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Batmania runs rapid overseas

Author Robert Covarrubias

The Collection of Ed Kelly

Batmania runs rapid overseas

Many of us Collectors dream of one day owning that Super Collection that is Museum-like in quality, size, value and appearance but not many reach that stature of Collector greatness. Well, Ed Kelly from Warrington , England has, having collected Batman memorabilia for over 30 years.

ed kellyEd has built an impressive array with one-of-a-kind toys from Japan , England and the U.S. Although he was eleven when the TV series first hit the airwaves back in 1966, he had actually discovered Batman some 3 or 4 years earlier. The first DC comic to enjoy national distribution in England was, in fact, Batman #1 in 1940. Ed eventually started attending 'swap meets' in the late 70s - where only trains, tinplate items and die-cast toys graced the dealers tables, while Batman and other TV toys were relegated to the 'cheap' boxes under the tables. Today, he tries to balance a full time career and family with an undiminished interest in acquiring more rarities for his Batman collection by attending a number of shows each year in England, Europe and the US and relying on a network of dealers and contacts to alert him of that special piece that comes along. Before we get to meet the man lets find out a little history about what he collects.

Batman is synonymous with many names, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the Masked Avenger-whatever name he goes by, Bruce Wayne's alter ego is world renowned as the most mysterious and complex crime fighter in the super hero world. With an array of vehicles and Bat gadgets at his fingertips it's no wonder that Batman is the envy of all Superheroes.

Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939, in a six-page story called "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate." In the 1930's the first actor to break in the tights in a serial as Batman was Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft as Robin. In 1949 Wilson was later replaced by Robert Lowery. The campy television series Batman first aired on January 12, 1966 , starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Batman made his next appearance on television as a member of the animated "Super Friends" series in the 1970's.

In 1986, a new Batman series called "The Dark Knight Returns" aired. Set in the future, the story depicts an older Bruce Wayne and a Batman who had become a "God of Vengeance". In September 1992 Warner Bros. Animation was reinventing Batman in new cartoons created for television with its premiere of Batman: The Animated Series. The TV series evolved over the years, making more use of the Boy Wonder and eventually changing its name to The Adventures of Batman & Robin. The show went on hiatus after eighty-five episodes, while its creative team went to work on Superman cartoons, but Batman came back with a bang in 1997 when the WB network introduced The New Batman/Superman Adventures. The new hour-long show devoted half its time to each hero. Batman made his first movie debut in the 1989 movie "Batman" starring Michael Keaton, which fueled renewed popularity. By year 2000, Batman had provided Warner Brothers with four top grossing feature films: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin as well as several ongoing children's animation series, namely "The New Batman/Superman Adventures" and "Batman Beyond" on Kids Warner Brothers and "Batman" on The Cartoon Network.

Batman also continued to star in DC comics throughout the years. Along with Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman is the only other character in continuous publication since 1940. Batman has gained popularity across the world and has appeared in almost every country in print, television, film and every form of merchandising known. Some say Batman is one of the seven fictional characters known globally, along with Superman, Mickey Mouse, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Tarzan, and Sherlock Holmes 
toy batmobile

Here is an excerpt from Ed Kelly's website: 
"The fateful day so far as toys and other memorabilia was concerned occurred in 1978. I was in a friend's house, a fellow Batman comic collector, and we were reminiscing about the toys we'd had (or wished we'd had!) as kids. The talk got around to Aurora model kits (remember those great ads in the monster mags and on the back covers of the comic books?) and my friend said he still had some un-built ones up in his loft. After we had got them down and done the nostalgic bit we made our minds up to get some more and off we toddled to our local model shop. Although it seems strange now, when we asked if he had any, the owner said he still had quite a number of these kits sitting in his stockroom. He got them down and we bought all the ones we wanted (I got about 30 that day including 4 of the Batman related ones) and left the rest - although they were less than $3 or $4 each! You have to remember that very few people collected these 'newer' toys in those days and anyway I had already spent pretty much a whole month's salary." 
For more visit his website at

more batman toysWhen we discovered his website our immediate thought was to get him on Eternal Collector and begin a Heavy Hitters section. His Collection should be an inspiration to anyone in the Collecting community. We contacted Mr. Kelly who was gracious enough to provide us with this interview.

Eternal Collector: Let's define Batman, how is he different from other superheroes?
Ed Kelly: I know a lot of fans say they are attracted to Batman because he is a 'normal' man with no super powers. I never even considered that when I started collecting. To be honest I just liked the hero and the stories – and the toy packaging art was just so cool....It's getting rather clichéd now, but Batman is just a regular guy (if you can call what he does regular). His only powers are his great wealth (left to him by his father), his extraordinary physical prowess (when does he ever sleep?) and his cutting deductive ability.

EC: With all the different versions of Batman in the Comics, T.V. and Movies which is your favorite and why?
EK: Without doubt the 50s and early 60s incarnation. Storylines were crude but oh, so much fun, and the simple bright 4-colour artwork just leapt off the pages at you. The TV series was great fun too and I did like the first movie. However, the later movies were pretty disappointing. I'd like to see them make an 'adult' movie where Batman is as scary as he is supposed to be and there is a really tense plot. However, I guess that would not be as commercial.

EC: Did you know of any other collectors when you began Collecting?
EK: No. As far as I knew I was the only person in the world who had an interest in collecting this stuff. I didn't even consider 'overseas' collectors. Certainly, when I started attending toy shows and comic book conventions I was the only person buying these toys. Dealers got to know me and kept stuff under the table for me to look at. They did not display the stuff on their booths because they knew no one else would buy it.

corner of room

EC: Do you Collect anything else besides Batman?
EK: Originally yes. I started buying all space and superhero items but very soon decided to focus just on Batman. He was my favourite.

boxesEC: Does anyone else in your family Collect anything?
EK: I have a younger brother who lives in Sweden . He has an astounding TV related die-cast collection. You know - Corgi and Dinky toys. He also has a small, but pretty impressive collection of Batman items himself.

