Gary Dahlberg may have been a humble Minneapolis bus driver for 30-years, but his passion for comic books will make him immortal amongst collectors.
Dahlberg began collecting in the ’60s, and amassed 20,000 comic books by the time a fire took his life last year. The flames spared the collection, and his family has come to discover that he left behind a nerdly fortune worth between $1 million and $2 million.
“He loved his [comic] books,” his sister, Wendy Kuiper, said. Her brother was 12 or 13 years old when he began plunking down 12 cents an issue for the comic books in the early 1960s. “As he got older, my mother would ask, ‘What are you going to do with all those books?’ My mother used to say they couldn’t be worth anything.”
What neither knew was that 2,500 to 3,000 of Dahlberg’s 20,000 comic-book collection would end up “easily” worth more than $1 million. “Maybe closer to $2 million,” said Ed Jaster, senior vice president of Heritage Auctions.
His collection includes issues of The Amazing Spider-Man #1, which recently sold for $47,800, and issue #2, which is one of only five known to exist. It’s valued at $100,000 or more.
“He wasn’t a hoarder,” said Bev Johnson, his off-and-on girlfriend of 30 years. “He was visually stimulated and liked to have things to look at. … He put toys in his fridge because he like to open it up and have something fun to look at.”
Dahlberg only sold two comics in his lifetime—one for $1,000 to buy a computer for cataloging his collection and another for $50,000 to pay off his house. Clearly, this man knew exactly what he had. He was a fan in a truest sense of the word.