Collezionare interview with Dags

(November 2019) - note the questions have been translated from Itallian into English

1 - Darren, I'm starting to ask you when did you start collecting Batman objects / gadgets? and why?

Dags: When I was a young kid one of the most common questions asked among my friends was who is the better superhero, Batman or Superman? For me it was always Batman mainly due to the 1960s TV series and even the old movie serials from the 1940s, however, my interest in Batman never extended beyond that.

But everything changed in the late 1980s when news came out regarding a new Batman film in the works. When I saw the first pictures of the character I was instantly hooked as it was the first time we had ever seen Batman dressed all in black which just looked fantastic, especially as black is my favourite colour.

In 1989 I was 22 years old and working in a retail store, this meant I was blessed with a disposable income just as all this great new Batman merchandise was coming out in the shops. Now I initially resisted the temptation to buy any merchandise as I knew it would quickly get out of control (which meant I missed out on a number of items I’ve never seen again), but eventually I couldn’t hold back any longer so I picked up one item here, and another there and soon I was on what I call ‘The Dark Path’.

Once I realised and accepted my spending was only going to get worse, a new Batman collector had been created.

2- What exactly does your collection include?

Dags: As a brand new Batman collector it would’ve made sense to focus on merchandise from the 60s and 70s - particularly items I remembered as a kid - but they were way out of my price range. I then reasoned that if I got into collecting because of the 1989 movie, it would then make sense to concentrate solely on that. As a result I don’t have many collectables from before this time.

In 1992 Batman Returns was released so I started collecting a lot of merchandise for that. Then a couple of years later Batman Forever was released and though I didn’t really like the film I reluctantly collected for it anyway, mainly because the excellent Batman The Animated Series was out at the same time which I also focused on.

With so much merchandise available I bought as much as I could although many of the best collectables were way out of my price range, as a result I ended up focusing my attention on cheaper items rather than exclusive and expensive ones. Typically my main interests were toys and novelties because they were always great to look at.

However, as time went on I found having to continually buy more trading cards, more action figures and more Batmobiles to be rather tedious and repetitive, so I was really happy whenever I found unusual and speciality items.

Because I stopped collecting in 1997, I don’t have anything from the Christopher Nolan films, nor the more recent movies.

3- Why did you decide not to extend it to all the characters that revolve around the world of Batman?

Dags: My first love with the Batman franchise has always been the actual character of Batman and no one else. For this reason I simply had no interest in buying anything relating to the other characters so I just avoided them altogether.

Now some collectors may say my action figure sets are incomplete because I’m missing the villains, but it honestly doesn’t bother me. From my point of view I don’t want to see a line of great Batman action figures displayed on a wall with one Robin, Joker, Penguin or Catwoman put in at random spots breaking the continuity.

For this reason you could probably argue I own a genuine ‘Batman’ collection because it’s all focused on just one character. In fact when I see pictures of other collections I almost wince whenever all these other secondary characters start appearing.

4- I noticed that the pieces in the collection are all in their original boxes, so why are the pieces increasing in value?

Dags: From the beginning of my collecting journey I planned to leave all my items in their original packets because I looked upon them as a long term investment. Moreover, I simply wasn’t interested in taking things out of their packets because I wasn’t actually going to do anything with them.

However, I did have a couple of false starts in the early days.

In 1989 when I was buying the odd Batman item here and there (before I went down The Dark Path and became a serious collector), I picked up a couple of things which I took out of the packet. One of these was the Batman movie calendar which I opened up intending to use … but then didn’t. I also bought the 1989 Batman board game and opened it up only to discover it was really disappointing because it was mainly for kids, so that didn’t get used again either.

From then on everything remained in the exact condition I bought it, even cheap items inside simple plastic bags were kept as is. My cardinal rule was simple: LEAVE IT IN THE PACKET!

But I also had another incentive for leaving all my collectables unopened, and this was seeing how 1970s Star Wars mint-in-box toys had skyrocketed in value in just over 11 years. For this reason I wanted my collection to go down the same route, moreover, I figured that leaving everything in their packets certainly wouldn’t hurt their overall collectability whereas taking things out of their packets definitely would.

