Jack Nicholson’s Joker once famously referred to Batman’s arsenal of crime-fighting gadgets as "wonderful toys." It’s fitting, then, that this same description applies to the 621 lots in Heritage Auctions' Ultimate Batman Collection auction. The collection boasts an unbeatable range of rare and vintage Bat-memorabilia -- including action figures, tin toys, trading cards, comics, posters, food packaging, models, puzzles, and games -- and is currently open for bidding online.
Collector Ed Kelly, who previously owned the bulk of the Ultimate Batman Collection's contents, recently hailed the "once-in-a-generation opportunity" the auction affords devotees of DC's iconic superhero. "Without a doubt, this is the most comprehensive Batman collection ever to come up for auction, containing many beyond-rare and unique items," he said. "It would be almost impossible to put a vintage collection of this magnitude together today."
As Kelly notes, each of the items going under the hammer is an impossible-to-find collector's piece, especially a pair of one-of-a-kind Hot Toys dioramas. The first of these lavish sets is a 1:6-scale Batcave modeled on the subterranean hideout of Adam West's Caped Crusader. The Batcave diorama features recognizable props from the 1966 Batman TV series such as the Batcomputer and Anti-Crime Eyechecker. It also includes four "strange costumes" inspired by the classic cover of Detective Comics #165, as well as Batman and Robin figures based on the likeness of West and co-star Burt Ward and a replica Batmobile.
Commenting on the 1:6-scale Batcave diorama, Heritage's Consignment Director of Action Figures and Toys Justin Caravoulias noted its added utility as an exhibition platform. "As a Hot Toys collector, I know the challenge of finding just the right spot to display an amazing new piece," Caravoulias said. "With this set, your problem is solved. This handmade work, for which Hot Toys is famous, gives you the feeling that you're in the presence of something extraordinary. It demands to be at the center of someone's Batman collection."
The Ultimate Batman Collection auction's other Hot Toys diorama takes its cues from 1989's Batman, spotlighting several scenes from Tim Burton's blockbuster film. Among the memorable moments evoked by the diorama are the Batmobile's dramatic raid on the Joker's Axis Chemicals lair and the climactic showdown between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime amid a Gotham City street parade. It includes figures sculpted to resemble the Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson incarnations of Batman and the Joker, as well as accurately-sized recreations of the Batmobile, the Joker's helicopter, and a poison gas-filled clown balloon.
Among the Ultimate Batman Collection’s other noteworthy lot items are 23 original paintingsby legendary artist Walt Howarth, none of which should still exist according to Caravoulias. "They're all one-of-a-kind works," he explained. "Howarth had a habit of creating two copies of each piece because he would create an original painting, then send it to the publisher -- who would destroy it after it was used. Howarth would paint two almost identical: one he would send, one he would keep."
Heritage is also accepting bids on 100 Batman-themed tin toys created for the Japanese market -- a veritable treasure trove of collectibles unlikely to be assembled in one place again. These toys include cars, planes, helicopters, tanks, and buses sporting the aesthetic of Bruce Wayne's pointy-eared alter-ego, as well as other items, such as toy guns and robots. Yonezawa’s friction-powered Open Top Red Batmobile and Tada's Wind-up Batman Tin Robot (both of which come in their original boxes) are just two of many the highlights of this part of the collection.
The Ultimate Batman Collection’s auction dates are Aug. 4 and Aug. 5, 2023. Live bidding will be available on Aug. 4, while Aug. 5 will be an internet-only auction.