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"It's in the record books!"
The 60th Anniversary Guinness Record Book for 2015 hit stores on September 9th, 2014 and Bob Bretall was officially named the holder of the World Record for World's Largest Comic Collection (until someone breaks the record).
Buddy Saunders, owner of MyComicShop.com and comics retailer since 1961 (longer than I've been alive!) had this to say about my collection in his weekly newsletter that went out on 9/23/2014:
We buy "collections" larger than that quite often, but in reality, quantities that massive aren't real collections such as your collection. They are simply dealer's stock. Real collections larger than 20,000 comics are somewhat rare, and none we've seen to date come anywhere near your Guinness world record collection of 94,268 comic books.
I must say that I've felt this to be the case but to hear it said by someone who has been buying and selling comics for 50+ years is very validating! As Buddy well knows (and lots of other people who make a living buying & selling comics) I can EASILY be beat by anyone who is a comic dealer (or has been one at some point in the past) and has acquired large quantities of books in bulk by buying up collections, keeping portions of those bulk buys for their personal collection. That allows access to vast amounts of comics for pennies on the dollar.
My main "claim to fame" is having acquired my collection one-by-one as a fan who has never been a dealer and gets them all for his own personal reading enjoyment.
So What Counts as a comic for the record?
The definition of “Comic” for purposes of this record needs to have panel-to-panel continuity/storytelling. By the official Guinness definition:
A comic book is a book / magazine made up of narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog.
So a big hardcover reprint of Terry & the Pirates comic strips counts as 1 comic, it fits the definition above. But things like OHOTMU, Who’s Who in the DCU, Wizard Magazine, Comics Buyer’s Guide, various sketchbooks & pinup books, etc. all don’t count since they are either text pieces in association with static images, articles about comics, or just pin-up images that don’t tell any particular story.
I have 1000s of things that got filtered out of my final count because of this. I wanted to make sure I was not counting something as a comic that didn't fit the definition. I was able to easily filter these out of my total count by adding a custom field in ComicBase that we populated with “non-comic” for anything that does not meet the Guinness definition of a comic. Then I filtered those "non-comics" out of my final count.
And.....NO DUPLICATES! 250 copies of Uncanny Avengers #1 counts a "1" for the Guinness record.
Pop Cult Online Power Hour 9/10/2014
"2015 Guinness World Record"
Rick & Bob talk about Bob's World Record for Largest Comic Collection and answer a lot of the questions he's been seeing on the internet.
Many more pics of my comics room are here.
...and remember, this photo was staged to show off my collection,
I don't really keep my comics in piles all over the floor!
What was the first comic book that started your collection?
Amazing Spider-Man #88 by Stan Lee (writer) and John Romita, Sr. (artist). I have not missed a month of buying comics since then (around July 1970).
What is the most expensive and valuable comic book you own?
Sorry. I do not like to emphasize the monetary aspects of collecting comics. Too many stories about comics collecting focus on how much money everything is worth instead of the great stories and characters. I do not do it for the money and I don’t try to rationalize it as an investment and I’m not into it to make money, I have a regular job that pays the bills just fine. I’m never going to sell any of my comics, I’ll leave that to my kids when it becomes their inheritance to do with as they will (though I hope they’ll keep at least a few of them as a remembrance).
What is your favorite comic book and one you could never part with?
I’m never parting with any of them, but my favorite is the one that started it all, Amazing Spider-Man #88. It’s actually a replacement copy, since I really thrashed the original copy I had when I was 8, reading it hundreds of times and cutting out the Spider-Man pictures. The copy I have now has been in my collection since the early 1980s and I’ve had it autographed by both Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.
Is there a particular comic book that you really want to own but don’t currently?
Amazing Fantasy #15, the 1st appearance of Spider-Man. I have every other appearance of Spider-Man except this one. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive at this point, I wish I had bought a copy 25 years ago. I have plenty of reprint versions of this issue, but having an original would be nice.
UPDATE: Since this was originally written, I have acquired Amazing Fantasy #15, so my new grail is Marvel's 1st super-hero comic: Fantastic Four #1.
Who is your favorite comic book character?
My favorite comic character of ALL TIME would have to be Spider-Man. Since he is the character who got me into collecting I have some loyalty to the character.
I would like to emphasize that there are a LOT of things besides super-hero comics out there. Only about 25% of the current comics I read are super-hero comics.
