In our ongoing Collector Spotlight series, we’re taking a closer look at collections and their collectors! This week, we’re featuring Valdis Longbeard, the assistant director at Middle-earth News.
There is no doubt that some of Valdis’ favorite “collectibles” are actually the encounters she has had with members of the cast from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, those are a little less tangible (though, some of her video interviews remain!), but I happen to have received a video tour of Valdis’ house where she displays many pieces of Middle-earth memorabilia, so I know she has some wonderful items. Now, she’s ready to share some of those pieces with you!
Oh yeah, and in case you’re wondering, “Valdis Longbeard” is a pseudonym. But it seems suitable for someone who identifies so strongly with Tolkien’s dwarves!
When did you first discover Tolkien
I was 8 years old the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. My sister brought the books home from her first term at university, and she thought I’d like them. I read The Hobbit, and as I’ve often said, it was definitely love at first read! I headed straight into LOTR! After some initial disappointment that Bilbo wasn’t the central character any more, and that there seemed to be a terrible lack of dwarves, I warmed to the story and became quickly enthralled. The rest, as they say, is history.
Do you remember what was your first Tolkien item?
My own copies of The Hobbit, LOTR, and The Tolkien Reader, my beloved Ballantine editions. I think my sister got tired of my reading her copies over and over again, and finally bought me my own for my birthday. I think I was 10 or 11 then.
When did you first realize/decide that you were a Tolkien collector?
It was sort of a process, and came on rather slowly. When I first started reading Tolkien, there was almost nothing to collect, besides the books themselves. The collection built very slowly for a long time, so slowly that I guess I didn’t think of it as really being a collection. That situation changed with Peter Jackson’s films. I started collecting in earnest with the LOTR films, and kicked it up a few notches with the arrival of The Hobbit films.
How do you decide what you want to collect?
I have all sorts of bits and bobs, no real theme (other than Tolkien). I have a good number of books, lots of film-related collectibles, and many other things. I look at just about anything related to Tolkien as a potential addition! I can’t say just what it is that makes me want items. It depends on the item, I suppose.
Tell us about your collection and some of your favorite items.
Goodness, where to begin? My collection is basically all over my house and in my office at work. It ranges from beautiful collectibles to downright creepy things. There are books, calendars, posters, t-shirts, mugs, magazines, cards, statues, weapon replicas, art, action figures, jewelry… You name an item type and I probably have an example of it! I sometimes think it’s a little out of control. But then I regain my proper perspective ;).
I love all the pieces in my collection, but these are the things I would name as my favorite items.
* My original copies of The Hobbit and LOTR. They may be just old paperback books to others, but to me they are – dare I call them – precious.
* My vintage Barbara Wellington design poster. Probably not coincidentally, the poster is the cover art for my cherished Ballantine edition paperbacks. I am very pleased with the condition the poster is in. I am its original owner, and it spent a number of years on the wall, secured there with thumbtacks, masking tape, double-stick, and other horrible things. I hope to be able to have the poster framed soon. Coming in at more than six feet long, the poster will be a pricey framing job.
* My autographed film posters. I have autographed posters from all three LOTR films, and a studio-verified autographed poster from the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
* The Nazgul coin bank. It needs a replacement battery (it’s an odd size battery). It makes the Nazgul scream sound when you put a coin in it. I love it.
What characters/characters’ items do you find yourself collecting? What is it that draws you to them?
I am partial to pieces that involve Galadriel. Galadriel is one of my favorite Tolkien characters, and there have been many beautiful interpretations of her over time. She was also the first Tolkien character I ever cosplayed, many years ago (sadly, there are no decent photos, and it wasn’t very good anyway – I was in high school). I’m working on a new cosplay for her now. A couple of my favorite Galadriel pieces are a vintage 1987 collector’s doll from a design by Greg Hildebrandt. I also have a Sideshow Weta figurine from The Lord of the Rings.
I’m also very quick to grab things that have to do with the Dwarves. I see myself as a dwarf, and I am drawn to the tragic story of the Dwarves as a people. This is a area of my collection that I am really trying to expand. Most of my pieces are actually jewelry. I bought a fantastic Khuzdul Battle Axe necklace by Badali Jewelry at Dragon Con this year. The necklace has become something of a talisman for me – I wear it nearly every day. I also have Badali’s beautiful Arkenstone earrings. When I’m not wearing my axe, I’m probably wearing Thorin’s Seal by Weta. I also have the Dwarf coin collection from Weta, Dwalin’s axes, and the Thorin Oakenshield statue. I have two bus shelter posters that feature Thorin. The poster from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is currently hanging in our loft.
What are some Tolkien collectibles that are still on your wishlist? What is it about those that makes them so special to you?
I REALLY want Weta’s Dain statue! I really loved Dain in the film, and Weta even put him on his war pig! I would also love to have Weta’s Minas Tirith that was just released recently. It’s just plain beautiful.
You have Tolkien collectibles in your home and also at your office. How do you decide what goes where? Do you have any duplicates just to always have them with you?
I don’t take anything very expensive to my office – I worry about things disappearing. I generally have sillier items at the office – my LOTR and Hobbit Pez dispensers, my Funko Pop and plushie figures, the Nazgul bank, magnets, and such. My office collection includes other fandoms also. Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Trek are also represented.
I know that you’ll be visiting New Zealand next year. What kinds of collectibles are you hoping to pick up while you’re there?
I imagine myself picking up rocks everywhere. I’ll bring bits of Middle-earth home with me. I’m thinking more of collecting experiences than things when I visit New Zealand. I’ll be on the lookout for unique items that will remind me of my time there.
Have you ever been approached by someone who wanted to buy a piece of your collection?
No, not yet. And I would probably not be very receptive. I don’t collect to make money later on. I collect because I love what I put in my collection. Some of my collection is absolute junk (movie theatre cups, for example).
What do your friends and family think of your collection? How do you explain to non-collectors or non-Tolkien fans why you collect?
My family and friends are complete enablers. They have added many items to my collection over the years. I guess I’ve never explained my mania to anyone. Tolkien is my “thing.” That’s all there is to it. I suppose any non-collector finds collecting a silly thing to one degree or another. Sometimes I dread having to pack it all up the next time we move, and I think how much simpler it would be if I didn’t have all this stuff. That’s true enough, I suppose, but I get a lot of enjoyment from my stuff, and from finding new additions for the collection.
Where do you go to find items for your Tolkien collection?
Almost all my acquisitions are made online. There just aren’t shops where I live that sell what I’m looking for. Even the bookshops are extremely limited. Every once in a while I get lucky and find a volume I’m after locally. I also look for things when I’m at cons, when I can get to the vendors.
Do you have any tips for other collectors?
I’m not sure I’m a good one to ask about good deals. I tend to want what I want, and will buy it if I have the means at the time. I am careful when I’m buying second-hand or vintage items, but I’ve certainly made some mistakes. I don’t have what I consider “proper” display space for my collection. One day I would love to have closed cases to help control dust, with lights to really show off the beautiful things. I would love to have an entire room for my Middle-earth items! I don’t catalog my items, although I really should. My collection is extensive enough now that I should keep track of it.