Fan can never get too much of Superman

Texas man to move to Metropolis, Ill.

July 05, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SAN MARCOS, Texas - To say Tim Gardner likes Superman would be an understatement on par with saying the Man of Steel runs fast or has good vision.

"I've been wearing Superman capes since I was 2 or 3," said Gardner, 34, of his fondness for Superman. "My grandmother used to make capes for me, and the Superfriends were on [TV] back then as well."

Gardner, a resident of San Marcos, likes Superman so much he is planning to move to Metropolis, Ill., this summer to open a gallery with his nearly 5,000-piece collection and expand his memorabilia business through a Web site he is developing, www.PlanetSuperhero.com.

The southern Illinois town of 7,000 residents plays host to the annual Superman Celebration, which draws about 50,000. It also is home to the Superman Supermuseum and Gift Shop, a collection of memorabilia owned by collector Jim Hambrick.

But that's not Gardner's only connection with Superman. Serious fans will recognize Gardner's June 16 birthdate as the date George Reeves - the actor who played the original TV Superman - died in 1959 and the date Curt Swan - one of DC Comics' main Superman artists - died in 1997.

Despite Gardner's connections to the Superman character, he didn't start serious collecting until 1992.

"The reason I started collecting really hard was back in 1992, I asked my wife to marry me, and I got her an engagement ring, and she bought me a Superman collectors watch," Gardner said. "After that, I had to have everything Superman.

"We started off with one shelf in our bedroom, and this is the second storage room I've had."

Among Gardner's prized possessions are one of Christopher Reeve's outfits from the original Superman movie and an original drawing by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster.

A 7-foot-tall fiberglass statue of the Man of Steel and a rare Superman telephone are also part of Gardner's collection.

Despite having about $200,000 worth of memorabilia, the collector in Gardner is still looking for that next big find.

"The fun part of all this is the hunt," Gardner said.

High on his quest right now is a Syroco-brand, pressed-wood statue that sells for $3,000 to $7,000 - a small amount by Gardner's standards.

"I never worry about what I've paid for [an item]," Gardner said. "I only worry about what it's worth to me."

That doesn't mean he isn't keeping track of the money, though.

"All my personal income comes from buying and selling and trading Superman," he said.

"What I have learned is to buy and sell the common stuff and keep the rare stuff."

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