Heavy Metal Collectors: An interview series
Part 19: Chris Marsh. (America)
Inspiration can come from a number of unique sources. The concept behind this interview series was developed over time but recently crystallized in my mind. As the owner of a large library I’ve often pondered about the nature of collecting Heavy Metal music (Cassettes, vinyl, CD’s, memorabilia etc) and how and why people accumulate Metal ‘stuff’. In 2017 Martin Popoff wrote a book called METAL COLLECTORS which I read, thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed. It occurred to me that there are lots of people out there with pretty massive Metal collections so I decided I wanted to chat to some of them and interview them for the site.
My concept is to, over time ask people with some pretty impressive, monster collections the same series of questions. I’m basically stealing that idea of METAL COLLECTORS (Sorry Martin!) and expanding into an interview series. Lastly, the name for this series was spawned by a gentleman by the name of Ray Wawrzyniak. He appeared in the Rush documentary TIME STAND STILL. Ray is a Rush super-fan and in one particularly charming scene in the film, the genial and friendly (but clearly obsessed) Ray shows off one piece of his Rush collection and refers to it with barely hidden glee as ‘Spectacularly Majestic’. It was in fact ‘just’ an old piece of paper, (a Rush ad from a magazine from 1979) but that phrase alone and his enthusiasm I feel embodies the spirit of Metal collecting, because I suspect that many Metal collectors have those same moments. Check out the 1:30 minute mark of the video below.
If you, or know someone you know, has a monster Metal collection (in the 1000+ range) please feel free to get them in touch with me!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Chris Marsh and I’m 49 years old. I’ve lived in central Pennsylvania all of my life so concerts and music shopping usually involve a three hour one way trip these days. I work as an Elementary School Principal. I’m married to a woman who fully supports my collecting and since we have no children this hobby is my baby.
Tell us how you started collecting Metal! When did you start?
My official collecting date was 1983 with Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”. I was a huge fan of Friday Night Videos, Night Flight, and any other show that featured music. When Quiet Riot hit my radar at 13 years old, I was all in. ZZ Top “Eliminator” was next. Then Ratt being played on a PBS video show set me into full motion. At one point in the 80s I had amassed 500 cassettes. Music was my Birthday request, my Christmas list, my Easter hustle, and the magazines of the day directed my requests. My first CDs were from Christmas 1988; Winger s/t, King Diamond “Abigail”, and King Diamond “Them”. Nothing says Christmas like King Diamond.
How big is your collection?
My collection includes music, clothing, and memorabilia. I’m primarily a CD collector who transitioned from cassette tapes. I’ve never been bitten by the vinyl bug so my vinyl stash if very small. In all, I have thousands of items that comprise my collection from a diverse range of collectibles.
Can you give us a break down? (Vinyl, vs. Cassette, vs. CD vs. digital)
As of this moment, I have 10,250 CDs, no burns, no bootlegs. My focus is on box sets and although I’ve never counted how many I have, I’m estimating that it’s in the 200-300 range. I have around 80 pieces of vinyl (not including what’s in box sets) but those are really only for display purposes. My cassette collection has been reduced to 30 but they are the more difficult titles to find. Digital? I don’t count it and I don’t buy “air”.
How do you count your collection? For example. If you have say for example, multiple copies of KISS-Destroyer on the following media; Vinyl, 8-Track, Cassette, CD, and digital format do you count that as five items or just 1 item?
I don’t buy multiple copies of anything to double count. If I upgrade a CD, say to the Japanese SHM version or a deluxe box set, I move the older copy into a trade/sell pile. So when I say I have 10,250 CDs, those are 1 copy only for each title. I also don’t count vinyl, 8-track, or cassette in my number unless I’m specifically referring to those formats and I maintain those counts separately from my main collection.
When you collect certain bands, do you buy all of their stuff such as Live albums, EP’s, Compilations, box-sets etc?
I am a completionist by nature. So when I like an artist, I attempt to buy all the forms of CD that they might release; single, live, or box. I’ll throw in a greatest hits when all is said and done but I’m not committed to those in my metal collection. In pop rock, that’s they only way I’ll buy them.
How do you organize your collection if at all; by genre, Chronologically? Alphabetically?
My collection is organized A-Z, newest release to oldest. Compilations go at the end.
Do you insure your collection?
My collection is covered under my homeowner’s policy so I don’t have a special policy.
How do you store your collection?
I have a 26×38 foot temperature controlled building, detached from my home. Essentially, it’s a free-standing man cave outside of my home. The CDs are stored in Atlantic Oskar wall units that hold 1080 each. The box sets are stored throughout the man cave. Shirts are stored in a closet that has a secret entry door. My better pieces are stored in a lighted custom Pretty Maids “Future World” cabinet designed by Custom Creations in Ohio.
