Marcus Jones, Nickelodeon Merchandise

Marcus Jones collects Nickelodeon merchandise. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Marcus talks about owning an irreplaceable piece of the brand’s history and the value of connecting with other Nickelodeon fans through his popular YouTube channel, Comfort Cartoons.

How do you describe your collection?

I usually describe it as me trying to achieve my ever-long childhood Christmas list. I’m a Nickelodeon collector. I like to collect the stuff from my childhood in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

SpongeBob is my favourite by far — it was everything to me as a kid. I used to watch it pretty much every day to the point where my sister would ask me how many times I’d watched the same episodes. Playing basketball as a kid, I’d skip down the court like SpongeBob. My mom would get so upset and ask me, “Why can’t you just run like a normal person?”

Some of the Nickelodeon items I had early on were lost, given away, or donated by my mom or even myself. I was just getting rid of it. As I grew older, I wished I had kept those things because they did mean so much to me. I’m trying to get some of those things back into my collection. I find it a lot of fun in it and I enjoy sharing this with other people because many others have similar memories and owned similar items. It’s cool that I’m able to have a YouTube channel and people can share the experience.

I’m working on a video where I try to use only SpongeBob products for an entire day, from my toothbrush down to what I eat for dinner. It’s very possible because anything that Nickelodeon could put a SpongeBob on, they did. I’m very happy they did! I have toys, a toaster, a popcorn maker, a television, a DVD player, a projector. You could do an entire computer set-up out of SpongeBob stuff with a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse.

I haven’t counted every single item I own, but I have over 1,000 Nickelodeon pieces in the collection.

When and why did you start your collection?

I’ve been collecting stuff since I was a little kid. I started to be able to afford different things as I got older, but when I didn’t have any money, I would collect rocks. I would just go out into the yard and find rocks. If I already had the same type of rock, I would leave it. If it was a kind that I didn’t have, I would bring it inside, clean it, and hoard them.

The first toy I collected was Buzz Lightyear. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I had only 3 of them but I knew I had to do something about that. I bought another from the internet and would ask my mom to go to thrift stores and pick up whatever Buzz Lightyears she could find. I would go around looking for them to bring back home. I was so proud of them. The first thing I would do with my friends — whether they cared about it or not — was show them my Buzz Lightyears. I did end up getting rid of all but one.

I didn’t realize at the time how much these things were going to mean to me. I went to high school and was more into my friends, girls, school, and whatever else was going on at that time.

It’s a weird phase your brain goes through when you’re trying so hard not to like something that you do. I got into YouTube and felt like that really gave me a new freedom in living life. I got out of high school and right into YouTube. I was really stuck trying to figure out what the world wanted me to do. Once I got success with YouTube, I realized there are other ways for me to expand on who I am and not just have to conform to something else. Collecting was something I always wanted to do — I just dove straight into it.

With the Nickelodeon collection, I started small but it became crazy.

Luckily, I had kept a bunch of Nickelodeon items from my childhood. Then they released the Nickelodeon Funko POPS! in May 2014 or 2015. I picked up some of those and just kept up with it. I would look for stuff to pick up whenever I travelled to a convention or a Con event. I’d include them in my videos and people loved it. People really enjoy the Nickelodeon stuff. I realized that a lot of my audience was around the same age as me and really connected with that stuff. It would happen even in my videos that had nothing to do with Nickelodeon but maybe there was a Nickelodeon plush doll in the background. People started calling me King Reptar before I even did any Nickelodeon content — I had so much stuff around in the videos.

I started including more Nickelodeon collectibles as I realized how much people liked them. It also made it easier to justify buying more stuff — I could get it and use it on my channel and I make money on that. It’s gratifying because I can share it with people. It sparks a memory and makes people smile. I would definitely say that YouTube is what has led me to collect so much stuff.

How do you display and store your collection?

I would say it is like an infection that started in one part of my house and grew to take over my entire house and every aspect of my life.

I try to keep it aesthetically pleasing and keep in mind the branding of my channel. It’s less about how much stuff I can fit into one space. I don’t want to overwhelm the background. Even though it’s behind the scene, I don’t want it to look on camera like I’m hoarding. I’ve always joked to my friends that the only difference between being a collector and a hoarder is a storage unit. If you have a storage unit and the stuff isn’t all in your house, then you’re not a hoarder.

The majority of my collection isn’t in the storage unit because I like to put the items in the videos because it’s fun for the audience to see. I like that people can watch the videos and it feels like home and is familiar because all the stuff is there from the videos they’ve previously watched. I try to keep it relatively the same but I do slowly change stuff out and things go into storage. My goal later in life is to be able to get a larger property so I can really expand the collection.

It’s such a task to catalogue the collection with everything I have going on. I used to have a spreadsheet with a couple of hundred items. I got behind on it. It’s just a daunting and terrifying task. I can buy 6 to 12 items during a single trip. If they’re older items from a flea market or thrift store then there can be a lot of research to do on them if I don’t already know about them. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes of the video production process that there really is just not a lot of time right now to catalogue everything. Maybe I’ll offload that to somebody else one day.

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

I’m really fortunate that I’ve been able to acquire the things that I really wanted.

The Holy Grail of my collection is a huge Nickelodeon sign that came from a store in New Jersey and was shipped to me from New Hampshire. It’s metal, about 10 feet long, and weighs about 200 pounds. Every time I see it, I’m in awe — I can’t believe that I own it. Buying it was a long process and shipping from New Hampshire to California was difficult. It was fulfilling to finally receive it.

The seller of the sign had it for about 11 years. He came across someone who was in charge of getting rid of 2 signs from former Nickelodeon stores. The guy had cut 1 sign in half and threw it away. The second sign was picked up by the guy I bought it from. It sat in a storage locker for over a decade. He tried to sell it locally but nobody picked it up. He put it online and I found it. I told him what I do on my channel and gave him the whole story. He was really cool about it. He worked with me on getting it to California. I was concerned about it because I want to preserve the sign, of course.

People have approached me with insane offers for that Nickelodeon sign. I would never take any offer. I couldn’t get this sign again.

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

I would say start local and don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money. Some of the craziest stuff I’ve added to my collection was found in thrift stores.

You have to be resourceful and look in places other people aren’t willing to look. There will always be collectors who have money and can afford to spend $500 on something. They can buy it right then and there — instant gratification. That doesn’t mean it isn’t out there somewhere for less money. You have to look for it under the right stone. I think what makes collecting fun for most people is the scrappiness in trying to figure out how to get something.

For me, my collection is very skewed on what I like but also what is palatable to my audience. Collecting is expensive. If I’m going to do it as part of my job, it has to be something other people can access. I don’t only think about my collection when buying something.

Having the YouTube channel and being able to work with my friends is a dream come true. It’s really awesome to be able to work with friends and feel so at home all the time. The channel has definitely helped me develop into a more confident and outspoken person.

You have to trust people on the internet. It was hard for me to go on YouTube because I’m an introvert and a little self-conscious. I was always worried about what other people would think, their opinions, and all that other stuff. You have to give the world an opportunity. If you put out content about what you love, the majority of people are going to attach to the fact that you have something in common with them. When you let people in, you give an opportunity for them to enjoy something too. In starting a YouTube channel and focusing on what I know, the positivity and love have followed.

See more of Marcus’ collection on his Comfort Cartoons YouTube channel.

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