In the world of collecting there are literally endless bits and baubles that one can obsessively horde until they find themselves reigning king or queen over a massive treasure trove. Maybe they’ll qualify for a Guinness world record, or have the acclaim of die hard fans becoming the go-to expert in a super niche area of knowledge. And it’s not just different things that qualify collections, there are also different ways in which a collection forms. Some folks come into a large sum of money, an inheritance perhaps, and then focus a lot of time and money into procuring an impressive assortment of whatever. Maybe the collection itself was inherited from a beloved family member and the tradition was carried forward for another generation. Maybe it’s just born out of an obsession for a thing, a cartoon, film, or toy line and is carefully curated for years building up into something amazing. But by far, my favorite type of collection, etymology-wise, are ones that were started during childhood and became impressive before the kid grows up to have the disposable income with which to make the collection really grow.
We probably all have a story of knowing that kid. The lucky bastard or weirdly driven young soul that had a collection of something that made our collective brains melt with a furious case of the “covets”. For me it was a boy I’ll call Eugene. Eugene was the most fastidious, well dressed kid I’ve ever met. He was always sporting a sweater vest and slacks, even in the moist heat of a sweltering Central Florida summer. He wasn’t a go-to friend, in fact he was more of a friend of a friend, but be whenever we’d end up over at his house I was floored by his collection of Transformers. Though I knew a handful of kids that had a decent collection of the convertible toy robots, no one had as many as Eugene, and no one kept them as complete and nice as he did. Eugene was the only kid I ever met who not only kept ever single weapon and accessory, but he also kept the original packaging, or had duplicates of the carded figures so he could have one in the package and one open to play with (though he still kept the backer card and would store the toy with it when he was done. His collection took up his entire closet and a set of dresser drawers. It was insane watching him slide open a drawer to reveal a bunch of neatly situated toy robots, like a Tetris puzzle of Japanese plastic that fit perfectly in the space. Coming from a household where my parents routinely pre-opened any toys I ever received, it was amazing to see all the packaging artwork and nice dent-free boxes and cards. Walking into his room was like walking into a secret Toys R Us.
But I’m not writing this piece to showcase Eugene and his Transformers. As cool as his collection was, and who knows, eventually it may have grown into an insane level of awesome years after I lost touch with him, the collection that I want to highlight today aligns more closely with a personal obsession of my own, 80s era stickers and related ephemera. As longtime readers of the site know, I love stickers, and have been writing a column on them off and on for over 14 years. Though the size of my own collection is pretty large, it ebbs and flows over time as I sell off portions to fund new acquisitions to share on the site. And no matter how much I love it, the entire thing was born of a desire to re-compile my own long lost childhood collection, so my treasure trove qualifies for the adult, disposable income style of collection. But recently, during my constant sticker research and hunting sessions I stumbled upon a collection (and a collector) that is truly amazing, and at least to me, is outright mind-blowing.
In a decade and a half of sticker collecting I’ve stumbled upon hundreds of vintage, curated collections of stickers, either the collections of friends, of Branded readers, or ones that I’ve purchased off of eBay. And in that experience I can confidently say that though there are some pretty impressive collections out there, I’ve never seen anything that just stopped me in my tracks and made me want to research the collection or collector further than to appreciate the one or two photo books or albums that contain the stickers. That is until three weeks ago when I stumbled upon an auction for a vintage collection spanning three medium-sized Trend sticker albums that were so chock full of stickers that it was pretty amazing. Based on the photos in the auction it was apparent that all three books came from the same kid int he 80s (the Trend albums had a page where you could list your name, address and some of your sticker likes and thoughts.) The name on the collection was Randi S. Bellisario. Actually, that’s only half true. I’m changing the name because I found it way too easy to find this person online and I’d rather respect their privacy, so some of these photos have had the name on the books altered, removed or cropped out.
To say that I wanted to win this auction is a very subtle understatement. Again, I’ve seen thousands of collection over the years and I’d never stumbled on an auction for a collection that was this jam-packed with rad stickers. Not only was there a ton of different brands and styles of stickers from Scratch and Sniff and foil, and puffy stickers to flocked Hallmark specials, but there was also a ton of fun pop culture properties represented. The books were also and very literally jam-packed with stickers, so much so that they spilled out onto all three album front and back covers. Again, in most of the collections I’ve stumbled on the ratio of awesome stickers to cheapo knock off or produce stickers typically leans to towards the boring stickers. And the amount is you’d find in any one book was never awe-inspiring. Not the case in the collection of Randi Bellisario. Almost every sticker was a “winner” and there were a TON of them. What was even more crazy is that contained within the pages of these three albums was an almost complete collection of Trend scratch and Sniff “Stinky Stickers”, the same collection that I just spent years compiling in a recent article. A collection with 15 to 30 Trend scratch and sniff stickers is pretty amazing. One with 50 or more is astoundingly rare. But a vintage collection in a book with 103 of the 104 available stickers? It’s unheard of. The only time I’ve seen all of these stickers together in an auction was when a serious adult collector curated a specific collection of Trend stickers still on their original backing paper, and they typically sell for between $300 to $500 dollars. Randi’s Trend collection in these three albums alone was one of the rarest sticker finds I’d ever stumbled on.
