Robot 6

At 90,000 comics, his collection is probably bigger than yours

bertail-collection

As a kid, I kept a studious accounting of just how many comic books I owned, thinking a.) they’d eventually be worth a small fortune — never mind that among them were tattered flea-market finds and coverless prizes from the school carnival — and b.) I could one day boast the largest collection in … some geographic area. If not the state, then certainly the county. But as my hoard never moved much beyond 1,000 comics, I had to be content with the biggest collection in my house.

It’s a much different story for 51-year-old Bob Bretall, whom some in the British media have decided has the world’s largest collection of comic books. However, Bretall, whose name may be familiar from ComicSpectrum, says he has one of the largest collections, amassed over four decades.

Of course, we’re talking about more than 90,000 unique comics — most of them contained within 319 longboxes — so that may be splitting hairs. And Bretall is still amassing books, to the tune of 115 a month, so the collection continues to grow. The Daily Mail places the collection’s weight at 8.5 (presumably long) tons, which is more than an adult African el ephant. Or, if you prefer, nearly five fully grown hippos.

“I have them racked so they don’t need to be moved around much,” Bretall says. “If I need to get a comic I go to my database, see what box the comic is in, go to that box in the storage rack and pull a single box to get the comic I want.”

You can watch a video profile of Bretall below, and check out photos of his collection at the Daily Mail.

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Comments

35 Comments

My 15,000 comic collection suddenly seems small.

This guy is my hero

I never understood the dick measuring contest that is “HOW BIG IS YOUR COLLECTION?”. I have a decent sized collection, but what makes it special is that I love pretty much every comic I own. Never understood the completest mentality.

Yes, but which ones? Are they any good? LOL

Leon,

stop giving your love to guys in tights

Im a completist, i blame my OCD but others could say that i like to read a whole story, the good and the bad.. like after issue 50 of walking dead.

Jake Earlewine

August 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

It’s great to know there are folks with more comics than me. Makes me feel a wee bit less insane about my comic book crack addiction. Like him, I have more great stuff to read than I will ever fit into a lifetime. But I’m trying!

Bob, if you are reading this, what is your all time favorite comic character and what is your all time favorite story?

I checked out his website and I don’t get the impression that he’s doing this as “dick-measuring” just that it would be a neat idea (applied for Guinness World Record, I believe). Very cool, Bob!

He was the long time co-host of the Comic Book Page podcast, doing weekly comics reviews. Always very knowledgeable and has a great love of the medium.

nWoJeffDW and Jake Earlewine,

His insane collection made me, a sizable collector, feel normal.

Dammit. I’ve only amassed 40k. But I only started 25 years ago. And quit mid-90s when fiascos such as Spider-Clone sagas and Heroes Reborn drove me away from the hobby.

You’re the man now, Bob! :D

Quality over quantity.

Thomas Karlsson

August 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Sorry to disappoint you guys. But I can tell you its not the biggest collection. I have to be exact 122.000 comics in my collection, mainly European. But all the same in quantity its bigger. But there are guys in Europe who have up to 200.000-300.000 so this guy is peanuts :-)

I finally pulled the trigger on my collection. I just didnt have the spacee anymore and all those long boxes were just preventing me from setting up my room the way i wanted it. To display my nicer CGC books. So i pulled the band aid off and got rid of about 30 long boxes with about 10 more slated to be moved in a month or so.

But they are all X-Men # 1′s from the 90′s…LOL

Form one collector to another, who is nowhere NEAR that number, I salute you, sir.

I was up to 25 long boxes and am currently tring to get rid of 20 or so. Being in the military it’s just to much weight and space to have them all. Trying to sell them really cheap and still not getting much in the way of bites. It’s very frustrating.

I’m with you Arrow. I’ve had mine in a storage locker for the last year after a move and I’ve finally concluded that the rent is more costly than simply rebuying some favourites digitally…never mind any silly-minded dreams of profit my subconcious has of making from my late 80s/90s overprinted gems. That’s all gone in a years worth of storage rent too. Time to declutter and go digital if I ever miss a run or two.

This summer I will reduce the collection to 5-8 boxes max and most likely give away the rest. At least…that’s what I keep telling myself. :)

The lack of organization would drive me insane.

Does he **read** 115 comics a month?

Batman style sound effects? Really? LOL

And I thought that I had a lot of comics at 27,000.

My collection is around 80,000 comics. It would be higher if I hadn’t partially broken the completist habit and thinned out a few series like Sgt. Fury, Hulk and Thor that I wasn’t very interested in anymore, keeping only the storylines and runs that I liked from those series.

