• Jonathan Sternfeld Harvey Mercheum
  • Jonathan Sternfeld Harvey Comics
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost Collectibles
  • Richie Rich Collectibles
  • Harvey Comics Collectibles
  • Richie Rich Vintage Vinyl Records
  • Vintage Richie Rich Collectibles
  • Jonathan Sternfeld Harvey Mercheum

Jonathan Sternfeld, Harvey Comics

Jonathan Sternfeld collects Harvey Comics merchandise. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, Jonathan explains how his fondness for Richie Rich comics led him to take a preservationist approach to collecting, and he shares the Holy Grail item that risked attracting the attention of law enforcement.

How do you describe your collection?

It’s an eclectic sampling of some of the merchandise that was made featuring Harvey Comics characters over the years.

I was primarily a Richie Rich fan and most of my collecting focuses around Richie in particular. It became more difficult to isolate him, as many of the products featured a lot of Harvey characters and I realized that there was nothing wrong with that so I expanded the collection. It is a slippery slope because Casper is very heavily merchandised — I can easily bankrupt myself just collecting Casper stuff and lose sight of Richie and the other characters.

Due to the nature of my website and my mission to try to keep people aware of Harvey Comics in general, I lean on someone I know who is a very serious Casper collector and I’ve been focusing on Richie and some of the other less popular or less remembered Harvey characters — Herman and Katnip, for example, Baby Huey and Little Audrey. Harvey Comics had quite a number of characters over the years and there was a little bit of merchandise produced for them so I’ve been trying to pick up some of that merchandise because, to my knowledge, no one else is collecting it.

I have a very broad variety of objects in the collection. The very first item was a model car similar to Hot Wheels but made by a rack toy company called Larami. They made four different cars featuring Richie Rich. The cars were the first things that I bought and they started me on rack toys in general. I now have quite a few from Larami and JA-RU. Harvey also did business with LJN and Dimensions for Children, and other companies. I have quite a few puzzles, including some from Warren Paper Products; board games; dolls, including a prototype of a doll for which I already have the actual production doll; Halloween costumes — you name it.

I have about 500 objects and 2,000 comic books. There’s something in the collection for everyone.

When and why did you start your collection?

I started with the comic books when I was a child.

In 1978, I got my first Richie Rich comic. I was at summer camp — I found a comic and took it home, read it, and liked it. I had read other comics before but they never really caught or held my interest, but I really liked Richie. I started going to the local 7-Eleven to see what was on the spinner rack and collecting new issues. That was at about the time when Richie was reaching his peak of popularity so there were quite a few issues to buy. That led to going to comic book stores and looking for back issues. I got pretty much the entire run of what was produced for Richie Rich.

I kind of lost interest in comic books for a while. I went to college, got married, set up an apartment, started a life, and eventually reclaimed my childhood comic collection and started trying to fill in some of the holes in it. At that point, the internet was a thing and eBay was also a thing, so instead of going to the local comic stores, I started to browse eBay. One day, I found that toy car I mentioned earlier. I bought it and continued looking for merchandise.

I reached a point where I had pretty much all the comic books so I turned my attention to the merchandise and that’s a very slippery slope. With comics, you know exactly how many books there are through price guides and whatever. There is no corresponding catalog for Harvey Comics merchandise — there’s no price guide, no listings.

I started buying whatever I could find and was participating at the time in a Yahoo group — this goes back to 2004 or later — and I asked the group if anyone else collected merchandise and shared what I had. I got a response from someone who had a pretty decent collection and posted a good list. That gave me direction, things to look for. He ended up getting out of the hobby, sold his collection, and I ended up buying a couple of pieces from him. That put an idea in my head.

My original thought was to publish some sort of price guide or coffee table book, putting together what’s out there and what it’s worth. Then I realized that I was finding stuff so often that by the time something like that went to print it would be obsolete and there would need to be a second edition, a third edition, and so on. That’s not the way to go. I am a computer programmer by trade, so I eventually decided to use my computer skills and set up a website instead and do the catalog virtually. I created a virtual museum, as I call it. It’s not just for me to show off my collection, I also solicit people to send me photos and information about the stuff that they have that I don’t. I put up guest exhibits alternating with stuff from my own personal collection. The website serves as a living dynamic catalog of what’s out there. It took about two years to develop. I finally published it in 2014.

How do you display and store your collection?

As far as displaying is concerned, I rotate it periodically to keep my interest in what’s there. It’s only recently that the collection has a permanent home. My wife and I decided to take the guest bedroom and turn it into my mancave. I’m still working on setting up the display in there. Previous to that we had a cabinet in our living room that we’d rotate the display through, not just my Harvey collection, but other collections that we have. We are both collectors of different things. We have a gem and mineral collection, travel stuff, Christmas ornaments, all kinds of things. The cabinet gets very heavy use.

In addition to that, I like to do public displays. I started in 2016 doing displays at my local public library. They have two big beautiful display cases that they let the public access. I’ve displayed parts of the collection at the library three times now and that’s been a lot of fun. I did something crazy post-COVID in 2022. After being cooped up for so long and away from the comic scene, I bought a vendor booth at TerrifiCon in Connecticut. I brought four new IKEA DETOLF shelves and set them up to display part of my collection. It was so much fun. I talked to at least 100 people and the reaction was very, very positive. People were thrilled and thanking me for what I was doing, sharing their memories, and whatnot. That was a good feeling.

The objects in the collection that aren’t on display are stored in bins. It’s not super archival, unfortunately. The comics are stored in mylar sleeves. The storage is temperature controlled and dry. They aren’t in the basement or attic.

I’m really old-school when it comes to tracking my collection. I started learning database programming way back in the days of dBase III, which went to dBase IV. Eventually, I ended up on Microsoft Access and I’m still using it. I wrote myself a database for my comic collection and when I started really seriously collecting the merchandise, I added a few tables and a few reports specifically for the merchandise.

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

I would have to say that the Holy Grail item that I own is a four-sided comic book spinner rack. It has pictures of  Richie Rich, Archie, Superman, and Spider Man at the top. The 7-Eleven that I visited had one of these racks. It’s very important to me not only because it depicts Richie, but because of the memories of my early days of collecting.

As for an item that I’m looking for — this is a funny story. In the early 2000s, Bally made a slot machine featuring Richie Rich. I considered it my Holy Grail for a very long time. One of them came up for sale last year, but when I got into the nuts and bolts of actually buying the thing, it turns out that I’m not legally allowed to own it. Slot machines have to be at least 30 years old in New York state before a private individual can own it. This machine was only 20 years old. The chances of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busting down my door because I’ve got an illegal slot machine are pretty slim. But, I don’t want to take that chance so I actually passed on the purchase. I’m not very thrilled about that — it’s definitely my Holy Grail item.

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

Stay focused — try not to get too distracted. Really stay true to what you’re interested in. I’m doing a very poor job of that myself! I’m really a Richie Rich collector but now I’m buying all these other characters. But, there’s a reason for it.

The other thing that’s absolutely critical is to maintain good documentation on everything you buy, no matter how cheap or how stupid. You never know what’s eventually going to be valuable so you really need to track who you bought it from, when you bought it, and how much you paid. I even get to the point of breaking it down to the the amount of the item, the amount of the sales tax, and the amount of the shipping. That information is only available when you make the transaction. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and you’ll never get it back.

See more of Jonathan’s collection and read more about the history of Harvey Comics at The Harvey Mercheum.

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