World’s Largest Private Comics Collection (for now)

In November 2012 a thread on the Eleven O’Clock Comics forum brought this to my attention:
http://worldrecordacademy.com/collections/biggest_comic_book_collection_Brett_Chilman_sets_world_record_112356.html

A guy from Australia with a 68,000 comic book collection, denoted as the “World’s Largest” by the Australia-based World Record Academy.

My 1st thought was, “Gee, I have a LOT more comics than that guy.”

My 2nd thought was “I’ve never heard of the World Record Academy, I wonder what the Guinness World Record is?”

Well, it turns out that there currently is not currently a Guinness World Record on file in this category, though they do have records for things like “Largest Collection of X-Men Memorabilia”, most expensive comic, etc.

I submitted an application in December 2012 for my record attempt and I heard back from the Guinness people in March 2013 that my application had been accepted along with a lot of things I would need to do to provide the proper evidence to support my claim.  It’s a good thing that they don’t just take people at their word!   I can put the evidence together, I have the books & I have a database with all my comics recorded.

I was clear to detail that my record attempt is for largest privately owned collection to filter out people like Chuck Rozanski (MileHigh Comics & the Buddy Saunders (LoneStar Comics).   Someone who has a million comics that are mostly being bought/sold/held for sale is different from someone actively buying/reading/collecting comics just because they love comics.  Collections held by people who are in the business of buying/selling comics are constantly in flux & may also contain many duplicate copies of the same issue.   My collection is where comics go to live out the rest of their lives safe & sound in a nice longbox.  Once I get my hands on them they are in my collection for good.

Guinness conditions:

  • This record is for the greatest number of different comic books in a private, personal collection.
  • This record is to be attempted by an individual.
  • This record is measured by the number of comic books in the collection that meet our criteria.
  • A comic book is a book / magazine made up of narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog.

OK, I can only count different comics, not duplicates of the same issue.  That works to my advantage over someone running a store/business.   But I had to do some data cleansing on my database.  After dumping the data out & doing some processing, I discovered I had accumulated 1800 extra comics over the years.  Titles with a qty of 2 or 3 where I legitimately, for whatever reason, just had more than one copy of the same book.  Back in the 1980s I’d often buy multiple copies of a comic under the delusion that I’d get rich one day selling the extras.  I was young.  The one thing I was able to tell is that pretty universally if I had multiple copies of it, it was essentially worthless.  No pile of Hulk #181 or X-Men #94.   I did have 4 copies of Dazzler #1, though.  Ultimately, I’m going to cull those out & get rid of them, this will give me ~8 long boxes of extra storage space.

I also found some data entry errors. In one case, as an example, there was a book in box #225. Instead of 1 qty in box 225, we must have not hit a tab & the qty field is 1225. There were a few others where something in box 206 has a qty of 206 instead of 1, with the box # in the quantity field.   So all that had to be cleaned up, and now has been.

What about the part of the definition that a comic is “narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes”?   By my reading of this, I can’t count things like pin-up books (those Marvel/Image “Swimsuit Specials” and the like).  No narrative storytelling there.  I also removed stuff from my count like the DC “Who’s Who” and Marvel “Handbook” comics.  These are static images accompanied by text describing characters & such.  Again, no narrative storytelling.  We added a field to the database and populated it with “non-comic” for any book that didn’t meet the Guinness definition, that was I could easily filter those out for the purposes of my Guinness count.  All this knocked me back from 90,000+ to ~86,000.  I’ve been buying up lots of cheap comics on my want list for the past month, plus I got some nice donations from people on the ComicBookPage forum.  This has helped me make up a bit of ground before the official count on May 18, 2012, which brings us to another requirement:

  • The assessment of the collection must take place in a public place or in a venue open to public inspection.

I’m having a comics viewing/inspection party, open to anyone who wants to come over and have a look at the collection:

When: Saturday, May 18, 2013 – 12pm – 5pm
Where: Mission Viejo, CA
RSVP: Send me an e-mail: bob@comicspectrum.com for more details.

Please only tell me you’re coming if you’re sure you will attend.  I’ll be having pizza/drinks & would like to have an accurate count to know how much to buy.

One thing is for certain: having a decent way to store them is a key to being able to have a collection this size.

I’ll also need some signed witness statements authenticating my claim based on an inspection of the collection & my supporting evidence.  Anyone who comes is welcome to help me by filling out a witness statement.

  • One of the signed statements of authentication must come from a relevant established and recognized society specializing in collections of the type submitted.

Since there’s not really a society like this, I got the OK from Guinness that this could be the owner of my favorite Local Comic Shop Comics Toons’n’Toys in Tustin, CA.  Matt has been buying/selling comics for ~20 years, knows the business, and has a great shop to boot.   Any other comics “industry experts” would be welcome!!!

I’ll add in another a windfall….in late March one of my son’s close friends got asked by his grandmother if he wanted a lot of his grandfather ‘s old comics.  He & my son went over and grabbed the collection:

IMG_5804

No treasure trove of golden age stuff or really valuable stuff.  I believe a family member had gotten to the collection and grabbed everything worth any decent amount of cash years ago, or else the Grandfather himself had sold off the stuff that was valuable.  I started sorting through the collection in earnest & was truly amazed at how thorough the job of cherry picking was on this collection. Any sought after #1 or 2 or #100/200/etc was gone.  I also noticed that I’d be sorting through a run that was very complete, but every now and again a random issue would be missing (maybe #43 or something). A quick look at my Overstreet Price Guide showed that was the issue with a value of $10 or more.

So, what had been left in Grandma’s house was not a treasure trove of Gold/Silver Marvel books, in fact I already had about 95% of what was in the collection.  Hey, what kind of “World’s Largest Collection” would I have if some guys smallish collection gave me a lot of stuff that I didn’t have?  That said, I did score a bunch of Gold Key books from series like Twilight Zone & Ripley’s Believe It Or Not plus some DC War & Mystery titles I had not collected in the past.  I ended up getting ~200 books that I needed to fill in gaps.

I sorted through all the rest of the collection and picked out what I thought would be salable on eBay by the family, but I still had a bunch of long boxes left over of really good comics.  That is good in terms of fun to read, not in terms of monetary value.   80s Indie stuff from First & Comico, Marvel/DC stuff like Thor, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Jonah Hex, Warlord, Sgt Rock, and more. Nice stuff, story & art-wise, though the comics themselves are mostly in the VG & F condition due to how they were stored (not bagged/boarded & stored in regular cardboard boxes).   I’ll be giving lots of these comics away to people who come by on May 18th.  I have this stuff, but most other people do not. Depending on how many people show up, I’m thinking most people can walk away with 10-40 comics, ranging in “book value” from 50 cents to $2 or $3 each, and definitely some good reading….

One of my son’s friends graduated with a Radio/TV/Film degree last year and he’s going to be making a short documentary film about my collection & the record attempt. We’ll have some footage on my other collectible stuff in there as well (Original art, statues, etc.).  We’ll also have footage from May 18th & interviews with people in attendance.  I’m sending a copy of this as video documentation to Guinness as part of the evidence packet & we’ll get it up on the web-site/YouTube too!

To anyone out there with more comics: Records are made to be broken……  With the paperwork to do and evidence to be gathered/documented, at least I have a 4-6 month head start on anyone else wanting to do this.  Plus, I’ll still be the 1st with a Guinness record in this category.

Wish me luck!   I hope my claim is accepted by Guinness when I send the documentation package in!!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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