DOVER, NL – He’s been dubbed the Comic King of Bonavista Bay, and upon visiting Don Shano’s home in Dover, it’s easy to see why.
In a box on the dining room table, taken out of storage for the purpose of the interview, the 78-year-old’s fingers sift through the pride of his collection – Classics Illustrated.
The series ran from 1941 to 1971, publishing 169 issues - and has been the subjected to several reprints over the decades – but Shano has every one.
Pulling one from the box, he removes it from the plastic cover, an issue from 1947, the pages still white.
Inspecting one of the 10-cent comics from the collection, a 15-cent sticker had been placed over the cover price.
The American print has a note underneath, “15 cents in Canada and Foreign.”
“These started out as 10 cent cover price,” he said, “and over time went up to 25 cents.”
It’s only one series in the approximately 16,000 comics he has accumulated over the years.
And Shano is doubtful there’s another collection of this magnitude in Bonavista Bay.
“There are other collectors around, and we’ve traded back and forth, but I’ve been told I’ve likely got the biggest collection in the area,” said Shano.
To give a greater sense of what he’s collected over the years, Shano turns his attention to the rest of his comics.
“Come here I want to show you something,” he said, making his way down the hallway of his home to a spare room.
He waits with just a moment of anticipation, because he knows what he’s about to unveil is certainly unique.
He swings open the door and turns on the light to reveal a mountain of boxes and plastic containers filled with comic books.
Sifting through a few, there’s Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Wolverine, X-Men and the list goes on.
He pulls one out of the case and gives it a quick inspection, Green Lantern, 2009 – the condition, mint.
And that’s just the start of it.
“When you have 16,000 comics, the weight of all that paper is too much to keep in one area of the house,” he says. “I’ve had to spread it around.”
He moves across the hallway to another room, again it’s stacked with boxes filled with comics, and other related paraphernalia.
It’s followed by a trip to the basement, before the last of his collection can be fully appreciated.
“I’d like to be able to put it on full display, but I just don’t have to the space to do it,” he said.
It all started for him as a boy growing up in St. John’s. Making his way to Tommy Rickett’s Drug Store, across from the CNR Station, to purchase Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comic books.
At the time, Shano says there was no real value placed in the 10 cent comics, noting that a lot of these books would be passed on, torn up or used to light fires.
“But if you only had some of them now they’d be worth a pretty penny,” he said.
He had kept some of his comics throughout his youth, but didn’t become a series collector until 1976, he was 41-years-old at the time, buying what he could new and purchasing older items second hand.
“I’ve got some packed away in the basement going back to 1938 and into the ‘40s,” he said. “I’ve also got a lot from the ‘50s and ‘60s.”
But Shano says he’s started to slow down on his collection.
“They’re not as plentiful as they were, and certainly one’s you are looking for are becoming a bit of a rarity,” he said.
But when he comes across the right item, Shano will still add it to his collection.
“I just like it, I’m a comic fanatic I suppose.”