Super Collectors: NH’s Fascinating and Passionate Hobbyists Share Their Collections
On April 8, 1979, 11-time Grammy Award winner Linda Ronstadt — dubbed the “First Lady of Rock” because she was the first female singer to headline arena concert tours — purchased $37.98 worth of makeup from Valerie Cosmetics.
At the peak of her popularity, the rock star didn’t delegate her lipstick decisions to her support staff. We now know this because Ronstadt’s signed check to the cosmetics shop anchors the music memorabilia collection of Barry Deslauriers, a retired government financial analyst from Hudson. (Canceled personal bank checks have been traditionally coveted by autograph collectors because they validate that a celebrity’s signature is genuine.)
“I had a crush on her and love her voice. She can sing any genre of music,” says Deslauriers, who found the Ronstadt check on eBay. “If you want to hear the power of Linda’s voice and the longest note held I’ve ever heard, listen to her sing ‘Trouble Again.’”
Deslauriers, a vinyl record collector, displays an eclectic potpourri of pop music kitsch in his home — including Fisher-Price “Little People” toys of The Beatles, a set of Elvis PEZ dispensers, a Roger Daltrey action figure commemorating his cameo on “The Simpsons” and a broken Dean Martin figurine whose lips no longer move when singing “That’s Amore.”
Whether its autographs, action figures, fashion dolls, coins, stamps, baseball cards, Beanie Babies, Star Wars toys, comic books or a slew of other collectibles, the objects that people choose to collect are a physical, visible extension of their personalities.
If he were alive today, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, would be a huge fan of New Hampshire’s high saturation of antique stores. According to The New Yorker, from the 1890s to the 1930s, Freud had accumulated “a private museum of more than 2,000 Greco-Roman statues, busts, Etruscan vases, rings, precious stones, Neolithic tools, Sumerian seals, Egyptian mummy bandages and Chinese jade lions.”
“I must always have an object to love,” he reportedly told colleague Carl Jung.
To celebrate the heart of flea market season — antique hunting often complements foliage-watching here in the fall — New Hampshire Magazine reached out to some of our state’s most passionate collectors and asked if they’d share some of the objects they love.
When he was growing up in Seabrook in the early 1970s, aviation mechanic Bill Greenwood enjoyed putting his Matchbox and Hot Wheels diecast toy cars in perilous situations. He shot at them with BB guns and lit firecrackers under the tires. Not surprisingly, no cars survived his childhood.
Picking up the hobby again in his mid-30s, Greenwood has since amassed a personal collection of more than 8,400 different toy vehicles with a heavy focus on 1960s and ’70s muscle cars (Chevy Camaros, Ford Mustangs, Mercury Cougars, Plymouth Barracudas, etc.) He’s much kinder to his toys now, running his own car “dealership,” the Double Play Hobby Consignments, out of a former antique barn in Milford.
“Selling and customizing toys is a lot easier on my back than crawling under planes,” says Greenwood, who still pulls out his full-size wrenches for occasional airport gigs. “Everyone who comes in here wants to hold a piece of their childhood. And that’s true for me, too. I’m lucky to be surrounded by my memories every day.”
Radio DJ Chris Garrett, the morning show host for 99Rock-WFRD in the Upper Valley (Hanover/Lebanon), also feels like he’s reclaiming parts of his childhood every time he finds a new addition to his 300+ “Sad Sack” comic book collection. Originally a comic strip in U.S. Army newspapers during World War II, “Sad Sack” is a bumbling soldier experiencing some of the humilities and ironies of everyday military life. The character was later taken over by Harvey Comics, the publisher best known for its “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Richie Rich” titles.
“I can’t pass a flea market or antique place without searching for ‘Sad Sacks.’ But 90% of the stuff I see is all superheroes. Nobody has Harvey Comics,” Garrett laments. “For me, the comics are a connection to my father, who was in the National Guard. When I was about 5 years old visiting the base, one of his buddies gave me a pile of them. And my dad urged me to read them all. He said the stories were about a ‘funny guy in the army,’ just like him.”
Garrett is also obsessed with vintage 1970s Topps Wacky Packages (also known as “Wacky Packs”), irreverent stickers that parodied popular consumer brands. For example, Gillette’s Right Guard deodorant became “Fright Guard,” with a scent “that will scare off your enemies and friends.” General Mills’ Wheaties cereal became “Weakies,” the “Breakfast of Chumps,” and so on.
“I stuck these things on my bedroom door, on lockers, absolutely everywhere,” recalls Garrett. “That’s what the stickers were meant for. But I do regret not saving them instead. I still look online for the older ones. Everything shapes you in a small way. I think my sense of humor today is somehow connected to what made me laugh as a kid.”
Portrait photographer Sid Ceaser stuffs the shelves and walls of his Nashua studio with his pop culture obsessions. Other than naming his office a “Museum of Sid,” it’s tough to narrow down a theme for his mishmash display. Action figures from the movies “Jaws” and “Indiana Jones” jockey for space with diecast Japanese robots and old Polaroid cameras. Lightsaber replicas from the original “Star Wars” trilogy hang nearby, with Spider-Man and Green Lantern toys sprinkled around for good measure.
“If a customer comes in for a portrait, and they’ve never met me before, right away they can look around and
get a feel for who I am,” Ceaser says. “They might see something they can relate to and then not be so nervous. I had one guy who seemed really uncomfortable in front of the camera and was at first as quiet as a mouse. But then he made a beeline toward some of my anime toys and started naming them and all the series they’re from. And he completely came out of his shell.”
Ceaser also enjoys pulling some of his toys off the shelf and shooting dramatic portraits of them with natural backdrops.
“I like collecting things I can interact with,” he explains. “As a creator, I often help musicians with making artwork for albums and CDs. I just like everything about a physical product. I like thinking about how something was designed, how the packaging influences the marketing. I just like tactile things, as opposed to everything being online and existing on a bunch of servers somewhere.”
We celebrate six New Hampshire Supercollectors who also cherish objects they can touch, versus experiencing the many “virtual exhibits” proliferating on the internet. All of them deserve the title of “archivist” or “museum curator,” and all of them perpetually battle the most nefarious enemy facing collectibles of every genre: dust.
Special thanks to all the collectors who graciously welcomed us inside their homes!
This profile appeared as part of a larger article in the September 2023 issue of New Hampshire Magazine highlighting some of the fascinating collectors and passionate collectors in the state.
To learn more about the other Granite State Super Collectors, click here.