Now as to whether anything in my collection has actually appreciated in value, I really don’t know, I’m guessing some items probably yes while many others probably not. But I’m OK with this because there is one amusing benefit to keeping things mint-in-box, it’s when someone sees an item on my shelves and they say “I used to have one of these” and I reply with “Well guess what? I still do!” (laughs)

5- Do you remember your number one in the collection?

Dags: Not really, it may have even been the two plastic cups which I picked up from the cinema when I first saw the 1989 film. As mentioned earlier in the beginning I really tried to avoid becoming a collector, so I was very selective about what I bought.

6- This year marks the 80th anniversary of this iconic character. Born in 1939. I imagine that the pieces of the earliest years are very difficult to find and above all will they reach considerable figures?

Dags: Absolutely! People have asked me what’s the most valuable item I have in my collection and I answer with a laugh “the items from the 60s and 70s I don’t have”. There’s no doubt anyone with a collection of vintage items is sitting on a gold mine and well done to them I say. Personally I love seeing mint-in-box vintage items in the hands of collectors because it proves these highly rare collectables still exist somewhere in the world.

Ironically these days I’m in a position where I could easily go back and retrofit my collection with vintage items, but my collecting days are well and truly over and I certainly couldn’t justify the expense.

7- A section is dedicated to trading cards ... 

Dags: Ahhh yes trading cards, boy do I hate them!

Even though trading cards look really pretty, they are a nuisance to collect because they hold no value at all and for the most part are stored in folders no one will ever look at.

Yet what really annoys me is that for the 1989 Batman film there were only two series of card sets released so they were easy to collect. But with Batman Returns in 1992 suddenly there were a lot of different series, including those with gold borders and so on – and it only got worse from there! It was as if someone in the Topps marketing department realised how suckers like me would buy all these cards no matter how many were produced, and of course that’s exactly what happened!

8- Also collects comics?

Dags: I know this will frustrate the Batman purists but I never read the comics and had no interest in buying them. Now at the time I did collect some of the more popular graphic novels but that was about it. Batman for me needed to be on the screen rather than on a page.

As it turned out collecting the comics would have been very hard to keep up with as there are so many of them, which are still being produced today! To highlight this fact further, in the 1990s there were 8 different series of Batman comics all released at the same time so I’m really glad I avoided that pitfall.

9- Even though friends continue to give her batman gadgets, I know you interrupted the collection, how come?

Dags: When I started collecting Batman in 1989 I became so obsessed it quickly turned into an addiction, which then carried through to Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman The Animated Series.

But it wasn’t until Batman and Robin in 1997 did my collecting mindset change completely, because I refused to spend money buying merchandise for a film I utterly despised. And so it was on this one fateful day I was in a shop where I picked up a small Batman and Robin item from the shelf (a pencil sharpener or an eraser), Now instead of buying it right there and then without a second thought - as I had done for the past 8 years with my other purchases - instead I just stood there looking at it. Finally after a period of time I put it back on the shelf and walked away.

From that very moment I stopped being a Batman collector and all my spending on merchandise for it was over.

10- In the world there are many collectors of this character, as well as in Italy. In your opinion what are the pieces that a prestigious collection should have?

Dags: Without doubt most items from the 60s and 70s are up there, and even some really old items from the 1940s and beyond are highly sought after, but the best of the best in my opinion is a mint-in-box Corgi Batmobile from 1966.

Now loose Corgi Batmobiles are everywhere (I have two of them myself), but finding one mint-in-box is unbelievably difficult and very expensive – possibly around $1,000AUD and above these days. So that’s my choice for the ultimate collectable.

11 - Where did you buy the objects from the collection? at the time Ebay didn't exist yet ...

Dags: Every item in my collection came from me either finding them in a store, or buying them in person from other collectors and dealers. Also a lot of collectables were given to me as gifts and/or donations which was really good. So because I had to find everything myself, I was always scouring stores and shops looking for new items and quite often I would discover Batman collectables in the most unexpected places.

Although we had a lot of great merchandise in Australia, it was nowhere near the level as in the USA. As a result there are a lot of fantastic collectables I missed out on simply because they weren’t released here.

I did eventually buy four Batman items from eBay about a dozen years ago just to see what it was like, but when it came to buying what was to be my fifth item, I became really concerned I was falling back into the habit of collecting again (The Dark Path began to reappear) so I quickly stopped. Now I don’t go to the Batman section of eBay at all.

12- what is the object of the collection you love most?

