Tom Brulato was one of the early enthusiasts to commit his collection to the process of encapsulation by the independent grading service Comics Guaranty Corporation (CGC). The results were, to him, eye opening to say the least.

"I didn't really start reading comics until I was 12-years-old," said Tom Brulato. "My sixth grade student teacher handed me some comics, and I think the first one I ever read was Incredible Hulk #159, while Amazing Spider-Man #118 was the first Spider-Man comic I ever saw. I was bitten by the comic book collecting bug right away. There was a shop about five miles away where I would get new comics. It was the closest one I could find, and I used to have to ride my bike there. Then, there was a back issue store that my father would take me to once and a while. It was about 10 miles away. That's when I started buying back issues."

With a highly regarded Silver Age Marvel collection, he stuck to the path he began.

"It was strictly early Marvels," he said. "I always was and always will be a Marvel guy. I was chasing down the early Marvels, the usual suspects. The same titles that are still around today."

Fantastic Four was the first title to really grab his imagination. Brulato enjoyed the fantasy element in it, as well as the cosmic nature of such guest stars as the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus.

"I didn't know why I loved it at the time, but I suppose in hindsight it was the Jack Kirby art and the cosmic scale of the stories," he said. "Particularly, the issues from #30 to #100."

He describes himself as "the first and only" collector in his family, explaining that they didn't quite understand his burgeoning obsession with the four-color world.

"They really couldn't comprehend how much passion [comics] raised in me," he laughed. "I think guys who collect can understand, but either you get it or you don't. They couldn't understand the time or money I spent on comics."

As he grew up, he kept reading - though his interest waned during his college years. The familiar story of changing priorities and the workaday world asserting itself stopped there, though, as he started his career and also got back into comics.

"When I was about 29, I started going after high-grade back issues," Brulato remembered. "I was still reading Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and some others, but I became more interested in putting together early Marvel runs that were in the highest grade I could find. I concentrated on Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. I included all the major Marvel titles, not the Westerns, but all of the super-hero titles that I had started when I was young. I would buy the highest grade copy of any issue I could find."

The path to the high-grade Marvel comics was not always what it seemed to be.

"You think you know what you're doing, and you don't," he laughed.

Still, that didn't prevent him from continuing his search. It was the overall eye appeal of the high-grade comics that kept him going.

"At the time I was probably buying VF+ copies thinking they were NM+," Brulato confessed. "I wasn't really refined enough in the early days. With the eye appeal it was obviously the gloss, the edges, but I wasn't a spine fanatic. That ended up hurting me in later years because I had a lot of issues with spine wear, but I didn't really pay much attention to that at the time. I also didn't pay much attention to the back cover, which in many ways can be as important as the front cover. I never used to check for missing coupons or that sort of thing."

He said that when reality set in, it set in hard, and ended in fellow collectors being disillusioned and leaving the hobby.

"It happened to a lot guys like it happened to me," said Brulato. "They come into the hobby with more money than expertise, which is what happened to me. They get hooked up with an unscrupulous dealer or a dealer who isn't unscrupulous at all but who is inconsistent in his grading. Just because you're a good guy doesn't mean you're a good grader and can spot all types of restoration.

"Unfortunately, years later when your eye sharpens up, you see that a particular book is not NM and you find out that it's restored. It's very distasteful. If you had one of the major pieces in your collection and you find out it's been restored, it's heartbreaking. At this point, I can grade for myself without any doubt and spot most types of restoration. But what about the novices? What about the people who are at the level I was at 10 years ago? What this experience did was chase a lot of people out of the hobby. I personally know three or four collectors who, once they found out about all the restoration and over grading on books they had purchased, were distraught."

These types of experiences are what led Brulato to consider sending his comics to CGC. His experiences since then made him an avid supporter.

"I was probably a little ahead of the curve," he said, "but not as far ahead as I could have been if I had embraced it right away. I slabbed my whole collection early on because I had to see where I was, what I still needed. If I had embraced it three months early, I would be a lot further ahead because I sold a lot of books unslabbed that would have brought in a lot more money if they were certified."

Brulato said that he believes the certification process has created a lot of interest by removing some of the doubt for new buyers. He also said that it's added a volatile element to the competition for books in the grades he prefers.

"Other than hard-to-find examples, like Fantastic Four #12 where I have the only known 9.4, there's often a big difference between 9.4 and the higher grades. Some of my friends and I have a saying: 'The madness begins at 9.6,'" he said with a chuckle.

When you get a mental image of his collection, it's easy to see why. Part of it comes from the "Curator Copies," a pedigree not so amazing for its quantity as for its quality.

"I bought a pristine run of Amazing Spider-Man from issues #1 to #80. At the time, I paid a very reasonable multiple of Guide. Almost all have been graded 9.6 and above, including a 9.6 Amazing Spider-Man #1 and several 9.8's under #20," he said. "The man who owned the collection was a curator at a museum. He kept the books in the museum in a temperature-controlled room. They stayed pristine for 35 years. There are a lot of 9.6s and 9.8s. He knew that temperature and humidity would degrade the books, so he took excellent care of them."

Those copies are among the two complete sets of Amazing Spider-Man #1-#125 that reside in his collection.

"In my 'A' run, I have 41 9.8s and only seven 9.4s," said Brulato. "All the rest are 9.6, so I'm closing in on having a 9.6 run of #1-#125. In addition, I also have a 9.6 #1 and two copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 in 9.4, one of which is the White Mountain copy."

