On The Square

Top Picks with Travis Landry: So, What is Pop Culture?

By Travis Landry, Director of Pop Culture at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers

Jun 23,2020 | 10:00 EDT

One of the many questions I receive, working in the antiques and auction industry is, "What is Pop Culture?" The funny part is, it’s not all that different from saying something is Jacobean, Victorian, Art Deco or Mid Century Modern. The term is used to describe something as being from “Popular Culture.” That’s it!

Whether it’s Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger or Pikachu, Optimus Prime, Steve Austin, and Luke Skywalker, “Pop Culture” is used to describe anything that relates to a property that is or was popular during a particular period of time. The cool part is, there's no time stamp of a certain period - anything can become part of Pop Culture, regardless of age! It's an ever-expanding field of study. People collect Pop Culture items because it takes them back to a time, typically childhood, (which for most) is filled with fun and happy memories. Say that every Sunday your mom took you to the store to buy a $1.99 Star Wars figure or 12 cent comics, odds are you wouldn’t mind revisiting that memory today - and that's how Pop Culture "collector" is born. From an investment standpoint, Pop Culture is an area of collecting that continually experiences rapid growth in the marketplace with interest from generations to come. Just think about it, how many 8 and 12-year-old children that are currently building a love for Iron Man, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Transformers will want to collect them down the road? I’d be thinking that it's a lot more than Mission furniture or Rookwood Pottery - Pop Culture is here to stay.

This week, on June 25, Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers will be auctioning a curated selection of comics, toys, and trading cards at no reserve with some gems for the investment minded collector.

Here are our top picks with some useful collector tips:


Lot 90: C.1950 Disney Mickey Mouse Donald Duck Light Bulbs

This is certainly the lot for the Disney collector who wants everything. Comics and toys from the 1950’s barely survived - who would have thought about saving light bulbs? These two figural lightbulbs of Mickey and Donald are made from molded glass and have luckily retained the majority of their original paint. Now, these aren't worth a million dollars, but they're a true example of what rarity, in an auction sense, really means.

These are also a great example of collectible novelties. A novelty item like a lightbulb, party favors, sleeping bag, wrist watch, toothpaste, etc. is any item that isn’t the directly intended merchandise for a particular property. So, after buying these lightbulbs, you can seek out a factory sealed box of vintage Mickey Mouse band-aids. You’d be surprised what certain novelties can bring in the marketplace - it wouldn’t surprise me if these bulbs surpassed their cataloged expectation!

Lot 98: 1954 Universal D.C. Comics Superman Tin Lunchbox

The term “holy grail” is one that I prefer to use lightly, but the original, first Superman lunchbox (regardless of condition) is a piece for many collectors around the world today. The important factor here is the cross pollination of collecting fields. This lunchbox appeals to both lunchbox collectors and comic book aficionado’s as a rare novelty of Superman and D.C. Comics. This example is missing the thermos and is faded and scratched, but it's had a good life! The benefit of fiding this original version is that it gives collectors the opportunity to own a real gem without having to spend thousands of dollars on a more pristine example. While it would be nice to have a new, old stock example with tags, it would run you $10,000-$15,000 minimum in today’s market. Plus, to your collecting benefit, the lunchbox market has been depressed in comparison to years past, so it's definitely a good time to buy. If you've wanted a respectable example for the shelf, here's your option!

Lot 162: 4PC Pokémon 1st Ed. Dark Charizard BGS 9 Mint Group

Continuing on from last month's auction, Bruneau & Co. will be selling the second portion of a Single Owner TCG Card Collection, which first crossed the block on May 25th. The star character of the day was Charizard, setting records across every printing. The Team Rocket set introduced in 2000 was the fifth release of the original Wizards of The Coast Pokémon and more importantly, introduced Dark Pokémon to the fandom. It brought the fan favorite antagonists of the series, Team Rocket, to the trading card game. Offered in lot 162, is each printing of the original 2000 Team Rocket Dark Charizard, both holographic and standard in first edition and unlimited printing. It's the perfect package for the ultimate Charizard fan.

Lot 204: 31PC Pokémon Unlimited Factory Sealed TCG Booster Packs

When it comes to Pokémon and TCG in general, sealed merchandise is the second hardest thing to come by, other than BGS 10 pristine cards. Offered as one lot (lot 204) are thirty-one factory sealed, Unlimited print booster packs from 6 of the 7 original, first generation sets. Included are Base, Jungle, Fossil, Base 2, Team Rocket, and Gym Challenge packs. It's the definition of an instant collection! Some collectors will tell you to open them while others would prefer to keep them locked in a safe. My opinion - keep them sealed. Crazy to think that a 20-year-old pack of cards is worth more than its weight in gold.

Lot 254: Marvel Comics Tales of Suspense #39 CBCS 1.0

Iron Man has been capturing the hearts of comic fans since his introduction in this book back in 1963. Fast forward 57 years to present day, he's the face and martyr of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as seen in the ending of the first capstone film Avengers: End Game. Also, keep in mind that he was the start of it all back in 2008 with the first Iron Man film creating the MCU. This large, permanent footprint on the Pop Culture world has made Tales of Suspense #39 a leading key issue and a staple commodity in the collecting world. It's now in the ranks of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #1, or Incredible Hulk #1. Some may even say it's as historically significant as Detective Comics #27 or Action Comics #1. The lesson from here is that Iron Man is here to stay for the next 50 years, this book is only going to continue to rise in value.

View the full catalog for Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers, 'Curated Pop Culture, TCG, Comic & Toy Online Auction' on June 25th and register to bid live on Bidsquare.


Travis Landry is the Director of Pop Culture and Auctioneer for Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers of Cranston, Rhode Island. He is also an expert appraiser on PBS' Antiques Roadshow in Collectibles and Toys & Games.