Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Comes Early in Woodland Hills

When you visit California, pop culture geeks tend to flock to two stores. Larry Edmund's Bookshop and Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. The former managing to keep afloat against  internet commerce by making themselves the premiere venue for West Coast autographs when celebrities have their latest autobiography published. But there is a third venue that isn't talked about as frequent and before you visit eBay this week, asking the vendor questions, shopping for the best prices and wondering if what you are buying off the internet is represented honestly in the item descriptions... consider Dan and Scott Schwartz at Baseball Cards - Movie Collectibles, Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. I had the privilege of visiting the store, and meeting with Schwartz, a Brooklyn-born native and owner, who offered to assist me with anything my heart desired.

A vintage advertisement of The Cisco Kid on radio and television? Check. Two Big Little Books of The Lone Ranger which I did not have in my collection? Check. Looking for Hopalong Cassidy merchandise? He has an entire glass case filled with Hoppy toys and puzzles and books. From Disney's Davy Crockett to Zorro, Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, press books, magazines... it is all here.

I searched his massive photograph collection to discover he had at least three thick files of photos (with press releases) from the Golden Age of Radio and it only took a few minutes to find a publicity photo of Rosemary Rice from The Adventures of Archie Andrews. If you need photographs for a magazine article, book or simply to use for mounting with a piece of Hollywood memorabilia, this is the place you want to contact. 

His phone number, before I forget, is 818-610-2273 and his e-mail is 

Sure, there was sports memorabilia and sports cards on display, but while I enjoy a good baseball game, I was really there to check out the merchandise.

One of the cool things about attending conventions such as the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is a room consisting of 200 vendor tables of merchandise ranging from celebrity autographs, movie posters, lobby cards, arcade cards, vintage toys and other collectibles. A brick and mortar store containing this kind of stuff is becoming obsolete and restricted to people's basements where they operate a business from their computer. So you can imagine my pleasure when everything I could ever want was hanging on the walls. The photo above shows an autographed photo of Loretta Young, a custom painting of Tom Mix and an original movie poster for a Roy Rogers movie.

There were a few surprises such as an autographed letter of Clara Bow, the silent screen actress, framed with two glossy photos of her on each side. Retail value is hard to determine because the cost of autographs is relative between seller and buyer. Asking price? $300. And I have never seen an authentic Clara Bow autograph before with my own eyes.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Harry Lauter's Silver Boot Award. I am sure there is a story behind this one. You don't come across these every day and they are considered among the most treasured a screen cowboy could ever receive. Sure, it was slightly damaged, but I would have bet dollars over donuts that this would have been something never found on display in a collectible store. 

Big Little Books (later renamed Better Little Books) are not easy to find in good condition. If the cover is torn off, the book is worthless. But a tight spine and covers less worn add value. Certain topics like Mickey Mouse and The Lone Ranger go for more money than you would pay for other Big Little Books. As they age, the paper becomes more brown in color so try to find ones without a brown age and you might have something of value.

Comics are also a highlight of collectibles and the more expensive issues were on display high above the ground. You needed a ladder to reach them. But expensive issues are not only an investment, but require theft protection as well -- hence the display above.

The photo above makes me long for the metal lunch box I had when I was a child, including the plastic thermos that kept my milk cool. Over the years, lunch boxes were made of plastic instead of metal. Metal rusts -- so finding lunch boxes without rust is a plus. And color fades from use and wear and the sunlight so the brighter the color, the more value the lunch box has. 

Displays of old magazines protected in plastic remind me of the conventions where these issues were very expensive. Now, if you shop around and have patience, you can get them for a few bucks a piece. But beware of who is featured on the cover... that causes the value to increase... even if there is no article about them inside the pages.

Old radios and PEZ dispensers next to each other? Never thought that would happen. 

These bookshelf albums contain lobby cards and glossy photographs. And this might be the source you want to check out. Next time you need a photograph for a magazine article, book, or simply to collect for the purpose of framing with your treasured item (remember the Clara Bow piece above?), give them a call. They know their stuff and they might surprise you!

From action figures, board games, Disney memorabilia and other cool retro pop culture collectibles... the kind of stuff you normally find in vendor rooms at conventions... this was the kind of store you expected to snap your fingers and find it magically disappear as if you lived a dream. In the 30 minutes I spent in the store, I purchased five items (three rare photographs and two Big Little Books) and I knew I had to leave quickly before I found other items I could not live without. If you have empty display cases, book shelves or simply a bare wall, consider a quick drive over to Woodland Hills and add some decor to your house. And if you don't live close enough to drive over there, remember this place and the next time you venture to the West Coast, give them a call in advance to make sure they haven't moved to a new location and stop by and browse. For those of you who cannot fly to California, the photos here should give you a guided tour of the place.