I also got rid of quite a few 80s/early 90s independents during one purge a decade or so ago.

In answer to Wil – I can’t speak for Bob, but I know that I read all of the 100+ comics that I get every month plus all of the back issues that I buy. I fall behind at times, but catch up during vacations or when I have a bit of spare time.

Have two closets full of shelfed comics,more on shelfs in room,Small at 20,000 or so.Was a reader for six to nine years before beginning to collect,and purged at least 50 1969-1980 books.Between 73 to 80.Bet that dude is single or divorced,few like him are married.

Bob decided to submit his collection for consideration as the largest collection when he learned about someone in Australia claiming he had the largest collection. Bob realized his collection was easily larger, so he decided to submit his collection to Guinness. Before learning about the Australian guy he hadn’t really given much thought to how many comics he had. He’s even cut back his monthly comics to include only those books he actually enjoys reading, so he’s not just hoarding for the sake of hoarding.

He’s happily married, and he frequently invites people he doesn’t really know over to his home to view his collection.

@Arrow41: i know what your saying. I turned in 30 long boxes worth of comics,around 700, to a website for store credit and the offer was $877 dollars. It was kind of shocking. I knew that the majority of comics from the 80′s and 90′s have little value but it was kind of shocking. I ended up getting my LCS to take the lot for only slightly more in credit. Goes to show you that unless its key SA issues or long runs of older books your collection isnt worth squat…monetarily speaking of course :)

Good for him and all the other super-collectors out there! It helps me sleep easy knowing that there’s probably physical copy of a super-obscure comic floating around somewhere. Sorta like mini-Library of Alexandrias in storage boxes and for picture books.

But does he have the one where Superman dies? I have like ten copies of that one. Anyone know how much it’s worth?

Seriously though, since moving to the Bay Area (California) I’ve had the majority of my collection in a storage locker as well. I’d be happy to liquidate it for store credit, but like everyone else I expect I would only get a very small amount out of it. It’s not a money thing, but it’s emotionally difficult to get rid of a collection I started when I was a kid in the 70′s for like 800 bucks, which is likely less than I’ve spent on new comics this year alone.

“I finally pulled the trigger on my collection. ”

“It was kind of shocking. I knew that the majority of comics from the 80′s and 90′s have little value but it was kind of shocking. Goes to show you that unless its key SA issues or long runs of older books your collection isnt worth squat…monetarily speaking of course ”

“I’ve had mine in a storage locker for the last year after a move and I’ve finally concluded that the rent is more costly than simply rebuying some favourites digitally…never mind any silly-minded dreams of profit my subconcious has of making from my late 80s/90s overprinted gems. That’s all gone in a years worth of storage rent too. Time to declutter and go digital if I ever miss a run or two.”

These 3 quotes from above posters sum up my personal comic experiences of the last 3 years.

Great job keep it up!

Hi there, Bob Bretall here, I’ll try to address some of the comments above, but first to Kevin Melrose, could you please correct the spelling of my name in your article. You have it as Bretail (with an i) in several places, it is Bretall, ending with 2 L’s. Thanks!

Leon De: I agree with you. But, why do you assume I don’t love my comics? I buy comics I like, when I stop liking them I stop buying them. I have a little bit of the completist/collector in me, but the vast majority of my comics are things I have bought over 43 years of reading/loving comics.

Trey, My all-time favorite character is still Spider-Man, he got me into comics collecting. That said, it’s no longer my favorite comic since Spider-Man is no longer being published (it’s Doc Ock in that Spider-suit nowadays). My all-time favorite story? That’s a tough one, kind of like asking for a favorite movie to which I’d say “What genre?” Truly great comics stories I have read include Kingdom Come, Strangers in Paradise, Cerebus – High Society / Church&State, the original Chaykin issues of American Flagg, Watchmen, Preacher, Transmetropolitan…..I could go on.

Butters911 – I’d argue that without TRYING a lot of stuff you are missing out on a lot of quality. No two people have the exact same taste so you need to try various stuff out for yourself. Quality over quantity is kind of a vacuous comment, isn’t it? You are assuming I have a lot of lousy comics. Sure, I have some bad stuff, but I have a tremendous amount of GREAT stuff that I’d not have found had I not been reading trying out a lot of different comics. Most people can name what they consider to be really great comics, I likely have most of them in my collection.

Thomas Karlsson: I am not disappointed at all. I always claim to have ONE OF the largest collections. I did apply with Guinness for the “Largest Private Collection” record fully expecting someone else to break it. Records are made to be broken. When counting comics, I always find it interesting that someone quickly jumps out of the bushes proclaiming “There are people with WAY more books” as if that will make me feel bad. It does not. I love that other people also have great collections. I’m also fine with people who just read the stuff and chuck it away, not accumulating the tons of paper like I do.

