Welcome to Collectors Corner, a new ongoing series at SYFY WIRE highlighting the biggest and best collections of geek memorabilia accumulated by fans everywhere.
With this series, we aim to get to the heart of what drives a fan to keep collecting and collecting for years, not as a professional, but as someone with a sheer passion for all kinds of geeky things. We're hoping to keep this celebration of collecting and collectors going for as long as we can, so if you have a collection you think we should know about, check the bottom of the post to find out how you can show it off to us.
For our first installment, the collection of a Long Island resident and lifelong geek who's been seriously collecting for nearly three decades blew our minds. Affectionately dubbed the Geekfest, Glenn's collection spans several rooms in his home, and includes hundreds of autographs, posters, statues and much more. After Glenn's collection caught our eye on Twitter, we reached out to talk to him about the Geekfest, his favorite items, and just how far he's gone to get a particularly prized signature.
Check out tales from Glenn's adventures in collecting, and be sure to see the scope of his collection in the gallery below.
How long have you been collecting?
GLENN: The full-on bug for collecting started 27 years ago. I already had some stuff in my collection, some books, and D&D stuff, but the full-on questing for autographs, statues, figurines, books, and attainment of Geek Cred rose to stellar levels in 1991.
What was the spark that lit the collecting fire for you? Was it a particular item or a particular franchise?
I always read comics, played D&D, loved sci-fi movies. A friend, George, and I wanted to always meet actor James Doohan. Both of us were Star Trek fans and the character Scotty was our favorite. There happened to be a con in New York City and we went. For me that started it.
Is there a particular franchise you tend to prioritize over others when collecting?
It'd be Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, The Bruce Timm-produced animated series, Punisher, Judge Dredd, notable astronauts, and Alex Ross is just fantastic. Whatever I'd like to throw down here has a WOW! It stirs a feeling. Some stem from rules — see below — that I had to establish early on when the collection was growing.
When you're looking for a new piece, what does it take to make you say "I have to have that"? What qualities do you look for when you know it's going to cost a lot or take a lot of effort to obtain a piece?
"I want that!" The battle cry of the geek. Money is certainly a factor. I can't purchase an "X" dollar life-sized Iron Man as much as the payment plan is only that of a luxury car. I rationalize it by thinking about how much other stuff I could get for that. Another way I choose is my wife's opinion. She has great taste, and a few pieces are because she was like "Wow!" The Chewbacca that greets people coming into the Geekfest was her choice. Her words before I even laid eyes on it: "I really like this, but you have to talk the price down." Obviously I did.
Free is also good. I worked in New York City for a long time and you hit a few stage doors and some filming sets for many a free autograph. A lot of autographs from TV series that I like (Person of Interest, White Collar, CSI:NY, Blue Bloods, Mr. Robot), a lot of the cast from Netflix's Marvel shows, and Gotham are all from set visits. A lot of effort to obtain a piece is really dependent on the piece. Tom Hanks recently did a book signing in the city, my friend Bryan and I were the first people in line and waited over 26 hours. (We thought the lines would be around the block. IT WAS TOM HANKS!) Line wasn't around the block until around 7AM. Signing was at noon. (sigh)
Bryan will usually be willing to go for over 14-hour one-way drives with me to obtain one or two autographs to complete a set, but we try to make an adventure from that. The last drive we stopped at the Shawshank Prison and the cemetery from Night of the Living Dead on the way back.
Do you ever think about stopping the collection where it is, or does this feel like a lifelong endeavor?
Sometimes I wonder if I am done. I'm 27 years older. I don't recover from being awake for 30-48 hours well. I'm tired. Yet, there is always one more piece, a book signing, a con.
After the Tom Hanks wait — it was very cold overnight — you really debate: "Am I done? Am I sane?" I've gotten to a point where to obtain a $40 autograph is a huge expenditure; driving, tolls, con entry. There is maybe one guest at con I would need (not bashing the cons) out of 20, 30, maybe more. Should I spend the money? Also, when I get an autograph from someone and it's smaller than a push pin, big sigh, was that really worth it? (I won't say who. I went to watch another person's reaction to meeting that person and that was worth it.)
If I do a con, I now "blitz" a con if I can. Pay entry, get to the celeb I want and get out as fast as I can. My record is 23 minutes. If I'm at a con more than an hour I feel I did something wrong. Sometimes it's the convention's scheduling I'm fighting against. I can watch panels online. Dealers rooms tend to be the same thing over and over. I might take a quick walk through but I usually have so much prepared going in I know who, where, and what I need to do. I prepare with apps, maps, dealers lists, look for exclusives. I'd rather be home with a movie on. Two guests at a con for me at this point is debate for going.
Book signings I have a little more leeway. For a $25 book you get, say, Guillermo del Toro's autograph and a photo. Compared to a con where you need to pay "How much?" for an autograph then a photo.
There are the rules:
— If I can get it free, go for it.
— If it's a set I can start and complete in one shot. (Dependent on cost and theme.)
— No starting a rogue set, as tempting as it would be to get EVERY Jason Vorhees actor, nope. I like some horror, but it'd doesn't have a place down here.
