Describe your collection.
I have tens of thousands of Superman collectibles. It’s hard to convey just how much I have. About 1000 pieces are on display throughout my house and the other items are in storage. I often joke that I have the world’s largest collection of Rubbermaid Totes.
The oldest items in my collection go back to the 1930s and pre-date the introduction of Superman in 1938. I own the freshman yearbook of Superman writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They met at school and worked on the school’s newspaper together.
I used to buy new items every week. I don’t do that as much anymore because I already have a substantial collection. Now, I just buy what I like. My two children, Kal-El (Superman’s birth name) and Lex (named after Lex Luthor), often joined me at shows and events. It was nice to share it with them but they’ve moved on to other interests.
When and why did you start collecting?
I started collecting when I was four years old. It began with comic books, in part because my dad was into comics. It’s a familiar story among collectors: his mother threw out all his comics and toys at one point so he started to re-buy the toys that he loved most. In my case, it was my dad who got me interested in superheroes. Superman is the leader, in my opinion. As I got older, I would go to comic book, toy, and train shows. That stuff is all on eBay now but shows were the places to go at one point.
How do you display and store your collection?
It’s all over the house. I have the higher-end art pieces and statues displayed in the living room. Down the hallways, I have framed pieces. I also have what my kids refer to as the Superman Room, where I have 1930s and 40s framed newspaper clippings, vintage toys, and toy prototypes. There are two full-sized Superman arcade games from 1988 in that room. Both are 100% original and still work. Only 100 of the games were ever produced, so I jumped at the chance to acquire them when they became available. There are cookie jars in the kitchen. The collection really is all over the house.
What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Superman collectibles?
I don’t own a 1938 Action Comics #1, where Superman was introduced. I also don’t have $5 million dollars to spend on it. It would also be nice to own the costume that George Reeves wore in the 1951 Superman film. But I’d be worried about my house burning down or someone breaking in to steal it. I do own some cool pieces, though. I have the original 1938 newspaper announcement of Superman’s upcoming newspaper debut. I own a proof sheet from a book that was released about the creation of Superman. It’s a one-of-a-kind item because I tracked down living family members of Siegel and Shuster to ask them to sign it. They shared their memories and stories. I also got to view their collections. Not many people can say that.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a similar collection?
You can’t collect everything because there is just way too much out there. You gotta pick a focus, otherwise it’s overwhelming.
You’re active in Cleveland’s celebration of Superman. Tell us about that.
Jerry Siegel was born in Cleveland. I live near Cleveland and am involved with a non-profit in the area that works to promote and preserve the history of Superman and his creators. We sponsor events and raised money to restore Siegel’s childhood home, where he dreamed up the idea of Superman. I even have the window he would look out of from his bedroom as he envisioned a superhero flying through the air. We also successfully petitioned the city to name streets after Jerry Siegel, Joel Shuster, and Lois Lane. There’s a Superman statue in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport because of the non-profit. We’re currently working on a plan to erect a 20-foot Superman statue downtown. I’m also a Make-A-Wish wish granter. In 2010/2011, I was in the ICU for four months. I was sick for a couple of years before recovering. It was hard to think of children going through the same thing. When I got better and my surgeries were done, I joined Make-A-Wish.
What resources do you use to acquire knowledge about your collectibles and connect with other collectors?
You can always go online nowadays; if it’s out there, someone has already posted about it or knows the details. There are very few old-school collectors left. I’m in contact with a couple of people with large collections. Old price guides and books that I saved from my childhood are good resources. Social media groups, fan clubs, and conventions are also good places for information.
Visit Jamie’s online store to look for items to add your Superman collection.
Uncover objects of play through the eyes of collectors.e