YORK, Pa. – Some people wear their heart on their sleeve. Alex Winter has his passions all around him in his office. As president of Hake’s Auctions, he works at a desk surrounded by original comic book art, vintage toys, Star Wars action figures, superhero collectibles, and dozens of record albums. As a boy, he was interested in comic books but gained an appreciation for other types of collectibles while working an entry-level job at Hake’s. Some 36 years later, he’s still there — and he’s the company’s president. We visited with Alex to learn more about his collecting interests and some of the most memorable items Hake’s has sold during his tenure.
What was your path to the auction world?
I was sort of born a collector. Even with the toys I had as a kid, my mom instilled in me to keep them in good shape and keep the original boxes, so the collector mentality is sort of what she gave to me. At about eight years old, I got into comic books, and that’s what started me down the path of actually collecting. When I was 13 to 14, I had a friend who set up at flea markets and toy shows. I was looking for some cash before I turned 16 and could get an official job, so he hired me. That opened up my eyes to the big world of collecting. I started to see things related to comic books, like superhero merchandise and so forth. A collector is not only born, but branches out into many different things. That was my experience when I went to work for Hake’s. Ted Hake, the company’s founder, was looking to expand his staff. I was already helping the guy who was working as Ted’s shipping manager, so the day after I turned 16, I started my career at Hake’s. That was 36 years ago.
What was your next collecting interest after comic books?
I was a big superhero guy and still am. When I started getting into comic books, if I got the first issue of a book, I had to get the second and so on … that’s when the collecting started. As I was exposed to all these other different types of collectibles [at Hake’s], it just seemed natural for me to collect anything I wanted. At the same time, I was always a music fan. I bought my first album in 1980 and I became obsessed with music. That has become one of my biggest collections. I can also see a one-off item, think it’s neat, and add it to my collection, so it’s whatever catches my eye these days.
What’s a highlight of your records collection?
A sub-genre of my records collection is signed LPs. That is where the all-around favorite of my music collection comes from: Sketches of Spain, signed by Miles Davis, who also added a portrait sketch of him playing the trumpet. Truly one of a kind. Also special in that Miles is one of my favorite musicians, and this is one of my favorite albums by him. A close second is a full band-signed copy of Powerage by AC/DC, including the late, great Bon Scott. My favorite band of all time, and my favorite LP by them.
How do you decide which albums to buy?
I can buy an LP for a variety of reasons: I like the artist, I like the album, it is in a genre I collect, or I just like the art. Trust me, I have some bad albums with great art, and vice versa. Having so many collecting options really makes it my favorite type of item to collect, of the many, many types of things in my overall collectibles collection.
Hake’s began with political buttons and collectibles but is well known for pop culture and more. Why take this diversified approach?
Ted didn’t start as anything but political, but quickly branched into everything because he found other items came when he bought collections, and there were collectors for those items. We are really the first auction house to do as much as we have, and then everyone else came along and jumped on the bandwagon. We focus on anything collectible. We have always sort of just embraced anything that has an audience, learned about it, found the collectors, and offered it to them.
How have the buying demographics changed?
Years ago, I would say the audience was 90 percent male, 40 and up, and looking to reclaim their childhood once they had disposable income. It’s a much younger crowd now, and they don’t wait as long [to start collecting]. Price is driving things, collectors are much younger than they used to be, and the swing to more female collectors is certainly happening.
What is the most exciting or notable item you have sold at Hake’s?
I always go back to those Mickey and Minnie dolls because that is just an interesting story. The condition was remarkable. They are gigantic dolls that, in any size, shouldn’t have remained in that condition, let alone something this big, but they were stored away in absolutely perfect condition. The people who owned them listed them on eBay for like $25,000. Many experts and collectors saw them and said, ‘too good to be true.’
Fortunately, the owners of the dolls contacted us. Our first reaction was, ‘too good to be true.’ In the past, we’ve seen photos that looked to be one thing, but then the item would show up and we would be extremely disappointed. In this case, we were unbelievably stunned and said, ‘This is one of the most magnificent things we have ever seen.’ So we put them in the auction, they sold for what they sold for — $151,534 — and all along the way we heard from all these collectors who were customers of ours who had seen it on eBay but didn’t think to bid.
Because of the interest and speculation about the dolls in the outside world — and ultimately our reputation for selling rare Disney — we got that record price, which, to this day, is still a record for any Disney merchandise.
To contact Alex Winter or to discuss a future consignment to Hake’s Auctions, call 866-404-9800 (toll-free) or 717-434-1600. Click to visit Hake’s Auctions online.
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