KISS collector (almost) has it all

John Marx / Dispatch Argus QConline

Shane Hartman's 52-inch television rests on his basement floor, because his big screen is not as valuable as the 24-inch busts of  Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss, the original members of the band KISS.

Come on, you can get a flat-screen anywhere, but you cannot find the original busts of one of rock's greatest bands.

"It is the reason the television is on floor,'' said Hartman, 26, who is the Mental Health Court Officer for Rock Island County and holder -- by a large amount -- of the largest KISS memorabilia collection in the area. "It's just the way it is.''

Hartman, a first-team all-good dude, fell in love with the group at age 8 thanks to his parents, who are KISS fans. His collection, well over a thousand pieces and worth thousands of dollars, is all him. His parents planted the KISS seed; he made the KISS collection grow.

"We have been to concerts together,'' Hartman said, adding he and his parents will be in attendance Friday when KISS plays Moline's iWireless Center. "They have been supportive through all this.''

It is difficult to shed light on all that is Hartman's KISS collection, save for two coveted items. Hartman's KISS display is expansive and free of anything second-rate. From comic books to busts, ornaments, a pool cue and action figures of every size and shape, it's there. There are albums,  banners, closets filled with posters and a rare KISS can of beer from Australia.

"I don't have a KISS (plastic) record player and I don't have a remote control KISS van,'' Hartman said with a small and painful wince, describing two items that have escaped him through 18 years of collecting.

A Clinton, Iowa, native and Western Illinois University graduate, Hartman  says gifts given to him are generally KISS related. Also, being single has allowed him to expand his collection on the spur of the moment. He has traveled the Midwest buying, selling and trading KISS memorabilia, and he and his blue pickup truck have worn a path to places like Des Moines, Milwaukee and St. Louis. A recent St. Louis trip began as a small purchase and became an entire-collection buy.

"I had to get a U-Haul to get it all home,'' Hartman said with a chuckle. "I have the freedom to come and go, to chase things I might not be able to chase -- and afford -- with a family. I took two friends from law enforcement with me to St. Louis and they had a good time at my expense, reminding me often that we had to bring everything home in a U-Haul.''

Hartman is not one to give advice about the "what,'' "why''  and "how much'' anyone's collection of memorabilia should entail. He does, however, say you might want to be a fan of what you are chasing.

"I have seen KISS many times,'' Hartman said, noting he shares a birthday with Simmons. "I have been a member of the (the group's fan club) KISS Army. For a (college) graduation gift, I saw a KISS concert from the first five rows in Las Vegas, got to go to the show in a KISS limo and had a backstage meet and greet. It helps to be a fan.''

A level-headed sort, Hartman has never put himself in financial hardship because of his collection. He also has no idea if and when he will stop buying, selling and trading KISS memorabilia. Fishing, his other hobby, will always be there.

"I get a kick out of it,'' he said. "People understand. My family got me started and my friends are cool with it. I only have myself to keep happy. I guess hunting for something I don't have keeps me going."

And a really cool and rare collection growing.


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