My favorite comic right now is Saga (from Image comics) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. My current favorite Publisher is Image Comics, I get about 40 comics a month published by Image. My top favorite comics change all the time.
And your worst?
I don't think there are bad characters, only poorly executed stories. Any character can be great given the right creative team.
What is your favorite comic book film adaptation?
(Since I originally did this interview, Avengers has been replaced by Captain America: Civil War)
Where do you keep your comic book collection?
The bulk is in my garage. I have racks that hold all the comic boxes. I do keep some of it up in my comic book room.
How do you keep track of your collection?
I use the ComicBase database software and have been for many years. While there are lots of different collection programs out there, I find that this one works best for my collection and at this point I wouldn’t want to re-enter all those comics in another program!
As I read comics, I put them in a long box. When that long box is filled it is alphabetized and entered into the database where we note which box any given comic is in. This makes it fairly easy to find any comic in my collection using the database. I use the software when we were verifying my collection for Guinness. There were a lot of random books in my collection called out to verify that I really had all the comics I say I have. “Show me Amazing Spider-Man #50″. I’d go to the box it was supposed to be in, riffle through the books to the proper location in alphabetic order, and there it was!
Are you still collecting? When will you ever stop?
Yes, I currently buy 100+ new comics every month and also collect a variable number of back issues every month.
In addition to my comics I have hundreds of comics-related statues on display in my comic room. I have over 300 Marvel comic busts from Bowen Designs and 100s of other assorted busts and statues from other manufacturers. I have 500+ action figures that are no longer on display and are in boxes in my garage. In addition to that I have numerous pages of original comic art, sketches, and other related items/toys. You can see a lot of this stuff in the pictures here.
What do your friends and family think to your collection?
My family is quite supportive of my hobby. My wife & I have been married for 30 years and she knew I was a comic book reader/collector from the time we started dating. She does not read comics, but helps me organize my collection. She actually enters all the comics into my comic book database each month after I have read them! That is love!
My two sons have grown up with comics their whole lives. My older son reads about 30 titles per month from what I buy and is a big fan of web-comics. My younger son is more of a manga/anime fan than of traditional American comics.
The majority of my friends are also comic book readers/collectors, so they’re generally just in awe of my collection.
I try to share my love for comics through this website which is a “not for profit” hobby of mine. I know a lot about comics, collecting, and the comics industry and I try to share as much information as I can with others.
How does it feel to make it into the Guinness World Records book?
It is AWESOME to be in the Guinness World Records book. Getting this record is the most extraordinary thing that has happened to me in my collecting career so far.
Some people say, when hearing about a record like this, "I have more comics than that" -OR- “I know a guy who knows a guy who has WAY more comics than that”. My response is that records are made to be broken, and those people with more comics should be applying to Guinness to break my record!
Remember, you cannot count duplicate comics!!
I sent in a set of answers to a variety of questions Guinness posed to me, but I have not seen the full transcript of this anywhere else, so I thought I'd share it here
To start, I tried to make it clear to Guinness that I try to distinguish myself as a private collector, since there are people who own comic book businesses and are actively buying/selling comics who have far more comics than my 101,822 comics.
A comic dealer has inventory, which in my opinion is NOT a collection. My comics are not an asset of a store/business and I have actually read ~95% of them. I also bought them as individual comics, not as bulk buys of “I will buy 100 long boxes of comics for pennies a comic” like many people who are in the business of comics do to build up their back-stock. Some dealers may have a personal collection on the side from their inventory that is made up of comics they cherry-pick out of those bulk purchases. A very different way to acquire the books than going out and getting them one by one.
It is also useful to note that my record number of comics are all unique/different comics and the record does not count/include duplicates. When a store claims to have 1 million comics you can bet that there are a tremendous number of duplicate issues in that total and that total will continually go up & down as they sell inventory and then buy up comics to replenish that inventory. My number goes in only one direction. UP!
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 54 and currently live in Mission Viejo, CA (about 60 miles south of Los Angeles). I was born in LA and have lived my entire life in Southern California, though I have traveled to, and bought comics in, Mexico, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, and China.
What is your occupation?
I am a consultant working in the computer science field. I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Computer Science.
When did your fascination with comic books – and collecting memorabilia – start?
