The Death of Superman, The Birth Of A Collector: The Franco Toscanini Collection
Ken “Franco” Toscanini amassed an astounding collection of Superman items. But unlike collections that rivaled his, Toscanini’s was compiled much later than those other legendary collections and in a much shorter timeframe. While such celebrated Superman collectors as Harry Matetsky and Danny Fuchs started procuring items of the Man of Steel in the 1970s, Toscanini did not begin collecting until 1992.
It was an unlikely event that got his attention, the highly publicized "Death of Superman" storyline. Before that black-bagged issue hit the stands, Toscanini had no interest in the character. But the hype surrounding one of DC’s most high profile storylines not only got his attention, it fostered an insatiable desire to collect everything Superman.
His collecting interests prior to that had been far removed from the world of comic books. Toscanini sought out Art Deco artifacts as well as important French advertising and movie posters, prior to catching the Kryptonian collecting bug. Soon, though, Toscanini found himself in comic book stores, at comic conventions and collector shows, bidding in auctions, and all venues in between acquiring everything he could from the first days of the characters creation in 1938 to modern day products that stocked the shelves of retail stores everywhere.
At the shows he enjoyed meeting with artists, writers, actors and anyone associated with the character he had grown to love. Nothing was off limits for his collection and soon he found himself surrounded by comic books, all types of merchandise, premiums, promotional movie material, original art, and anything else emblazoned with the trademark “S.”
The material produced for Superman over the decades is as extensive as any character. The trend began in 1896 with the Yellow Kid’s image printed on just about any type of product. Then in the early 1930s Walt Disney took things to a new level with Mickey Mouse. However, in the 1940s Superman was as popular, dare we say even more so, than Walt’s funny rodent and he had a much cooler outfit and muscles to boot. That red and blue costume with a hint of yellow was truly ubiquitous.
While children all around the world were captivated by Superman, adults also embraced his ideals of truth, justice and the American way. This is evidenced by objects of a grownup nature such as a table lighter and promotional ashtray. Parents were also unabashedly sneaking peeks at their kid’s sequential pictorial literature (comic books to those that were not afraid to admit they were fans of the art form).
And just like Superman, Ken Toscanini adopted an alter ego.
“Frank” was his middle name and this soon morphed into “Franco” as his collecting alias and a way to organize calls and contacts for his business or his collection (By sheer coincidence, “Franco” was also one of the Superman clubs, even issuing a felt patch bearing that name). When Ken Toscanini received a phone call, it was family or business, but when the caller asked for Franco, it was someone who had a Superman item for sale. Those were the calls he longed for, and he befriended many in the hobby, making his mission of assembling a “Super” collection that much easier.
Throughout the journey his wife Teresa was by his side. While not a rabid collector like her husband, she shared in the joy her husband got every time he added something to his collection.
Since Toscanini’s untimely passing in 2011, the collection has remained in what can only be described as his Fortress of Solitude.
He took great pride in how the collection was presented. The utmost care was put into arranging things in cases, framing things to be displayed on walls and preserving the items in the high grade in which many were acquired. The way his collection was displayed was meticulous, museum-like in scope and he loved spending time in his Superman rooms surrounded by his treasures.
The love and passion for collecting that Toscanini had can now be shared and embraced by collectors worldwide as Hake’s Americana & Collectibles is extremely pleased to continue to offer items from the Franco Toscanini collection. Just as with the Death of Superman, a new life for these items can begin and nothing would make Toscanini happier than to know that his efforts to preserve the legacy of the greatest Superhero of all time will continue for decades to come.