember, his father would take them fishing on Saturdays. During those fishing trips, they would go to the bar and order burgers and French fries. While eating his cheeseburger, John would notice the jukebox standing in the corner of the bar. He would ask, “Daddy, can I have a quarter?” His father would reach into his pocket and give him some change to play music.

John was absolutely in awe of that jukebox. All the light, all the glass, and all the chrome—“it just dazzled me,” John shares. A quarter gave you three plays, and the song that he always selected was called, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. Says John, “Every time I would go into a diner or a bar, I would look for that song. That was the song that wanted me to want jukeboxes.”

John would tell his mother, “Someday, I’m going to have my own jukeboxes when I get older.” Today, he’s the proud owner of a 1952 Seeburg and a 1954 Seeburg. These two Seeburgs have been restored to grade one, which means they’ve been completely torn apart. Everything has been re-chromed, repainted, and refinished. The speakers have been reconed to sound brand new.

The crown jewel of his collection is a 1948 Wurlitzer 1100 that’s currently being restored. This is, John explains, “the holy grail of all jukeboxes. It’s the prettiest, in my opinion, of all jukeboxes ever made.” John plans to commemorate his late wife, Heather, by placing her wedding ring inside of this jukebox.

The restoration process for each jukebox is completed by a man in Roseville, Illinois named Robert Johnson. Robert has been doing professional restoration for around 25 years, and as John puts it, “He is the best in the business!” John met Robert in 2008 at the biggest jukebox show in the country, hosted at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.

At the time, John could barely contain his excitement about the show—he was in “jukebox heaven!” They had 1950s jukeboxes, slot machines, and pinball machines—“coin-op” machines. After stopping by Robert’s booth, John took his business card and ended up buying the 1952 Seeburg from him later that year. To explain why this particular jukebox is so special, John recalls the TV show Happy Days. “Arthur Fonzarelli would go into Arnold’s Hamburger Shop and take his fist and punch the jukebox and it would start playing.” The machine that was in Happy Days is the same model number that he bought from Robert Johnson.

When not in play, these jukeboxes are stored in custom covers that were handmade by a seamstress. Because of the great care that is put into restoring and protecting this collection, they look brand new—just like they did in the 1950s. Once a jukebox has been restored, it is even better than it was on the day it was built.

Besides his jukeboxes, John collects an assortment of 1950’s memorabilia, such as an ice cream scoop, a 1948 Seeburg large teardrop speaker, small diecast cars, records, and more. Of the decade he says, “Everything in the 1950s was fabulous! I often told my mom that I was born way too late. If I were born in the 50s, I would’ve had one heck of a time.”

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.