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A man's collection of more than 10,000 pieces of TV history are going up for auction

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK MARSHALL'S "THEME FROM THE MUNSTERS")

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

TV nostalgia is up for auction this week. Are you interested in taking home the bar from "Cheers"? Or how about Johnny Carson's desk from "The Tonight Show" set? Or the prop rifle that made Jed Clampett a millionaire?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Narrator) The Beverly Hillbillies.

(SOUNDBITE OF LESTER FLATT AND EARL SCRUGGS SONG, "THE BALLAD OF JED CLAMPETT")

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Hollywood memorabilia collector James Comisar has been archiving television history for decades, saving scripts, costumes, even fake mustaches. Comisar says his bond with TV was formed early on.

JAMES COMISAR: I ran home, grabbed a Pop-Tart, and sat there watching all these great shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COME ON GET HAPPY (THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY THEME)")

THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: (Singing) Hello world, hear the song that we're singin'. Come on, get happy.

COMISAR: But Keith Partridge, Herman Munster, Batman - these were all of my, sort of, after school friends.

CHANG: Aw. Well, later, when he learned the iconic costumes and props were being thrown away...

COMISAR: I knew I had to take action.

CHANG: So in the midst of his work as a writer in Hollywood, Comisar moved into building his collection full-time.

COMISAR: When I started collecting in the early '90s, I was - I already had a day job. I was writing questions for bachelors on "The Dating Game." I was writing jokes at night for Joan Rivers and Howie Mandel and others, and I was busy. But it became clear to me that these pieces were being actively thrown into the garbage and taken to the dump.

KELLY: Comisar says he has gathered more than 10,000 pieces of TV history. He sees himself now as a curator of pop culture more than a memorabilia collector.

COMISAR: I would say, in my core collection, there were many, many thousands. But I wanted to make sure that there was something for every price point. And most of the pieces in the sale start at $1. It was important to me and Heritage Auctions that everyone - whether they're an experienced, sophisticated investor in this art market or they're buying their first piece - I wanted to make sure there was something for everyone.

CHANG: The auction has the original George Reeves Superman costume, Batman and Robin's crime-fighting capes and some fine custom suits worn by Tony Soprano's crew.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SOPRANOS")

JAMES GANDOLFINI: (As Tony Soprano) Oh, here he is.

CHANG: The online auction that starts Friday puts a fine point to a career of collecting that all started with some Carson cue cards.

KELLY: But Comisar says he is hanging onto some favorites.

COMISAR: I did keep Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox's California Highway Patrol uniforms from "Chips" and a few other pieces that were sort of at the heart of my watching television as a young person. They sort of motivated me to start this hunt for TV treasures, and I think those are going to live on with my family for a good long time. So I'm grateful for the journey. And what happens next? Stay tuned.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BATMAN")

WILLIAM DOZIER: (As Narrator) Find out tomorrow - same bat-time, same bat-channel.

KELLY: Stay tuned, indeed.

(SOUNDBITE SONG, "BATMAN THEME")

THE RON HICKLIN SINGERS: (Singing) Batman, Batman. Batman, Batman. Batman... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
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