Chaz George, Batman

Chaz George collects Batman comics, toys, and memorabilia. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Chaz explains his obsession with Batman and shares details of his expansive collection, including one item that had been forgotten in an attic for forty years.

How do you describe your collection?

In one word: Batman.

I have equally focused my collection on the Batman comics and the toys. It’s a perfect balance because it’s rare to find someone that highly regards both the comics and the toys. Usually, you’ll find Batman collectors who focus on one or the other. And then when they do, they have another sort of area — another pocket — where they strictly focus on certain era of either the toys or the comics.

I have thousands of items, but I’ve never actually counted them. I’ve come to understand that it really isn’t a matter of quantity, but more quality. Quality over quantity – especially with a subject as massive as Batman. There’s been a flood of merchandise made since 1939. There’s just so much to hunt down, it tends to make collectors focus on a small area – or maybe a large area – to tackle because being a Batman completist is an extremely tall order. Between licensed merchandise, bootleg toys, and foreign items, it’s a never-ending effort and you must have a spacious house for everything. I gave up on trying to have the most stuff over 20 years ago to refocus on just collecting the things that I cannot live without. That’s a broad spectrum of items – comics, toys, clothing, food- and bath-related products.

I’m most heavily into the comics and then the toys. With comics, the value keeps increasing each year and it’s a solid investment. Toys are a very different market. They are kind of all over the place and unpredictable. Toys can surprise you. It’s really a matter of who’s willing to pay a certain dollar amount for a toy. There have been some really impressive sales of Batman toys from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. The real money is in the comics from the ’30s and ’40s from DC Comics. These are the issues that everyone hunts. They include the first appearance of the Batmobile, Joker, Catwoman, or any of the villains.

When and why did you start your collection?

From the time I was a kid, I always felt like Batman was with me.

I remember being in a store when I was really young – it may have been a Halloween costume store – with my brother who is two years older than me. A lady who worked in the store asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be Batman,” I said. `My brother said that I couldn’t be Batman. The lady just smiled – she didn’t say that I couldn’t be Batman.

I think that’s one of the attractions that many Batman collectors have. It seems like every guy wants to be Bruce Wayne. He’s wealthy and has cool vehicles and weaponry and everything else. He has the best family, yet he’s a loner. He’s synonymous with the night. It’s a perfect character – just beyond cool.

I lived in the Ben Cooper Batman costume when I was a kid. That was my year-round outfit. When it came to Halloween costumes, there were endless variations. They changed it every year, including the box. I documented the variants on my YouTube channel but I’ve found even more since then.

I may not be the biggest Batman collector as far as quantity or the grade quality of my comics, but I’m the biggest Batman fan that ever lived, hands-down. I prove it over and over again. For example, I have two daughters who are in their 20s. Their legal names are HarleyQuinn (spelt as one name) and Bat Girl.

How do you display and store your collection?

I store the comics in the dark and like to keep the environment cold, which is recommended for storing comics. The best way to preserve comics is to keep them away from artificial and natural light. It can be different with the toys. Where you have clear plastic bubbles for the action figure packaging, you can’t keep them in the cold because the plastic bubbles can discolour. It’s a pleasure to know that I own the objects even if I can’t see them all the time.

I keep things very orderly. I like to keep related objects together and dust-free – and no fingerprints.

I have built a large comic wall in my house – it’s pretty spectacular. As long as the comic wall is, I still don’t get the chance to display as many as I’d like. There are so many great covers and so many Key editions. I don’t own all the Keys but I do own a really nice chunk of them. They can drive you to the poorhouse because they are so in demand.

Timing matters in collecting if you’re not wealthy. I see comics that sold for two or three thousand dollars 20 years ago now commanding fifty-thousand dollars and more. When you see the recent sales at Heritage Auctions, ComicConnect, and eBay, it’s mind-blowing.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?

I obsessed about the Holy Grails for many years and felt wasn’t going to be able to live if I didn’t acquire them. That’s how important Batman is to me and I’ve sacrificed a lot to get these items.

The Holy Grails in the comic world are Batman’s very first appearance in Detective Comics #27 from 1939, and Batman #1 from Key Publications. In 2021, sales of the highest-graded unrestored copy of Batman #1 soared to $2.2 million dollars. Condition matters but here’s the thing: people are going to buy these comics and the prices are going to continue to increase in any condition.

I do have these two editions: Detective Comics #27 and Batman #1. It was a long-time goal to own these. I acquired them when they were more affordable. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself and it would feel like a weak collection if I didn’t have them.

