The Night the Roof Came in at “Mr. Nostalgia”


Mr. Nostalgia: Vintage Comics & Collectibles storefront
The window display for Mr. Nostalgia.
Photo: D. Tosh

As some might recall from my last report, I ran my own collectibles shop in Arkansas in the mid-1990s called Mr. Nostalgia. It was a short-lived experience but, for the most part, a happy one.

While recently scrolling through my Facebook feed, I got a reminder of those happy times. An old customer of mine posted an image of a Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine lobby card he had purchased at Mr. Nostalgia. It was an item from my collection that I started the shop with, which included vintage comic books, old soda bottles, advertising signs, vintage paperback books (remember them?), videos, and a few old toys and knick-knacks.

Business in those days was a little slow, but that suited me just fine. Before opening the collectibles store, I was living in Dallas and making a living as a graphic designer, working on advertising brochures, making “mock-ups” to sell the concept to clients, using a photo darkroom with an enormous process camera, making “stats” for various projects, sometimes assisting in photo shoots… that sort of thing. It’s what I had studied for, and it was an OK job for which I worked hard, but what I lived for back then was finding more old treasures to add to my growing collection. I was a guest at the Dallas comic conventions, where I headed up a popular event called a “minicomic workshop.” I got in for free and had fantastic access to the professional artists at the shows. It was a lot of fun, and I made friends and contacts in the comic book industry. I could also find many old comic books and movie posters to add to my collection at each con.

In 1994, my graphics jobs dried up in Dallas, and I moved back to Arkansas with my folks. Once back there, I wondered what to do for a living in an area where graphic design jobs were pretty hard to find. Talking with an old friend, the idea of starting a collectibles store came up. At first, my friend planned on going in with me; that didn’t happen, but I plunged ahead on my own and found a superb location for my shop in Batesville, one of Arkansas’s oldest towns. Situated in the north by the White River, it’s a picturesque small town of around ten thousand people. It has what I believe to be the oldest movie theater in the state, Landers Theater, located along Main Street in the downtown area. A connected space once held a barber shop that had been long gone, and I leased that space for Mr. Nostalgia in early 1995.

The interior of my Mr. Nostalgia store, with me taking in some much-needed cash.
Photo: D. Tosh

Having such an old theater right next door was especially fun. At first, the theater was still showing movies; I remember the Bill Paxton-Helen Hunt film Twister was playing when I moved in. Running the collectibles shop meant I had a back way into the theater; each morning, I could go in and help myself to last night’s popcorn! People were coming in, both buying and selling with me, and I was able to keep adding to the shop’s inventory. Sales weren’t making me rich, but my rent was cheap, overhead was low, and I enjoyed the laid-back experience.

At times, the collectibles store kept me pretty busy. Old comic books were my best sellers, particularly 1960s Marvel and DC superhero titles. I sold a little bit of everything—Funny Animals, Teen Humor (Archie), Kiddie comics, and more.

Some of my most significant sales came from issues like Iron Man #1 (NM 9.2), The Incredible Hulk #5 (VG 4.0), and Justice League of America #1 (VG). None were CGC-Graded, as the Certified Guaranty Company had not yet started—this was in the mid-1990s—and the prices I got were a LOT less than these books are selling for these days. My other big sellers were vintage Coca-Cola and other soft drink bottles and advertising signs, old books, VHS tapes, and the occasional old toy. From time to time, I traveled up to West Plains and Springfield, Missouri, where I had a few “honey holes”—places not open to the public that sold nostalgia store items wholesale.

Things got a little weird in my second year in business. First, the theater stopped showing movies and was rented out on weekends to a promoter putting on rock shows. Then, I got sick, wound up in the hospital, and I had to keep the collectibles shop closed. While I was home recuperating, something awful happened. Remember, I told you that the theater building was the oldest in the state, built way back during the age of silent movies. The building probably wasn’t the wisest place to host heavy metal bands, structurally speaking. Sure enough, during one concert, the promoter noticed dust falling from the ceiling. He managed to stop the show and get everyone out, but it was too late for the roof. It promptly collapsed, dumping the building’s pressed tin ceiling into the theater seats and leaving an open sky above.

Wow—what a show-stopper!

Most of the roof was gone. My part of the building was unaffected by the damage, but the electricity was now out, and Mr. Nostalgia had to stay closed for weeks. The landlord finally stretched some power lines in and got my lights back on, and I felt well enough to reopen, but with the collectibles shop closed for so long, would any of my customers return?

As it turned out, not very many did venture back. As I sat in the shop waiting for business, I kept hearing strange creaking noises that had me scared my side of the building was collapsing! I stuck it out for a month or two before throwing in the towel and calling it quits. But you know what? Several years after I got all my collectibles store’s inventory out and moved back to Texas, the theater was repaired and reopened as an event location! Not only that, but most of the retail businesses downtown shut down and were replaced with antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants—just how I had hoped things would happen when I first opened Mr. Nostalgia! Once again, I was ahead of my time!

It all worked out for me, though. In 2003, I heard the new Comics Department at Heritage Auctions was looking to hire more catalogers and consignment directors. All my experiences running the collectibles shop got me a job I’ve managed to hold onto for the past 19+ years, so I can’t complain too much. It was so much fun running my Mr. Nostalgia shop, doing out-of-town comic conventions in shopping malls, looking for those elusive “honey holes” where I could buy wholesale collectibles, chatting with customers, and occasionally bringing in some cash! It’s an experience I consider one of my personal life treasures!

David W. Tosh is a writer, editor, cartoonist, graphic artist, musician, and avid Pop Culture fan. He has authored several books on Comics, including Picker’s Pocket Guide – Comics, Rise of the Superheroes, and the Eisner Award-nominated Walk Kelly’s Fables and Funnies. Since 2003 he has been a Collectibles Specialist for Heritage Auctions, writing about Comic Books, Original Comic Art, and Animation Art.

WorthPoint—Discover. Value. Preserve.

The post The Night the Roof Came in at “Mr. Nostalgia” appeared first on WorthPoint.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published