Collecting — We all do it in one form or another. Whether your goal in life is to buy every hair band t-shirt from the 1980s or to own a famous car garage, like Jay Leno, collecting is in our DNA. In this Skillset series “The Collector,” we travel the globe in search of the most interesting acquisitions on the planet.
Check out our pieces on the world’s largest pinball machine collection and the golden age of comic books. And here’s our Halloween mask edition:
The Ultimate Halloween Mask Collection
Here’s a collection that every kid from the 1950s to the 2000s probably owned a piece of at some point: The Halloween masks of the Don Post Studios Halloween mask catalog. The name might not ring a bell, but the masks most definitely will. Many say Don Post is the Godfather of Halloween. Today, we head to the Indiana home of Rudy Munis. There, we visit one of the most impressive mask collections in the world.
Q: Why collect rubber halloween masks?
A: As a young kid, I was obsessed with Halloween and horror movies. While most kids were interested in collecting baseball cards, I was more into watching Svengoolie and playing with rubber skeletons. My dad is an artist, and he would make me some really great handmade costumes. My mom would buy us the inexpensive kids’ costumes by Ben Cooper or Collegeville. I loved that smell of the fresh new vinyl, and we would always wear the costumes while parading around the school on Halloween day.
As I got older, I would find myself staring at Don Post Studios masks that were in the old ads in Famous Monsters of Filmland and Fangoria magazines. These were full over-the-head rubber masks with actual hair, and they looked real!
Nothing compared to the first time I set foot in the place that kicked my love for masks into high gear, Wayne’s Trick Shop. It was loaded with magic tricks and gags, but most of all they had the masks. Kids today will never know what it was like to experience that. The pop-up Halloween outlets today just don’t cut it, and you definitely do not get the feel that you used to get walking into an old trick shop. My collection emulates the old costume shops that I loved. I am a huge horror buff, and there’s something to be said about holding a full-scale, highly detailed replica of Frankenstein’s head in your hands.
Q: Why are these inexpensive masks so collectible now?
A: What makes these different than most collectibles is that they were made from thin latex rubber or vinyl, and if they were not taken care of or stored properly, they would deteriorate or melt away. The older the mask, the rarer it is to find in nice condition. Most guys my age are after the masks they wanted or had as a kid.
Q : What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a single mask?
A: Today, on average, the more collectible 70s and 80s Don Post masks run in the $300-$500 range. From there the next level is about $800-$1,200 for the rarer pieces. There are single masks in the collection that cost several thousand dollars. A pristine set of original Halloween III masks (the famous Witch, Pumpkin, and Skull trio from the 1982 film) can fetch upward of eight to 10 grand in auction, depending on their condition and if they have their original Silver Shamrock tags.
There is one mask in my collection that I paid the most for. If I ever sold it, I would probably ask around $25,000 for it. It’s the only known all-original copy of a mask that’s known as the Verne Langdon Zombie. The mask is a famous hippie zombie mask that graced the cover of Creepy magazine in 1972. About 22 copies were produced back then, and it was pretty much impossible to get your hands on one. It may be the rarest mask in the world, but believe it or not, I’ve seen guys pay that or more for other pieces.
For me, it’s not always about being rare or expensive. I have masks that I picked up for 10 bucks that I love as much as an $800 mask. It’s more about the nostalgia of it and my love for the monsters. There is also the thrill of the hunt — finding a mask out there in an old shop or garage sale is much cooler than simply clicking on eBay to score it.
Q: How many masks are in your collection?
A: Approximately 400, and that number is always changing. In the past, I never imagined I would have this many. I have started to collect whole runs in specific catalog years. For example, I try to get everything that is seen in the old 1978 Don Post catalog, or 1982 and so on. The “Collect them all!” attitude, however, with this hobby is a little different than collecting thimbles. You start building dedicated rooms just for the masks, and when you run out of space it forces you to sell something here and there.