8 years old. I had read the occasional comic book before I was 8, but it was at that age that I discovered my passion for comics and started collecting them every month.
I'm the first person to hold this particular record with Guinness. It is featured on page 172 of the 2015 book, if you're looking.
I subsequently updated the record on Aug 1, 2015, for inclusion in the 2016 book shown above, on page 52-53. My official total count of unique comics is now 101,822, though I have well over 103,000 at this point.
The story was featured by various media outlets around the web and I've gotten a bit of attention.
From the Guinness Press Release:
Since the age of 8, Californian, Bob Bretall amassed 94,268 unique comic books as of May 1, 2014. Bretall’s collection weighs an estimated 8.3 tons – as much as 118 adult men! The 52-year old has said he will never sell any of his comics, and will “leave that to [his] kids when it becomes their inheritance to do with as they will” — though he hopes they will keep at least a few in remembrance!
Once the record was made public I saw a lot of questions on the internet (on Facebook and forums) that were not covered in the Guinness interview, so I collected up answers to some of the more popular questions/comments here.
Look at how he treats his comics, they’re all over the floor (referring to the picture in the Guinness Press release shown on this page)
Well, obviously I don’t keep my comics all over the floor! That was staged for visual impact when the Guinness folks were at my house. It took a while to get them all put back away after the Guinness folks left. Also, my room is not painted the super-hero blue you see in the press release photo, that was added via photoshop for visual “pop”.
How do you find time to read 100+ comics every month?
It’s actually not very hard at all. That breaks down to about 25-30 comics a week, which is 4 or 5 a day. I read at least 2 or 3 every day (I write comic reviews on the ComicSpectrum review Blog so need to keep up on stuff). I also catch up on comics reading on the weekends. It’s easy for me to read 20+ on a Saturday.
Look at it this way, I can read 30 comics (what I read in a week) in less time that it takes to watch 2 football games. Nobody every asks a sports fan how in the world they can manage to find the time to watch a couple of football games each weekend! I’m not knocking people who watch sports. If that is enjoyable to you it’s a great use of your time. Reading comics is enjoyable to me & I use the time I don’t spend watching football to read my massive pile of comics.
But 100+ books a month, how do you keep all those storylines straight in your head?
Good question! The main thing that helps here is that I try to read a lot of variety. I found that when I was reading a lot more super-hero books that the stories all started blending together in my head. That’s not to say they are all the same, Charles Soule’s She Hulk is very different from Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and that helps me keep them straight. So, in addition to trying to read super-hero books that each have a very different “voice” to the storytelling, I read many genres of indie books. Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT, Brian Wood’s The Massive, Ed Brubaker’s The Fade Out. Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, and more. These are all so different that I have no trouble at all keeping them straight in my head.
Do you collect trades?
Of course. I have almost all of the Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives, Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library and Russ Cochran’s Complete EC Library ans 100s of others. I prefer hardcovers nowadays.
How/where do you spend all that money on comics?
First, I get a pretty good deal on my new comics from Discount Comic Book Service. I’ve been with them for 9 years and they’ve been great to me. I also visit a local shop in Orange County, CA – Comics Toons N’ Toys – pretty much every week. They have a fabulous selection of new comics, they carry pretty much everything that comes out and offer a discount off cover price on every new comic sold! I talk about a lot of the places to buy back issues (that I buy every month) on this website.
Second, I have been collecting for 44 years, this collection didn’t appear overnight. When my kids were little and money was tight I was absolutely not buying 140 comics per month. I cut back to probably 20 or so titles for a number of years. Providing for my family has always come first. But now, with one son out of college & in the workforce and the other nearing college graduation, I have the luxury of being able to buy more comics. I don’t spend money on a lot of other stuff, this is what I enjoy.
Is your collection insured?
Absolutely! With Collectibles Insurance Services.
Do you buy bags & boards every week?
I buy them by the 1000 about every 3 months (It’s a bit cheaper that way) . You can check out my blog with more info on bags/boards/boxes here.
Collecting is for fun not a competition!
I agree. I stumbled into this record when I realized that Guinness World Records had not yet created a category for largest comics collection. I didn’t set out to have this big a collection when I was 8.
I did all the necessary work documenting and verifying my collection and am the 1st person to hold this particular record with Guinness. I fully expect someone to surpass me, but do the work, don’t just shout out on internet message boards that “I have more comics than that guy”…