What is your preferred genre(s)? Do you have a genre break down of your collection? For example 15% Death Metal, 25% Black Metal etc?
I listen to everything from Heart Throb Mob to Rotting Christ. I’ve never been fortunate enough to be able to focus solely on one artist. So, as it stands, I cover all genres. Death and Black Metal are represented the least with maybe 10% each. I have probably 25% from hard rock, another 25% from power metal, and the other 30% would just be general melodic metal. I guess it’s all metal of some type to me. It’s just different ends of a very large spectrum.
Do you sell and trade or strictly buy?
I mostly buy but I’m not beyond trading my extras. I’ll outright sell items about once every three years on eBay.
What is your preferred format?
My preferred format is CD. They are easy to handle, easy to store, and nice to have signed.
How do your track your collection? Do you use a spreadsheet or one of the on-line services or even a hand-written list?
I use an outstanding program called CLZ Music. It’s wonderful! I can scan my barcodes into the system, search the artwork, and I reference my catalog from my phone so I don’t double-purchase items anymore. The program is already stuffed with virtually every release but when new titles come out, you can manually add them for the CLZ community. I don’t pay for many programs. I happily pay for this one!
What is your most valuable piece? (not in terms of sentimental value, but in actual terms of resale value on the open market. ie. Goldmine etc. )
My most valuable piece would likely be the Rammstein flight case. It’s hard to say, though, because the market really determines value. It could be an Anvil box set that I have or it could be the custom cabinet for my storage.
What is your rarest item in your collection?
The rarest items in my collection are: An Anvil box set from The End Records. Only 3 exist; I own one and a superfan in Canada owns the other two. I also have a Warrior Soul stage backdrop that is the only one in existence and I own a custom made The Bunny The Bear mask that is one of a kind as well. After that, any of the Kivel label box sets were only pressed in the 100 range so they’re pretty rare too!
What is the most you have paid for an item
The most I paid for an item is $500 for the Anvil box set. The most I’ve paid for a CD is $80 back in the early 2000s for Fate “A Matter of Attitude”
Do you collect other non-music Metal memorabilia such as books, DVD’s, T-shirts, stickers, hot sauces, wine/beer etc.
Non music items that I collect are sports cards and superhero or wrestling figures. Everything else related directly to metal and hard rock.
What is the one item you have been searching for that you cannot seem to find?
My current holy grail would be Van Veen “Over the Universe” out of Japan.
Why do you collect Metal music?
I collect metal music because it moves my soul. It’s the soundtrack to my life and all of the wonderful things that I’ve done in life are a result, in some way, of my love for metal. No genre is more creative, more versatile, or more skilled. I only need food, water, and metal.
In a morbid and Metal question, what do you plan to do with your collection when you die?
My wife is 10 years younger than me so she’ll inherit the issue! Like everyone else, we are always looking for a place to hand off to that will honor the collection but most people don’t know enough to handle such a thing! She maintains that she will keep it as some kind of morbid monument to her deceased husband. How metal is that?
Final thoughts? Feel free to use this space to share any unique or interesting items about you and your collection and/or share ideas and advice for your fellow collectors.
I think the thing that I am most proud of is that this collection has taken such a monumental effort to accumulate. I have no music stores near me. Even in the 80s I didn’t have more than 3 or 4 within an hour drive. Now, my closest spot is about 3 hours away. Same with concerts; the closest club I ever saw a National act in was 45 minutes away. Now, it’s an automatic overnight because of distance. I’ve never been a writer who receives freebies. I’ve never had a professional connection. I’ve never worked in radio to receive promos. When I discovered imports in 1992, I would send a money order every couple of weeks to a seller in Ohio named Kookie Joe (from Goldmine magazine) and blind buy CDs based on the name alone. When I met my friend Alex Gerlich, the frontman of German metal band Alaska Fire (via ebay), we began trading internationally. His contributions of unique items from Europe has really bolstered my collection so I always like to acknowledge him. This has been a labor but a labor of love that has allowed me to connect with many wonderful people.
I’ve always envied those who can be super fans of one band. It would be so nice to be able to focus in on one entity and collect everything around them but so many of the metal genres speak to me. I just can’t do that. When I went to Japan recently, I came home with 350 titles and it has taken me 2 full months to get through them all. I listen to each CD and then pull songs that I really like onto an iPod.
I really have no care if lyrics are in English or not which opens up my collection to stuff from Japan, Hungary, and the Czech Republic among others. Metal is an international language. It’s nothing to hear a song from In Extremo followed by something from Reckless Love followed by something from Rotting Christ. So long as the song is good, it’s all good for me.