Q: Any favorite new or upcoming mask makers we should be watching?
A: One who really sticks out in my mind is Pete Infelise of The Devil’s Workshop. He is beyond talented as a sculptor, and his use of color when he paints blows people’s minds. His masks have been selling out at the shows in less than two hours flat.
Another one to watch for is the young Connor Deless. This kid crept up when he was only about 16 years old. He has become one of the best sculptors the hobby has seen in over a decade.
Other veteran mask makers are Justin Mabry, Mikey Rotella and the guys over at Nightmare Force. Even if you are not a collector, you need to look these guys up on Instagram and check out their work. Besides new mask makers, I am very lucky to still work with some of the original sculptors and painters from back in the day, including people like Rob and Cathy Tharp, who worked at Don Post Studios in the 70s and 80s.
Q: If you had to sell everything what is the one mask that would stay on your shelf?
A: It’s not really one mask; it’s a set of three! I previously mentioned the Halloween III Silver Shamrock masks. There’s no mask out there that ties into my childhood more than these three masks do. If you are familiar with the film, you’ll remember the Day-Glo painted Witch, Pumpkin and Skull masks that Silver Shamrock Novelties was going to use to kill off all the trick-or-treaters.
I was 10 years old in 1983, and I had my nose deep in the pages of Fangoria magazine. Just about every issue in ’83 had the old ad where you could order these masks. I would just stare at them, wishing I had the $30 or $40 to send away for one. It’s taken me decades to finally get a set in my hands. I wish I could have proven to my parents back then that in the future they would be worth more than 100 times their original value.
Q: What do you foresee in the future for your collecting?
A: It’s funny, when I started my Instagram account for my collection I had no idea the following it would begin to take on. I started the account for the heck of it. Now I have over 12,000 followers — from people in the horror movie industry to major rock stars. I named my collection the Crimson Ghost Mask Room.
I have become one of the go-to guys when people have questions about vintage masks, and I’ve also had the honor of contributing to a major book called “The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios,” by Lee Lambert. I’m raising a beautiful 7-year-old daughter who also loves the masks, and I have this vision in my head that someday she may be the curator of the most amazing monster mask and horror museum anyone has ever seen.
I was born and raised in the south Chicagoland suburbs. I went to art school but stumbled into a career in the jewelry industry at a very young age. My mother was a numismatist for several years and worked for a chain of jewelry stores in the burbs, running their rare coin department. As a kid, she had me vacuuming the floors and cleaning the toilets of the store after school. When I got older, I started to learn about diamonds and what it took to design and manufacture custom jewelry.
At 29, I left the company and started my own business. I became a private jeweler selling loose diamonds and designing custom jewelry for clients. My career and hobbies have taken me down a unique and interesting path. Becoming self-employed was the greatest step I ever took. I have a background in buying and selling antiques, watches, coins, old toys and even classic cars, which is another hobby of mine.
I love building and restoring Mopar muscle cars, and I’m really into Plymouth ’Cudas. I’ve been a car nut my entire life thanks to my dad, who seemed to own every Pontiac model that GM ever produced — especially GTOs. Besides cars and monster masks, I’m an avid shooter and traveler.
Don Post Studios
In 1938, Don Post Sr. was about to change Halloween forever when he invented the world’s first full over-the-head latex rubber mask. Don started out making character masks used in stage performances. He later moved on to producing professional hand-painted custom Hollywood masks.
Don Post specialized in bringing the classic Universal monsters off the big screen. He would advertise them for sale in the back of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Don Post Studios made several fully licensed character masks from TV and film, from “Dracula” to “Star Wars.” Perhaps his most famous rendition is the eerie white mask worn by Michael Myers in the classic horror film, “Halloween” — a literal Halloween mask.
For decades, Don Post and his son, Don Post Jr., brought us hundreds of classic masks up until the day they finally closed in 2012. A lot of other amazing Halloween mask companies have emerged over the years. However, Don Post will always remain the king.
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