From The Scoop: Sean Linkenback: A Monster of a Collector

From the January 12 issue of Gemstone Publishing's The Scoop:

Recently, we here at Scoop had the opportunity to talk with a truly interesting collector who began his collection with comics, but eventually that collection morphed into something monstrous. Sean Linkenback is not only a collector of monster movie posters and Godzilla memorabilia, but is also the author of An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles, a book that is considered by many to be the most comprehensive book on the subject ever to be published.

In addition to some amazing finds, in both comics and Godzilla collectibles, Linkenback has built for himself one of the most complete collections of Godzilla memorabilia in the world. Today, Linkenback resides in Atlanta, Georgia and continues to look for the hard-to-find piece that he need for his collection.

Now, for your reading pleasure, we invite you to get to know Sean Linkenback, a monster of a collector.

Scoop: When did you begin to collect comic books? What was the first comic book you remember buying?

Sean Linkenback (SL): The first comic I remember buying was actually a Marvel Tales reprint of Spider-Man and Electro. But the comic that really cemented me as a fan and collector came soon after that - Amazing Spider-Man #166. I was a big dinosaur fan as a kid, so seeing Spidey fight the Lizard and Stegron was almost like a heavenly experience. So from that point on, I bought every [issue of] Amazing Spider-Man that came out.

Scoop: What were the circumstances of and how long from the time you first bought a comic book until you considered yourself a collector?

SL: Well not long after I started collecting Spider-Man, Marvel came out with a Godzilla comic and I started collecting that also until the sad day I missed a copy at the local 7-11 and my dad had the idea to look in the yellow pages and see if there were any used book stores with comics. We ended up going to Starship Enterprises, and I bought an Amazing Spider-Man #45 for $2.50 and a Silver Surfer #14 for the same price. Until that point, I had no idea that older comics could actually be worth more than cover price and I knew I was hooked.

Scoop: How did your collecting develop as you grew older?

SL: I always considered the business [of comic dealing] to be a strictly adult thing until I met John Chruscinski and his partner, Robert Prince, who had just started Tropic Comics. Here were two guys only a few years older than me and they were already established dealers and running their own shows. It really opened my eyes to new possibilities and I learned a lot being around them and later working with them, especially from John who really took me under his wing and taught me a lot.

Scoop: You discovered the "Paycopy" of Marvel Comics #1 and a number of other Golden Age comics. How did that come about?

SL: It was certainly an accident. I had been wholesaling comics to some card dealers when one called me up about some old comics he had come across. He started describing what sounded like a Marvel Comics #1 to me and I had him fax me a scan of it. When I saw the writing on the cover I called him right back and had him start reading some of the notations to me and I knew this was going to be something big. He was in NY and had mentioned another dealer was coming over that weekend to see the books, so I called Rob Rogovin, told him he had to drop everything and go get the collection right then. The rest is history.

[Editor's Note: Robert Rogovin is the owner of Four Color Comics in Scarsdale, NY]

Scoop: Do you have any other stories of major comics or other discoveries you made over the years?

SL: Nothing truly major like some of the original owner collections of comics that have surfaced over the years, but I did buy one in the late-'90s from a guy who had quit collecting in the early-'80s and had some great stuff that he had stored away: a near complete run of Captain America including a #1 and #2 that were both VF unrestored, a Wonder Woman #1 in 9.0 that is still the highest CGC-graded copy, a Human Torch #1 CGC 8.0, a Target #7 that's second highest on the census and a bunch of other really nice books. One of my favorite finds ever though was in 2002, the discovery of three mint in the box Plamodel remote control Japanese monster model kits made by Marusan in the '60s. I actually found these in Cyprus, of all places, and one of the kits is only the third boxed example known and together they would easily bring $50,000 today.

Scoop: While you have been a serious comic book collector, you have since moved on to collect movie posters and Godzilla collectibles. What grabbed your attention about those collectibles? Did you have other collecting interests, too?

SL: The movie posters actually came about because of the Godzilla collectibles. I had loved Godzilla since I was a kid, and about 17 years ago, my partner gave me a Godzilla poster as a present. At that point it was like a light bulb had gone off and I was off to the races.

When I was young I did [collect] coins as it was something my father was into, so we kind of collected together. I did the odd Rock n' Roll pieces for awhile, and I do collect Sheryl Crow stuff - probably not very manly to say, but I think she's a great artist.

[But with the other stuff], again, it goes back to childhood. To me Godzilla was always the coolest monster around, so when I got a Godzilla poster as a present much later, it was kind of like "Hey, this is cool I remember this from when I was a kid." So I decided to get some more of the posters for the movies I liked when I was young, then someone gave me a toy to put on my computer and go with the posters and it really took off.

Scoop: After you got into collecting the Godzilla stuff more prominently, do you have any specific comics that you sold, maybe to supplement your other collections, which you wish you had kept?