Dags: This would be my Batman Forever and Batman and Robin ice creams which have lived in my freezer since the mid 1990s. Alongside this is my chocolate Batmobile from Batman Returns which is still mint-in-box and has been living in my fridge for 27 years.

13- Do you want to tell us some funny anecdote related to your collection?

Dags: When you collect as much as I did back in the day, amusing situations were bound to pop up. Some examples of this were:-

- I once bought a Batman T Shirt from a dealer at a collectors fair … while he was still wearing it!

- A girlfriend bought me a box of Batman cookies which was great, but when she broke up with me a few weeks later I ate the cookies she gave me (out of spite) and bought another box for the collection

- I once travelled over 700 kilometres to another city to visit this great Batman collecting store only to discover it had closed down two weeks previously

- When planning to attach my action figures to the collection room wall, the clips I used had a very narrow gap which meant they would leave an indentation on the cardboard packet (and you can’t have that). So I had no choice but to sandpaper each one of down and considering I used 4 clips for each packet well … let’s just say it took a while!

- Some friends once gave me a unique looking Batman birthday card and I was really happy to discover they had written their birthday wishes on a removable Post-It note inside

- When I bought the Batmobile telephone the sales assistant kept insisting I needed to buy an adapter so the US connector would fit into an Australian socket. He simply couldn’t grasp that I was buying this for an investment and it was never coming out of the box. In the end he was so persistent about needing the adapter I got one just to shut him up

- I bought a full set of Batman Animated Series trading cards in the US in 1993, so imagine my shock when I got home and discovered one was missing

- Considering all my collectables are still mint-in-box, I’ve never actually seen what some of them look like in real life!

14 - Even if you don't collect any more, is there an object you wouldn't want to resist?

Dags: No doubt the most sought after item on my list is a 1960s mint-in-box Corgi Batmobile, but even if one became available tomorrow I still wouldn’t get it.

You see I was a seriously addicted Batman collector from 1989 to 1997 and when I stopped collecting I stopped completely. As a result I’m not interested in collecting anything again because of the amount of money I poured into the hobby through out those years. So to ensure I stay “clean” I deliberately avoid buying any Batman item at all, even when I see something I really want. Just like the eBay scare I had all those years ago, my concern is it would be really hard for me to stop once I got started.

As a result of this mindset, the last Batman item I bought was in 2010 which was a small set of coat hangers for $3 from a supermarket, and I only got them because they were cheap and I’d never seen them before. Since then I’ve been given a few gifts from friends which of course I never turn down. (laughs)

15- Where does he keep his collection today?

Dags: When I built my new house in 2003 one bedroom was automatically allocated to the collection. So after spending years in various storage boxes moving from place to place, it has been setup and on display in this room ever since.

16- what is the rarest object he owns?

Dags: In terms of absolute rarity, my Batman ice creams and chocolate Batmobile would have to be right up there and I’d be really surprised if there are any others like them in the world.

In terms of my most valuable item, that would be a tin motorised Batmobile which is gold in colour even though the box features a blue one.

17- I ask him for a brief biography ... (I will need it to introduce the interview)

Dags: My name is Darren Maxwell (although I prefer to be called Dags) and I’m from Melbourne, Australia - which by the way was originally settled by John Batman and for a time was going to be called Batmania!

I’ve been a part of my local science fiction fan community since 1984 and in that time I co founded the longest running Star Wars fan club in the world called Star Walking Inc. where I helped run a number of conventions, special themed banquet events, and even club social gatherings in two different cities. I also edited 37 issues of the club’s monthly digital newsletter called The Force and even once got to visit Skywalker Ranch.

I’ve also run a number of my own science fiction conventions covering movies and TV shows from the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s and have also been a regular presenter on a Star Wars podcast called Star Talking. Finally on top of all this, I’m currently producing my own weekly science fiction talk show on YouTube called Sci-Fi Zone.

I became a Batman collector in 1989 when the new Tim Burton film came out and amassed around 650 items in my collection before stopping in 1997. I also have a collection of Dune merchandise from 1984 as well as a collection of Star Wars/Star Trek movie posters among other things.

For more information about who I am and what I’ve achieved, along with my dedicated Batman, Dune and other collection pages, just visit my website at www.darrenmaxwell.com.au

Back to Dags Batman Collection page