I had that auction won for 6 and a half days. My bid, which was higher than I’d ever planned to invest in a single vintage sticker collection, stood strong right up until the last few hours of the auction. I was pretty cocky and felt like there was no way I was going to be out-bid because I couldn’t imagine anyone other than myself would have taken the time to pour over the auction photos to an extent where they literally cataloged the specific stickers to even realize that an almost complete collection of Trend stickers was included ( not to mention Smurfs, Heathcliff, Garfield, Gumby, the Monster Cereal mascots, Godry scratch and sniffs, and a ton of other great stickers.) In those last 4 hours though I realized that there are folks out there way more passionate for stickers that I will every be, and that is really saying something. As the price skyrocketed in the final moments, I raised my bid to an uncomfortable amount to try and secure this treasure of ephemera, all the while concocting a rationalization as to why I felt the need to make an acquisition of this magnitude. Sadly, in the final couple of minutes the priced reached a point that I just could not justify and I watched as another user walked away with this amazing find. For posterity’s sake, it sold for just over $150, which when you consider what the world is like these days, is just too much to pay for something like this. It took the rest of the night for me to get my mind off the collection, but I did my best to move on and forget it. Of course, I saved all of the pictures from the auction because how often do you find collections like this?!
Then, about a week later, I was still itching to find a fun vintage childhood collection of stickers so I signed back into eBay and started my search anew. I didn’t expect to find anything on the level of Randi’s sticker albums, but then I kind of did. Checking back in with the guy who was selling Randi’s collection to begin with I found out that he listed two new auctions with very impressive sticker collections. One of the auctions featured a single sticker album, and the other had a new assortment of three sticker books. As I was glancing through the photos I saw something that made my lower jaw drop to the floor like a cartoon wolf ogling a hot dame in a 1930’s era nightclub. The initials R. S. on the sticker albums. Could it be, could these 4 new offerings also be part of the same vintage sticker collection of the now legendary (in my mind) Randi S. Bellisario?! After some closer inspection and “enhancing” the photos in the auctions I was dumbfounded that yes, these were in fact an extension of that original collection.
These new albums were amazing in their own right, again, containing an almost complete set of Trend stickers (maybe missing about 10 to 15, though I didn’t have the energy to catalog them again), G.I. Joe, Marvel & DC comics, Kool Aid, Pink Panther, Smurfs, Donkey Kong, and Masters of the Universe stickers just to name a few. This was just stunning, and all of a sudden I had a second chance to score an amazing collection of vintage stickers. Being burned by that first auction though, I refused to get my hopes up, and since there were now two auctions, each with equally awesome albums, I was forced to split my bids. I put in a couple of hefty bids and crossed my fingers that I’d win at least one of them. As the week wore on and I waited for them to end, I started feeling pretty good about my chances. On the final day, in the final hour I was still winning both auctions, and each with a rather large buffer in terms of the ratio of the wining bid to my high bid (the high bid being 120% higher than the winning bids.) But these wins were not meant to be. In the final minutes of the auctions both of them were scooped up by one bidder who apparently threw in ridiculously high bids on both, because they won both with only one counter bid (selling for over $100 each.) Again, I was educated in that there are folks out there who love vintage stickers and have some pretty deep pockets. Again, bummed out, I downloaded all of the auction photos, neatly organized them into folders in my digital collection and did my best to forget about stickers.
That lasted for three days before I was back on eBay scouring the seller’s auctions looking for another fix. And the search did not disappoint. A fourth set of sticker albums from the Randi Bellisario collection was sitting there ripe for the bidding. This time there were four albums in the set, and from what I can gather (after talking to the seller a bit) this was the last installment of the collection. Just as amazing as the previous auctions, and again, this one had an album with an almost complete set of trend stickers (just missing 4.) This might sound silly, but emotionally, I was way too invested in trying to win this auction. Having lost the previous 3, and know this was my last chance at a piece of this amazing collection I put in a bid that I felt sure would win. One that was higher than what all of the previous auctions sold for. I held this one for two days before someone swooped in and overbid me, yet again, with just one bid. What the hell. Who are these people out there? The auction still had a day and a half left, and I was left with a decision of just how badly I wanted to preserve the legacy of this collection for posterity on the site. So I went in an made a crazy bid (at least for me.) It held the high bid for five minutes. Then the Donald Trump of sticker collecting out bid me again. It was time to give up. This was just not meant to be. As of this article it hasn’t sold yet, but it’s sitting at over $250 right now.
Usually, I would never write about an instance of humbling auction loss like this, but there’s something really special about this collection. I’m not saying that a collection like this has never popped up on eBay, just that in my 20 years of scouring the web looking for stuff like this I’ve never seen anything even remotely close to it. I’m such a weird dude, I’m sitting here at my PC and the honest truth of the matter is that I’m actually sad that these 11 sticker albums are getting separated to the winds, and no one is going to write about how amazing they are. That bums me out. These types of collections, the legends of these types of collections are what make the act of collecting so much damn fun. Folks like me (and if you’re still reading this, probably you as well) live for stuff like this. And it’s just going to disappear. Some dude who lucked into this at some garage or estate sale and now has made upwards of $1k on old pieces of paper glued to flimsy sticker albums. So I have to write about this.
The Legend of Randi Bellisario will hopefully live on in this piece for however long I decide to keep this site up and running. She had one hell of a sticker collection. Probably the best I’ve ever seen for a kid (and these aren’t even all of the photos.)