When Columbus, Ohio, native Gary Watson was a boy, he purchased his first comic book, a Zorro title, for 10 cents. Over 60 years later, his massive collection of comics—full of Marvel heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers as well as romance titles and other genres—is worth an estimated $2.5 million. And he recently donated all of it to the University of South Carolina, where it will soon be on public view.
College representatives spoke about the acquisition with the Post and Courier last week. Watson, now 69, decided to hand off his entire collection—which includes key titles like Avengers #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #1, and a slew of other comics and books totaling 180,000 items—after deciding it could be better served as part of a university collection. He wanted to keep everything he had amassed intact instead of selling it off piecemeal to private collectors. He settled on the University of South Carolina after other colleges failed to promise the donation would be kept together.
His decades-long collection was made possible, he said, by being a lifelong bachelor with plenty of disposable income. Because of the sheer volume, it will be years before the entire donation is fully cataloged. But the public will be able to view part of it much sooner.
The school’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections plans to exhibit several of the pieces in the Thomas Cooper Library beginning August 29, with accompanying lectures by historians and comics creators, as well as other special events. Researchers will also be able to access the collection, which provides insight into cultural topics and concerns from their respective eras. Watson’s collection stretches from the 1930s to the present day and fills more than 500 long boxes, which typically hold 250 to 300 comics each.
[h/t The Verge]