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“D” – Re: They are all X-Men #1s from the 90s…… Well, I must admit to buying multiple copies of X-Men #1 in the 90s. I used to foolishly think I was going to get rich off these things before I settled in to just getting them because I love them.
As an aside, the “count” of my collection is ONLY different unique books. All duplicated have been removed from my total. When I audited my collection I found I had accumulated over 1800 duplicate comics over the years (for whatever reasons). Those duplicates are being excised from my collection. I give them away.
On the day that I held the public viewing of my collection (a necessary step in applying for the Guinness record) I gave away over 4 long boxes of duplicate comics to people who came by.

Papercut – I agree. I am fortunate to have a house/garage that is large enough to store my collection. Paying storage space rent would not make sense. It’s also the main thing that prevents more people from having really large collections. In fact, I was very clear to call my collection the largest “privately owned” by someone who is not also a dealer in comics. It is easier to have a big collection if you are just buying lots of stuff in BULK fro pennies on the dollar, not reading them, counting your duplicates, and also having retail/warehouse space top store them in. I compare myself to other fans who buy comics to READ, not as inventory.

James McKenna – My collection is highly organized. I can put my hands on any specific comic from my collection in a matter of minutes and in fact performed this “trick’ a number of times on the day I had the public viewing of my collection. Someone would name a comic, I’d look it up in my database, go to the appropriate box and pull it out.

Wil – Yes, I do in fact read all the comics I buy, that’s really the point (for me) of getting them. I was co-host of the ComicBookPage podcast for over 5 years and reviewed/discussed 1000s of comics. Today on https://comicspectrum.com/ I continue to read & review comics as well as trying to provide a repository of information about comics and related pop culture.

*** More in next comment…..

Doug Hancock – Yes, I rolled my eyes at the “Batman” sound effects also, but what are you going to do. I had a video crew from the media come over and film me, steadfastly refusing to prance around in a Superman cape or wear a costume of any sort. I really wanted to portray a better image of comics fans than some guy in a super-hero t-shirt gushing about super-heroes exclusively, which is why I tried to be inclusive of other genres and publishers outside Marvel/DC, while still giving them credit for making me a comics fan in the first place.
Anyway, when the media gets ahold of something in post-production I don;t think they can resist sliding in those little touches…..”POW!”

Kurt – Same here. I fall behind on my reading at times but then when I go on a reading “binge” I can get through 100-200 comics in a weekend.

Dave J – I am glad to tell you that you are WRONG about me being single/divorced. I am happily married for 28 years. My wife does not read comics but she helps me organize the collection. She alphabetizes long-boxes for me after I read comics AND enters them into the database for me. She is an absolute ANGEL and many comics fans are jealous when they hear about her because they have to beg their wives/girlfriends to be accepting of their collection. I was collecting when we met 30 years ago, I’m collecting now. Also, I have 2 sons (18 & 22) who grew up around the comics. One a college graduate with a degree in business the other working on his computer science degree. I’m blessed in many ways.

Craig! Thank you, Sir! You get an “A” in reading comprehension! Thanks for looking out for me, my friend.

El Santo: I do have a lot of obscure stuff…..I’m glad to be one of the wings of the comic book “Library of Alexandria”, I like that!

I’ve had a love affair with comics since April, 1973. 3 years ago, I had to let the physical comics go. 45-48 boxes in a tiny NY apartment borders on hoarding insanity. I pared the collection down to 6 boxes that I couldn’t do without. I don’t know how people do it. Comic collecting by itself seems to breed compulsive behavior – I still collect digitally and have drives and backups to store my stuff. My collection went for….let’s just say a lot less than I was willing to part with them for. There’s no percentage in collecting for resale, there are too many published copies of any one comic around unless it’s Golden/Silver age. While a small part of me misses the physical, I don’t however miss being able to breathe in my apartment….and don’t get me wrong, the comics were organized to a fault. Dealers know though that they can ‘get you’ a t very cheap amount as the need to divest surmounts the actual market. Digital for LIFE now.

In the ’90 there ran a program about “strange people” in the Flemisch part of Belgium. In one episode from 1993 there was a guy who bought a second house just ’cause he doesn’t have room for his comic collection anymore. So, the largest collection in the world is very relative when you just talk about “comics”. American comics, European comics, manga… there are a lot of country’s in the world who have a lot of comics. A lot of Europeans buy stuff from all around the world. So it’s a very large collection, but I wouldn’t be suprised if there was a larger collection out there somewhere.

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