Spies on Television & Radio ~
Behind The Toys from
U.N.C.L.E. – The Inside Story of a Collector’s
By Paul Howley
Editor’s Note ~
As described in my introduction to Paul’s article on
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
comic book series, posted in the
Spies on Television & Radio
section of this web site, Paul is the owner of the Eisner Award
winning pop culture collector’s store, That’s
Entertainment, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Over the past two
years, Paul has been telling his story in installments e-mailed to
his friends and posted at his website.
Now, Paul has told how his indispensable collector’s
guide, The Toys from U.N.C.L.E., came to be and
how it has become a collector’s item in its own right.
I’ve owned a copy since the book came out, and remember
how much I learned about the hobby of collecting spy memorabilia.
For example, I was startled to see the bubblegum wrappers most
of us threw away in the ‘60s were worth $35 –
much more than the cards they came in. Well, this was long before
anyone knew the value of saving packaging in our collections.
I want to encourage all readers to go to
website, where you can read his autobiography in full. His
story is more than the history of a comic book store – as
he says, it’s about family, relationships, and all the aspects
of life beyond the workplace.
While you’re there, check out the listing for his comic
book stock and collectibles. Paul has been in the business for over
25 years, and is a reliable and extremely trustworthy merchant of
comics and related merchandise.
My Life With Comic Books – The History
of a Comic Shop – Part 71
I had attended a convention called “Spy-Con” in
the late 1980’s to promote The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
comic book series that I was publishing.
This convention was a gathering place for fans of spy-related
movies and television shows including James Bond, The Man
from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, The
Avengers, and many more. Dealers and fans from around the
United States set up booths to buy, sell, and trade many spy-related
collectibles. I hoped that I’d be able to locate some of the
rare U.N.C.L.E. toys that I was missing in my collection.
I was disappointed to find out that most of the dealers only stocked
the paperback books, magazines, and fan-produced fiction. There
were very few toys offered for sale at this show.
One collector displayed a small notebook that contained
photographs of many of his favorite Man from U.N.C.L.E.
collectibles and this was of great interest to most of the
U.N.C.L.E. collectors. Many of these items were
rarely seen by collectors. A group of us discussed the need for
a complete listing of everything that was made about The
Man from U.N.C.L.E..
When I returned home, I got together with my friend, Brian
Paquette, and we came up with the idea of publishing a book
about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. collectibles. I had
published the official Man from U.N.C.L.E. comic
books in 1988 so I figured that I could handle publishing a
Brian was an artist and I knew he’d be great with the
entire creative end. Between the two of us, we had almost every
item ever made about The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
television show. We would use our collections as the main part of
this new book project.
We began photographing the hundreds of items using
colorful backgrounds and began to write detailed descriptions of
everything. We wanted this book to be different from most of the
memorabilia guides based on other television shows so we made
sure that the photographs were large and clear and the descriptions
were detailed and accurate. We also carefully researched the
current values and actual selling prices of these collectibles by
attending toy conventions and monitoring dealers’ catalogs
and auction results.
Since this project began before home computers were commonplace,
the whole book was done by “hand”. The photos
were taken using a film camera and then developed at a local photo
studio. If the photos came out okay, we matted them with a black
paper border. We designed each page and pasted the written
descriptions underneath the photos.
We got together at my house to combine our collections in order
to create a photograph for the front cover of our new book. Brian
designed our chapter title pages and was mostly responsible for
the professional “look” of this project.
We decided to title this project The Toys from U.N.C.L.E.
Memorabilia and Collectors Guide. My good friend, Michael
Warshaw, a very talented writer, wrote the introduction for this book
as a favor to me.
After a few months of work, we sent the pages to Associated
Printers of North Dakota (my favorite printer) and they
“screened” all of the photos so the photographs
would reproduce quite clearly. The cost to produce this project in
full color, as we had wanted, would have been outrageously high.
A cover price of almost $30 would have been required. Brian and
I wanted collectors to be able to buy the book for less than ten
dollars so the book was printed in black and white with full color
front and back covers. Most of the books were sold through Diamond
Comic Distributors at fifty percent of the cover price of nearly ten
Although it was a lot of work to put the book together, Brian and I
enjoyed this experience.
Over the years following the publication of The Toys from
U.N.C.L.E., this book has become recognized as an important
reference work and a valuable “checklist” for every
collector of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Ironically, this book now sells on Ebay for as much as $55!