One reason is piecing a set together is a pain. (The First Contact poster, signed by pretty much every primary cast member, took 20 years to complete.) The big concern now is wall space. Where to fit it all? I'll post sometimes on social media, "playing Tetris" because I am shifting something an inch to gain eight inches. Weird math I know but it works. I still have 200 autographed items stashed in binders. Hundreds of rolled up posters. Statues I think I have enough and they're very costly now. Hard to top the Sideshow Collectibles X-Men light-up set.
What's the most trouble you've ever gone to in order to get a particular piece for your collection?
Trouble? Cold is always a factor. But I think of driving through a tornado on the way to Indianapolis for a con to get a bunch of the actors from Aliens. Again, a crazy adventure with my friend Bryan. That was 26 hours of driving for three hours of con.
Knocking on the door of the house of Gene "Failure Is Not An Option" Kranz [the legendary NASA Flight Director] was probably the most "What in the f*** are you doing, Glenn?" moment. My daughter was with me and was worried if he was going to come to the door and shoot us! It was Texas. For the record, the absolute nicest guy ever! The 29-hour wait for Tom Hanks. Patience. I have none. Trouble is how long sometimes are you willing to wait. Battle crowds. Travel. Fighting autograph dealers for that one signature at a stage door.
If you have a crown jewel in your collection, what would it be and why?
Oh, boy. I get asked that a lot. I guess I'd say if it's wall-worthy. Space being a critical factor. If it's on the wall it has significance. The three large bus shelter size Star Trek posters are a focal point. Completing that First Contact poster was a biggie: 20 years.
When people visit I watch them gravitate to a certain favorite, or they say they like some show and I'll point something out. They love to talk about it. My wife says it's that little extra I do for some collections, i.e. I don't just have Charlie Cox from Daredevil, I have his stunt double Chris Brewster. My Guillermo del Toro book is also signed by Ron Perlman and Doug Jones. I have Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks and Kurt Russell and James Spader from Stargate TV and movie, plus Astronaut John Glenn and his wife, Annie. No one else asked her to sign. I asked and she was so surprised. I said, "Well, behind every great man..." and John Glenn said, "Yes, that's true." She thanked me, signed. I got a few extra seconds to talk to them because of it.
And the silliest thing I think is learning to knit so I could knit myself a Fourth Doctor scarf. Not 100% authentic to the screen, but you go knit 58,000 + stitches.
What's your Holy Grail of Collecting, that one piece you've always wanted but haven't been able to get your hands on yet?
Off the top of my head: Keanu Reeves! Christopher Eccleston, Dude, you're screwing up my living Doctor Who collection. I know my wife would love Matt Damon.
What does collecting mean to you from a personal standpoint? What feelings does it evoke?
I don't want anyone to say I'm bragging "My collection is better than yours." It's not. I've had a lot of failures. I also have a lot of experience doing this. In 27 years that is hundreds of book signings and cons. I'm sure somewhere there's some tabulated amount of the thousands of hours I have spent standing, waiting, etc.
There is a lot of work down here: Marathon drives through the night, long waits, near frostbite. Down here are the memories with my family. My Martin Landau autograph is my dad and I watching Mission: Impossible. Rutger Hauer's autograph is my mom's favorite movie Ladyhawke. (I love that she met him and they spent 20 minutes talking.) These are all my friends down here. My memories down here. Everything here can evoke a feeling or a memory.
The reason for the name of the Geekfest: I came up with the name after we debated Man-cave and that always evoked sports. Sports and me, nah, not happening. It's a celebration of being a Geek. I don't think anyone can feel bad here. I love people's reaction as they enter and they love looking at it all. Well, except one serviceman. He felt sorry for the person that had to dust.
I recently had some friends visiting showing their teenage child the Geekfest. We were discussing being called a geek or a nerd, and I said if anyone calls you a geek, you stand proud and say confidently, "Damn right I am !" This is that celebration of it!
Then there are the stories:
Meeting John Williams, Helen Mirren, Dave Mustaine, Gene Kranz, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My daughter meeting David Tennant is still one of the best memories I have.
The travel associated with attainment of Geek Cred. I've been in so many states because of vacations and cons. I've been to Canada and England. Every trip I look for something my family can recognize when they watch a movie and go "Oh, that’s…" I've stood on studio sets, and I have a "dead in a day tour of NYC." I bring you to visit sets from many superhero TV and movies filmed in NYC and other points of interest. In the last trip to London I stood in the same place Inigo kills Count Rugen in The Princess Bride. That is still my Twitter pic.
The hunt! Call it what it is, fair and simple. That adrenaline rush. Not specifically cons. This is a set visit, or post book promotion and the celebrity doesn't sign. The pursuit of Terry Gilliam for a few blocks in New York City was another one of those great stories. My pal Bryan tells the story better when we have a beer. It was one of his earliest times doing, for lack of a better term, a stalk.
Bringing a friend to an event and watching that friend light up meeting someone they thought they'd never meet. The person's reaction made up for the pushpin-sized initials. I help another friend of mine get autographs for her husband. I'm just more experienced going to cons and always offer. Usually I'm getting the same autographs. Love watching his reaction when he sees these.
Giving someone a book and they open the title page and it's signed. They're taken aback.
The last three years I've also been volunteering at cons trying to give my advice to newcomers about meeting celebs, what to do at cons, how to deal with the lines. I've stood on so many I volunteer for line control.
Would you like to be featured in a future installment of Fan Collectors? Follow SYFY WIRE on Twitter and wait for us to put out the call for submission!