SL: The Kansas City copy of Flash #1 immediately jumps to mind as does the 9.0 Wonder Woman #1. If I had known the Wonder Woman would still be top census years later, I certainly wouldn't have sold it.

Scoop: What are the "holy grails" of Godzilla collectibles?

SL: Anything having to do with the first movie of course. The Japanese one-sheet for the first movie from 1954 has auctioned as high as $20,000 before. And even though toys weren't made of Godzilla until the '60s, there are a few remote control model kits made by Marusan in the late '60s that can command prices of $10 - $20,000 each if mint in the box. Interestingly enough Godzilla himself from that line is on the low end of that pricing scale, it's the enemy monsters that are rarer and can bring the really eye-popping dollars.

Scoop: What are you favorite Godzilla items and how large is your collection?

SL: As far as paper/poster items it's pretty extensive. I have a complete US poster collection from lobby cards up through one-sheets and it's fairly complete on the Japanese paper also. I have a complete collection of one-sheets and am nearly complete on Japanese lobby cards.

Scoop: You authored the book An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles. How did this come about and when did you decide to make the leap from collector/dealer to author?

SL: When I got started collecting the posters and toys I was truly surprised by the dearth of reference materials available. Unlike for comics, where we have The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to light our way, there was absolutely nothing available in America and next to nothing even in Japan. So I started making trips to Japan to meet and learn from the top collectors/dealers over there and just did as much research as I could to uncover information when people couldn't answer my questions.

Scoop: What was the general response you received from people when they found out you were going to publish the book?

SL: It was generally very positive. A lot of Godzilla collectors were excited to finally have a chance to have real information (especially in English) at their disposal. A few dealers were naturally suspicious that prices would be either too high or too low but I tried to take a very even-handed approach and pricing was secondary in my mind to the idea of producing a lasting reference guide. And, it's the most complete reference work put together on the subject and even in Japan they love it.

Scoop: Wow, that's got to be gratifying to know that your work is more comprehensive than in the country of the character's origin.

SL: [Yeah,] I actually had a storeowner in Osaka that wanted me to do a signing there. I'm very thankful that people still enjoy it and find it useful.

Scoop: What piqued your interested in movie posters and what are your favorites?

SL: The posters started as an extension of my love for Godzilla and originally Godzilla posters were all I was going to collect. But as that collection got closer to being finished I found myself buying different posters from other monster movies I enjoyed and ultimately it led me to the Universal monsters. Universal horror posters now are my main objective but I still keep an eye on "classic cinema" ― Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and titles like that. What really interested me in posters was not only can they be beautiful pieces of art in and of themselves; vintage movie posters really are the scarcest hobby to get into. Of your other "big" hobbies, posters are really the only ones that were never available to the general public. You couldn't buy them at your local convenience store, couldn't order them from catalogs, or anything else. You really had to know someone at the theater or get lucky to acquire one. I grew up seeing images of posters in Famous Monsters but quickly realized when I first started I had no idea of how to build my own collection. Even now, I still haven't seen all eight lobby cards for the Invisible Man yet. So it still retains that 'thrill of the hunt' feeling that first got me so involved in comics.

Scoop: What advice do you have for people interested in movie posters?

SL: The same advice they probably always hear - educate yourself, buy what you love, buy it in the best condition you can possibly afford, and in the long run you can't go wrong. Fortunately the internet has opened up a world of resources and availability that just didn't exist when I first started. It's much easier to learn and not be taken advantage of nowadays. I truly think posters have the best potential of any of the mainstream hobbies. Not everyone read comics as a kid, or like baseball or was interested in coins, but everyone has a favorite movie and movie moment.

Scoop: Do you have any posters you are currently looking for?

SL: There are two things at the top of my want list: a Japanese lobby card from Rodan (1956) and the B-style half-sheet from The Black Cat (1934) with [Boris] Karloff and [Bela] Lugosi.

Scoop: What is the rarest poster you have had or do own?

SL: I have been fortunate enough to own two copies of the insert poster from The Wolf Man (1941), Lon Chaney Jr.'s first starring role. It is by far the best poster on the film and only six copies are known to exist. And my Dracula one-sheet from the 1947 release is considered to be the best Dracula poster ever made and there are probably less than a dozen known copies of it.

But my two sentimental favorites would be my original Japanese posters on Godzilla and Rodan. Those were my first two monster favorites and started the whole thing.

Scoop: Many people collect for various reasons. Why do you collect and where do you see the majority of collectors' interest lying?

SL: While you can't help but be aware of prices as the dollars you sink into your hobby grow larger, my love for collecting has more to do with nostalgia and the enjoyment I get from waking up and having Dracula looking over me hanging on the wall. And I think it's the same for most collectors, profit is a great motivation but it's a real love of your hobby that drives you to collect.

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