Other gems in his collection include a 9.8 X-Men #1, a 9.6 Journey Into Mystery #83, a 9.6 Tales of Suspense #39, and the only known Hulk #1 in 9.4. Accompanying his 9.8 X-Men #1 are #2-#10 in 9.6.

His early Journey Into Mystery run, issues #83-#125, is only missing four issues to be completely in 9.4 or better. His 9.6 copies of Tales to Astonish #35-#40 are the only known copies in that grade. And his Avengers #1-#5 are all rated 9.6.

For his early comics love, Fantastic Four, he has completed issues #1-#116 in 9.4 or above, except #18. He said this includes about 76 9.6s. Fantastic Four did lead him to what might be considered a "one that got away" story.

"I own a 9.4 copy of Fantastic Four #1, but I passed on a copy that is the only known certified 9.6," Brulato admitted. "I could have bought it for $25,000, and it's probably worth seven times that now. I couldn't see spending that much on it at the time, and a good friend of mine wound up with it. That's the most heartbreaking story that I have."

With all the record prices being realized in recent months, it might seem that Brulato's prizes have him thinking strictly in terms of dollars and cents. That doesn't seem to be the case though. Now, as then, it is his love of collecting that drives him.

"It was just pure passion - the love of the comics and the characters," he said of both his start in collecting and his growing focus on obtaining the best. "Up until the last three or four years, I didn't look at it as, 'Wow, one day they will be worth a lot more than what I put into them.' It was just a love of Marvel Comics and the characters. I don't know what it that compelled me to get them in the highest possible grade, but there was definitely something there. I can go into a room and stare at a wall of comics and it stirs me viscerally."

tors "to those thrilling days of yesteryear." We have opened our private home to the public to view a 37-year collection of cowboy and comic character toys and art. The museum features a fabulous collection of 1930s Disneyana, with Mickey Mouse and his pals. The collection even includes a large 1930s Donald Duck French carousel figure, movie posters, comic books, and original comic art featuring Felix the Cat, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Popeye, Superman, Charlie McCarthy, Lil' Abner, Pogo, Krazy Kat, Betty Boop, Tarzan, Bugs Bunny, Mutt &amp; Jeff, Snow White, Pinocchio, Howdy Doody, and more recent toys such as The Beatles, Snoopy, Robots, and space toys are on display. <br><br>In addition, the museum displays the finest Lone Ranger collection in the world. Other cowboy toys, cap guns, dolls and items feature the likes of Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Paladin, and Tom Mix. An original cowboy shirt and boots worn by Brace Beemer and Roy Rogers are on display, as well as Gene Autry's Rodeo saddle and an original 1950s Lone Ranger &amp; Tonto Dell comic book cover painting. <br><br>Original paintings featuring The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger from the offices of WXYZ radio in Detroit can be seen, as can old cereal boxes featuring radio program giveaways and an extensive collection of radio rings and decoders. <br><br>Also highlighted are premiums from the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Captain Midnight, the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Jack Armstrong, Sgt. Preston &amp; Yukon King radio shows, Kellogg's Pep comic character pins, and the only two known complete Kix Cereal boxes featuring 1946 Atom Bomb Ring. <br><br>A complete 1948 model of the greatest radio giveaway of all time, The Lone Ranger's Frontiertown, is on display, too. <br><br>In addition to the original art from the Dell Lone Ranger covers, we have numerous other comic books and their subscription premiums, as well as sports items, Hartland baseball and cowboy statues, World War II paper toys and anti-Axis propaganda, American and British toy soldiers, 1930s Pop-Up Books, antique Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns, Christmas light sets, and many other items, too.<br><br>It's my hope that folks will visit the museum and say - if they are old enough - "Gee, I had one of those when I was a kid!"<br><br><b><i>Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum is located on Route one, 3 miles northeast of Moody's Diner in Waldoboro, Maine. Waldoboro is located in mid-coast Maine, between Boothbay Harbor and Camden. Open 10-4 Memorial Day to Columbus Day, shut Tuesday &amp; Wednesday. From Columbus Day to Christmas, we open 12-4 Saturday &amp; Sunday only. Additional information can be found on their website, &lt;A HREF="http://home.gwi.net/~fawcetoy"&gt;http://home.gwi.net/~fawcetoy&lt;/A&gt;. John Fawcett can be e-mailed at &lt;A HREF="mailto:fawcetoy@gwi.net"&gt;fawcetoy@gwi.net&lt;/A&gt;.</i></b><br></div> </body> </html> e intervening years.<br><br>The very next issue (<i>Amazing Spider-Man #14</i>, July 1964) was a fateful adventure for the wall crawler in more ways than one. First, it introduced him to his greatest arch-enemy and future film co-star, the Green Goblin. Second, it presaged their 2002 big screen romp by pitting them both against each other on a motion picture set! In this issue, producer B.J. Cosmos was casting for a follow-up to his Oscar-winning "The Nameless Thing From the Black Lagoon in the Murky Swamp" when the Goblin flew through his window and proposed an idea for a film featuring Spider-Man, the Enforcers and himself in pitched battle. Dubbed "The Spider-Man Story," the film was to gross Spidey $50,000 (do you think Tobey Maguire worked for that little?), but it was, of course, all a trap. As the webbed one was signing on the dotted line, the Goblin mused that Spider-Man's "trip to Hollywood will be a one-way journey-with no return!!" The eager fans lining up for this summer's opus might have