The Simpsons Folder

Highly informative and original fan site, offering carefully selected information about The Simpsons with special photos, drawings, graffities, videos and other intriguing bits of content you won't find elsewhere.



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Fan Interview: Bill LaRue

This document is done

We all know you from your website, Collecting Simpsons! which is a land of chocolate for a fan who loves Simpsons merchandise. How did you become a Simpsons fan?

I’ve loved “The Simpsons” since they first appeared as cartoon snippets on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987. They were hilariously subversive then, and only got even more so as the years passed.

Who is your favorite charachter on the Simpsons and can you explain why?

Milhouse. He is so hopelessly sincere that I always get lots of laughs whenever he appears. And because I grew up with thick glasses myself, I kind of identify with him.

Do you have favorite episodes?

I really enjoy the first Christmas episode, as well as “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” and, of course, “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love.”

When did you started collecting Simpsons merchandise?

My wife bought a whole bunch of Simpsons merchandise in 1990, including the Burger King dolls and a Bart coin bank. But I didn’t get seriously into collecting until 1995 when I spotted the dolls packed away in my basement, got a good chuckle over them, and decided it might be fun to see if I could find more. I haven’t stopped hunting for Simpsons stuff since then.

You have just released a book which also carries same title as on your website. What was the main reason make a book of Simpsons merchandise?

A lot of people kept asking me to do this, and I just felt there was a need for something people could study and carry with them and enjoy away from the computer terminal. There are lots of people who don’t have Internet access, and I wanted to reach them, too.

Was it hard thing to gather all information as a book?

Great question. It was very hard. Of course, I had a lot information gathered already for my Web site. But I didn’t want to just cut and paste stuff from my Web site into the book. I ended up adding lots of new stuff, including close to 400 photos, brief chapters on promotional merchandise, bootlegs and even an autopsy on a talking Bart doll. I took 99 percent of the photos myself using a digital camera, so that added a lot of work, too.

Are photographs in your book from your own collection?

Yes. Everything I listed and photographed for the book is part of my personal collection. I basically went through box after box of merchandise, pulling stuff out and photographing it for several weeks. Because I have more than 3,000 items in my collection, I had much to work with. I tried to strike a balance between offering photos of the most common stuff people might have in their own collection, and giving experienced collectors a look at some obscure and hard-to-find items they might never have seen before.

Does it feature more information than your website has now?

There are definitely many more photos in the book than on the Web site, and there is some other exclusive stuff I put in the book. But the Web site has the advantage of being updated several times a week. So I’ve got lots of new items listed, as well as reviews, reports and other things that might end up in another edition of the book should there be enough demand for one in a couple of years.

How accurate is your price scale for Simpsons collectibles on your site?

Probably about as accurate as one can expect from something that changes as rapidly as values for collectible merchandise. One week, for instance, the Mr. Burns figures are selling for $40 each on ebay. The next, you can find them on the official Simpsons site for about $6. So what’s the typical selling price? I tend to be conservative until there’s a track record for a few weeks or months. For older merchandise, I constantly review prices on ebay and other sources, looking to establish average typical values for merchandise that neither reflect usually high prices, or rare bargains.

You have over 3,000 Simpsons item stored in your house. Does that kind of amount make is hard to decide what are your favorite items?

One nice benefit of having a Web site and a book is that I’ve got most of my favorite items catalogued for easy reference. I would say my two favorites are my full-size arcade Simpsons pinball machine from Data East that I keep in my basement, and also a handsome Simpsons crew jacket that I bought from a studio employee.

What about Simpsons cels, have you bought many of them?

Not many. I’ve got a couple of limited editions in my collection, as well as some other production art. But I have to draw a line somewhere, and I’ve decided I’d rather spend most of my money on a lot of other less-expensive Simpsons merchandise I don’t own.

Do you collect bootlegs?

I’ve got a few bootlegs in my collection, but I mostly steer away from them because, for the most part, they suffer from poor quality. My book does have a chapter about them, including tips on how to know whether you got a licensed item or not.

Do you buy every item you see?

If I did, my wife would leave me. Seriously, I’m just a newspaper reporter in “real life,” and unfortunately I don’t have enough money to buy everything I want.

How can you say what is bootleg and what is official Simpsons merchandise? What’s the main difference?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. One tip-off is, if the item doesn’t have Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s stamped-on signature, it’s probably a bootleg. I said “probably” because there’s been production errors on a few items where it’s been left out, but it doesn’t happen often. There is also certain production standards to Simpsons merchandise in terms of packaging, quality of the artwork, and the skill of the item itself. If it looks amateurish, it probably is a bootleg.

What is worst item you have seen/bought?

The Flippy Flyer cloth disc isn’t a favorite. I don’t know what anyone would do with a cloth flying disc. The Homer Simpson Pop-Gun Target Set is also kind of a joke, basically nothing more than a hollow piece of plastic shaped something like a gun. It shoots a couple plastic balls about 1 foot, but the packaging has more safety advice than National Rifle Association firing range.

What about Matt Groening’s other cartoon, Futurama? Do you collect them?

Not much yet to collect there. I do have the 2000 Futurama calendar, and might get some of the tin toys and action figures expected this year. However, my wife definitely would leave me if I started another full line of collecting.

What other things you do besides collect Simpsons stuff and update your site?

I spend several hours a day in a secret temple I’ve set up to store the merchandise, and I regularly spend hours in there polishing my Simpsons bell jar. Actually, I’m a TV critic for the newspapers in Syracuse, N.Y. That job keeps me busy, hour upon hour, watching television. Tough job, huh? Oh, yes, I’ve got a wife and two darling children, ages 9 and 6. The kids think it’s pretty cool Daddy still plays with toys.

Lastly, I have never seen a figure of Snowball first sold anywhere. Have you?

No, although I am pleased we finally got some bean-bag toys of Snowball II as other Springfield creatures.