EC: So, how many rooms have you dedicated towards your collection?
EK: As I got older and financially more successful I had a purpose built room added to the family home. It is huge and lined with wall to wall glass cabinets. It tends to stay out of the rest of the house although I do keep a few choice bits on display in my office.

EC: How does your wife feel about this collection does she support it or see it as a crazy collection?
EK: She just lets me get on with it and has no real interest. She did attend a few shows back in the early days but gave up on that quite quickly. She does appreciate it an aesthetic sort of way though and realizes its value.

EC: Have you ever had a lucky find?
EK: Far too many to mention. Remember, I was going into toy stockrooms in the 70s and 80s when no-one (not even I) realized the value of some of this stuff. I wish I'd had more hindsight. You won't believe the number of now valuable items I left behind. However, I did do pretty well so I really cannot complain.

EC: How many Batman related items do you own today, Ed?
EK: I would really struggle to put a figure on it. Literally thousands of items. There is very little known stuff from the 60s and 70s that I still need. When the 1989 movie came out I did what someone should have done in 1966. I advertised in several countries and bought just about everything that was available. Trouble is that I don't like that stuff nearly as much as the vintage items and keep all of it packed in boxes in a warehouse.

room pic

EC: With the size of your collection you could charge admission, do you ever have the general public see it? And if so what is the usual reaction of people?
EK: I've never been one to keep it just for my own viewing pleasure. Over the years many people have come to see it. Many collectors I know – not just Batman ones - come and visit when in this country and literally hundreds of kids. One local school even had a 'field trip' to come and take a look. Much more fun than the natural history museum! I especially love the reaction of the kids. They don't see the collection as a collection, they just see it as it was designed to be seen. One asked me once if I worked for Santa!

kids in batmobileEC: I see that you have children, I'm sure that they are in awe of this massive collection. Did you ever have an incident where you found any of them opening up a rare box and playing with the contents?
EK: My kids are great. They grew up knowing of 'the room' and learned very quickly that nothing could be touched. Besides that, just about everything is behind glass so I've never had a problem. I do have a 6 foot Batmobile carnival car from the 60s that I restored and all the kids love sitting in that.

EC: Is your collection insured?
EK: I actually work for an insurance company so insuring the collection was not a problem.

EC: How long do you plan on collecting and what will happen to it when you are gone?
EK: I really have not put an 'end' date on it although it is very difficult now to add anything. My kids do not have the same interest in this stuff that I do so it is unlikely they would perpetuate the collection after I am gone. I have no idea what would happen to it then. I guess there would be some pretty interesting auctions.

EC: What is your rarest toy?
EK: Hard to say. A lot of the early English stuff was made in far smaller runs that US toys and I have several where I have the only known remaining example. Many collectors, if asked, I would put the Ideal Utility Belt and Batman Playset up there but I have had access to several of those over the years.

EC: What is your Favorite toy?
EK: Again hard to say. I must admit I do have a fondness for the Japanese tinplate items like the robots and Batmobiles. I tend to also like the 'big box' stuff like the Remco Batmobile Dashboard and the shooting galleries.

EC: Is there a Holy Grail out there for you? In other words is there something that has not been added to your collection that you have been seeking or can't afford?
EK: I won one of my top wants on eBay a couple of years back only to be gazumped after the auction by an unscrupulous collector. That was the 15" tinplate Batman racing car in its box. However, my holy grail would have to be the Tudor Rose Batmobile. Two size variations were made in 1969 but the entire stock was lost to a warehouse fire. The only ones to get out were 600 salesman's samples that left the warehouse a week before the fire. I've spoken at length to the marketing people at the company at that time but none has ever surfaced.

EC: How do you display your collection? Is there a technique to it or do you just pile boxes and items on top of one another?
EK: Most of my stuff is in glass cabinets. I do pile stuff up but try to ensure everything is at least partially displayed.

Half the fun of experiencing Petra is just climbing through the harsh, stunning landscape and stumbling upon tombs and ancient dwellings at random. The sheer abundance of these sites can't be overstated. After three full days exploring Petra I feel like I've seen just a fraction of its offerings. And excavations are constantly turning up new finds.

EC: It seems like you attain everything that was ever made of Batman. Where do you find your toys and memorabilia? Do you attend any conventions?
EK: For the last few years it has become impossible to find any high end stuff at shows and conventions – although I do still attend a few. Most of the top stuff usually filters through a chain of dealers and middlemen and gets offered directly to interested parties. That's a big shame really. It was a lot of fun 'finding' stuff at toyshows.

EC: Have you ever had any offers for your collection? And would you ever sell it?
EK: Lots of offers for individual items but none that I've considered for even a moment or accepted. I guess if I was made an offer on the whole thing as a museum quality collection I would consider it – but the buyer would have to be extremely wealthy!

EC: Did you buy every item you own or were any of them gifts?
EK: Pretty much everything was bought or traded although I have received a few smaller items as gifts from fellow collectors. It would be hard for a non-interested party to readily find anything to give as a gift.

EC: Are you the type of collector that purchases two of everything of just one?
EK: I haven't gone out consciously to buy two of everything. Over the years, however, as I have upgraded items I have ended up with several 'doubles' which I use to trade or eventually sell on.

EC: Any advice for new collectors who hope to follow in your footsteps?
EK: Simply I would say buy what you like, not what you think will appreciate in value.

EC: Thanks for the interview, Ed.

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