Mike Carbonaro is a self-described "compulsive buyer."
Which is quite a good thing for serious collectors in the region.
Carbonaro, co-owner of Neatstuff Collectibles in North Bergen, has had a love for comic books, magazines, toys, video games, original art, cartoon cells, and just about anything collectible for more than 40 years. The warehouse is home to literally millions of items, a few prize pieces of which will be on display at Big Apple Comic Con, a pop culture festival to be held Friday through Sunday at Penn Plaza Pavilion in Manhattan.
Carbonaro previously ran the Big Apple Convention, which was purchased last year by Wizard World, the publishing and conventions company run by Tenafly resident Gareb Shamus. Carbonaro, still closely involved with the Big Apple show, stresses that while he will be doing some selling at the convention, he'll be doing more buying, and will even appraise attendees' collections at no charge."Anything from the early Marvel or DC or even smaller publishers, I'm interested in," said Carbonaro, who got his start in the conventions business almost by accident, rescuing a show at the Queens, N.Y. St. Paul the Apostle Church basement that was about to be canceled in 1996.
"We have first issues of all the major characters, Ironman, Spider-Man, Thor, [and] comic related toys and collectibles from the 30s, 40s and 50s, basically anything from the past 100 years of comic collecting."
A unique piece that Carbonaro will be displaying at Big Apple Comic Con is a series of 36 original panels from the first-ever Mickey Mouse cartoon, "Plane Crazy" in 1928. The panels represent the first Mickey Mouse images ever drawn and shown publicly.
"This is the cartoon that started it all," said Carbonaro.
While a unique item of that stature has the "wow" factor, Carbonaro is just as interested in more common pieces.
"The '12-cent Marvels' are my favorites," explained Carbonaro, referring to the price point for many books in the 1960s and 1970s. "They are very popular with collectors — a lot of us got started reading those."
The presence at Big Apple Comic Con of some of the celebrities who helped bring the comic book characters to life is also an attraction for collectors. Adam West and Burt Ward, stars of the original "Batman" series, Doug Jones, who played in the recent Fantastic 4 movie, and comic artists like Ethan Van Sciver Ethan Van Sciver ("Green Lantern," "Superman/Batman") and Michael Golden ("Wolverine") are all scheduled to appear along with more than 100 others, according to Shamus.
In addition to displaying select items at conventions, Carbonaro conducts by-appointment tours of the massive Neatstuff warehouse, and meets collectors one-on-one. He noted that Neatstuff offers finders fees to those referring collections as well.