People want a piece of history and they’ll take whatever they can get – even if it’s just a page. Batman #1 is so valuable that someone piecemealed each page of probably what was an incomplete edition and has been selling individual pages on eBay – and the prices are soaring. The reason is that people can maybe afford a few thousand dollars for a page as opposed to fifty-thousand dollars for a low-grade, coverless, incomplete copy. They want to be able to say they have the first appearance of Joker and Catwoman and Batman’s first title run. Single pages have been selling for upwards of eight-thousand dollars.

Interest is growing. I’ve been collecting for so long that I remember a time when people thought I was an alien, that I was nuts. I was teased for buying toys back in the 1980s. They said I was too old for toys or should be more concerned about girls or getting my driver’s license or a car. A car was just going to take away from what I was going to spend on Batman. I want to put my money in this because it will increase in value. Today, it’s really common and people from all different backgrounds spending their money on this fandom – a fantasy character.

No offense to the actors who have played Batman, but Batman isn’t Adam West, or Ben Affleck, or Robert Pattinson. That is all good stuff but Batman will never be done right on a screen. He will never be done justice as he is in the comics. He really does live in the comics and as depicted in these toys. Carmine Infantino drew him. Bob Kane drew him. Neal Adams drew him. But he’s never been done right. I think we’re constantly chasing this fantasy of the real Batman and that’s what keeps me going.

I was also deeply obsessed with the toy Holy Grails. For the toys, it was the 1966 Batman Utility Belt playset from Ideal Toy Company. The prices realized for that item over the years are impressive. I have acquired more than 21 sets. Three of them are in original boxes. I also have the prototype test-shot in the mock-up box. I document the sets in a series of videos on my YouTube channel.

The other Holy Grail that is even more difficult to get is the 1966 Batman and Justice League of America playset, also from Ideal Toy Company. It’s in mint condition with all original parts – no replacements from other sets. It was forgotten in an attic for 40 years, covered in a blanket – so it got no exposure to sunlight or dust. It was so well preserved that the rubber band used on the back of the plane launcher still has its elasticity. Unbelievable. It came from someone who specializes in estate sales. There are probably fewer than three playsets in existence in this condition.

The Holy Grail toys go into the 1970s. That’s the era of toys I grew up with, my own Golden Age. My collection started with the eight-inch figures from Mego, purchased at a long-gone store called Lionel Kiddie City. Some collectors will shun the 1970s-era toys if they grew up with the 1960s Adam West Batman, but there were some great toys made in the 1970s. Ideal Toy Company led the way with the early Batman craze and they did a phenomenal job of making memorable toys.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Batman collection?

I guess it all depends on what’s in your heart — what made an impression on you and what was your Golden Age of Batman?

A collector’s Golden Age may have been twenty years ago, so they would look at figures made by DC Direct as focal points of a collection. I became obsessed with certain 1960s Batman toys even though I wasn’t born in the 1960s. I’m very lucky to have acquired all the pre-Robin Detective Comics. Batman was a solo crimefighter. It all started with Detective Comics #26: it was the very first time Batman’s name was ever in print: “The Batman! This new thrilling adventure strip starts in the May issue of Detective Comics! Don’t miss it!”

The pre-Robin Detective Comics editions from #27 to #37 are what some collectors call the “pre-Robin texts”. Batman was a little darker, he didn’t smile, he was mean, and sometimes he killed people. These editions are very expensive, but they’ll keep increasing in value. They never fail to impress. The single-digit Batman Key Publications comics — #1 through #9 – are really important and have some of my favourite covers.

I collect what I like. Before, I collected without any rules and unconditionally held on to anything. With Batman being so gigantic, it can overtake your house and before you know it things are piling up on the floor. It begins to look like a warehouse, and I didn’t want that. Being a dad, I needed the house to function as a house with living space. I didn’t want to worry about having too much stuff. I’m glad I shifted my focus and got my collection down to a few thousand items.

I feel like I’ve been studying Batman memorabilia for a long, long time – since before the internet. I have a scrapbook I started building in the 1980s. It contains clippings from publications such as Toy Shop, Action Figure Digest, Toy Collector and others. It includes old sales flyers and auction ads. You can see the age and patina of the items. The scrapbook is gigantic – it weighs over 27 pounds and is thicker than three phone books – and held together with glue and tape. My education did not come from the internet. The scrapbook is a wealth of history.

See more of Chaz’s collection on the Chaz George Batman Hotline YouTube channel.

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