I suppose that I've been a fan of the Wizard of Oz books ever since those flying monkeys scared the bejeesus out of me when I was about six years old. I've probably seen the movie ten times since then and the monkey scenes are still my favorites. But I'll never be obsessed with L. Frank Baum (or with any other author, come to that) the way that Mark Shapiro is obsessed with him. Shapiro seems to be a compulsive type of guy who really gets into his collections and now he's wondering how to share his L.Frank Baum collection with the rest of us.
In 1992 at a swap meet in Long Beach, Calif., he saw a book for sale - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. He bought it for 50 cents....
A couple of months later, he saw a magazine that listed valuable collectibles. His 50-cent book had a listed value of $10,000 (now $18,000).
Shapiro began researching Baum, a former journalist (like Shapiro), who wrote 14 Oz books between 1900 and 1919, when he died. Shapiro bought books, board games, posters, trinkets - anything related to Baum.
He retired from teaching in 2001 and devoted most of his life to finding all things Baum.
Shapiro said he uses winnings from his other passion - horse racing - to pay for memorabilia.
He says he now owns two first-edition, first-state books. (Those "first-state" books were created on the first run of the presses before corrections were made.) A mint-condition first-edition, first-state Wonderful Wizard of Oz book has a $35,000 to $45,000 price tag at AbeBooks.com and BookFinder.com....
"I've seen other Baum books offered for $37,000 or $39,000, and they're not in the condition his are," said Mark Kirchner, a hand bookbinder in Newport Beach, Calif.
"His are better."
He wants this story to spread the word. Maybe someone from a museum will call and offer him some space. Maybe an elementary school will set up a tour.Shapiro has put together an amazing collection, no doubt about it. Now he's reached the point (at 60 years of age) that he's starting to wonder what will become of the books when he's gone. In the meantime, he wants to enjoy them by sharing them with others who will appreciate what he's accomplished. Well done, Mr. Shapiro.
Maybe someone will tell him what he's supposed to do with all this stuff. Baum's spirit, as powerful as it is, hasn't written an ending yet.