How I (reluctantly) became a collectibles business entrepreneur

April 15, 2008

“The collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories” said German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892–1940).

Chances are, you had your first collection well before you were asked to bring something for kindergarten Show & Tell. Kids naturally sort similar objects, put rocks in their pockets and beg to own every toy in the series of their latest obsession. I’ve seen this mentality at work with my six-year-old, who will beg me to go to multiple McDonalds to find the toy she’s missing from her current set, and who barely starting playing with her first Webkinz before she started plotting which ones she wanted next.

In time, many of us learn to enjoy what we have and not obsess about accumulating more. The process of growing up diminishes the collecting drive, and in our teens we may switch our focus to saving for a car or college rather than spending what money we have on comic books or action figures. This is what happened to me.

But then there is the collector who is so in love with the amassing and cataloguing of objects that he will do whatever it takes to continue his obsession—convince one’s parents to foot the bill, get a second job to earn more money for acquisitions, or turn his hobby into a money-making business that will perpetuate the improvement of his collection. This is what happened to my husband.

I thought I married an ex-collector—someone who was, only for the sake of posterity and investment, holding on to the 20 long boxes of comic books, dozens of Star Wars playsets (with original boxes) and drawers full of Godzillas, Hot Wheels, Legos, Transformers, GI Joe figurines and other toys that he had meticulously saved with original parts and packaging. During the year we dated and were engaged, he told me he planned to put our future kids through college with his comic collection and retire off his vintage toy collection. Sounded great to me—all I had to do was let his parents keep these things in the rafters of their garage for 25-50 years and then cash in on the “childish” pursuits he had left behind.

We married and had nice careers—me with my own marketing writing business and him an art director specializing in logos and branding. The collectibles stayed in the closets and rafters and we went on with our life. Six years later, pregnant with our first child and watching the dot-com burst turn toward further economic demise after 9/11, I then watched my husband go through a very early mid-life crisis.

He lost his job. Design consulting opportunities were at an all-time low. He found himself shocked at the adjustment of parenthood. Perhaps as a coping mechanism, the comic book boxes came out of the closet.

There was sorting, cataloguing, price guide comparisons and a mess in our living room like I’d never seen. The dormant collector in my husband returned, and I had to adjust to this new side of the person I married. Once he discovered ebay and began selling, I encouraged it, thinking that getting rid of the collectibles would make more space for the baby. Six months went by, then almost a year without a steady job—and then there was the realization that this now was his steady job. He was a collectible comic book dealer. I couldn’t believe I’d married a comic book dealer.

It took me a few years, but I eventually came to appreciate the genre, to jump on board as marketer for his business Colossus Comics, and then years later to join forces with him in building Micurio, a free online community for sharing all types of collectibles. Realizing that I—someone who was admittedly adverse to risk and change—had married an entrepreneur was even more of a struggle for me than realizing I married a comic book dealer. But after a while I realized that the idea for Micurio was a good one, and that I might as well jump on board to help make it successful since Steve had already committed himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit.

In my first two months as director of marketing for Micurio, I am learning a lot about collectors, appreciating the history and posterity of the items people collect, and even starting to nourish my own collections of things I love—antique gesso frames, Russian nesting dolls, vintage Fiestaware, urban vinyl, and children’s books from the 50s and 60s—as well as learning more about collectibles I’m fascinated by like medieval manuscripts and coins.

I’m having a ball learning about collectors’ resources like Dr. Bron Lipkin’s collector-antiquities.com, the Scoop weekly newsletter, Heritage Auction Galleries, Dr. Laurie Slater’s Phisick.com, George Pantela’s graded comics site, Bruce Hershenson’s emovieposter.com, Andy Titcomb’s teapotsteapotsteapots blog and SO many other blogs and websites that promote various hobbies. Though Micurio is still in its early stage of development and participation, our goal is that it will bring together all types of collectors who want to use the Internet to enhance the enjoyment of their hobby—whether they want to simply Show & Tell, or also network with other collectors and Buy & Sell. I plan to use this blog to journal our path as a Silicon Valley start-up and to share about some of the interesting collections and collectors I’m encountering along the way.

I hope you’ll join us on Micurio, whether as a collector or curious onlooker!

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April 15, 2008

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