Superhero comic collector sells £1.5million haul after thieves nearly stole the lot
Randy Lawrence with some of his incredible collection of comics (Image: Randy Lawrence)
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Holy smoke, Robin! A Batman fan is selling his beloved comic collection soon after retrieving it from a thief.
Randy Lawrence, 60, has spent more than 50 years building one of the world’s best Batman comic collections, worth around £1.5million.
It has been his life’s work – but this week his caped crusader adventures are going under the hammer.
He said: “I couldn’t live with the stress of owning such a valuable collection.”
His decision is all the more remarkable because he has only recently been reunited with the comics, which were stolen in a heist worthy of a Batman story.
One of Randy's priceless comic books
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
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The cunning plot could have been hatched by a villain such as Joker, but Randy was as tenacious as his hero.
The treasured comics were stored in a locked storage facility covered by CCTV in Boca Raton, Florida.
But in January 2019, thieves rented a spot in the same building, then tunnelled into the ceiling and crawled across units to steal the collection.
Randy said: “I howled like a wounded animal when I found all the empty boxes in my storage locker.
"My retirement was wrapped up in those comic books. I had no idea how I’d survive without them. I thought my life was over.”
CCTV footage revealed two possible thieves, but there were no fingerprints or DNA at the scene.
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The comics were put into large bags and boxes so police couldn’t prove the thieves were leaving the facility with the stolen items.
But days later, Phillip Weisbauer, 31, tried to sell five of Lawrence’s stolen Batman gems, worth £80,000, 2,000 miles away at a comic book shop in Phoenix, Arizona.
Randy said: “The comic community is very tight-knit and I had alerted everyone about the theft. It was like he was trying to sell the Crown Jewels at a pawn shop.”
The shop owner called cops, who arrested Weisbauer, but he said he had found the stolen comics and did not know where the other 500 were.
He told his family he did have all the comics. This was incriminating, but not enough to convict him.
Months dragged on and the police and FBI kept hitting a brick wall. It was then that an increasingly desperate Randy and lawyers hatched a plan.
Randy began focusing on Batman comics
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
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Palm Beach County Chief Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams said: “We didn’t have enough evidence to convict Weisbauer. But he didn’t know that.
“I let his attorney know we had all sorts of incriminating evidence, but said we would be willing not to bring additional charges in Florida if he returned all the stolen comic books. It was a bluff – but it worked.”
The next day Weisbauer brought a truck filled with Randy’s stolen comic books.
Randy’s lawyer, Wayne Schwartz, said: “Randy was euphoric. He had been depressed and despondent about the theft, which took his entire life’s savings. He was ecstatic to have the books back.”
Weisbauer’s charges were reduced to theft, and he was sentenced in February to probation.
Randy took his beloved collection home and slept surrounded by the comics.
He decided to sell up over the pressure of his valuable collection
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
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He said: “It was the first good night’s sleep I had in a year. I thought I’d never see my Batman collection again.
"But after a while I realised I couldn’t live with the stress of owning such a valuable collection, which is why I’m selling it now.”
It is expected to break records when it is sold by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday.
Batman is one of the longest-lasting comic book superheroes. He made his debut in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939 and got his own comic book the following year.
Detective Comics No. 27 originally sold for 10 cents, about 7p. In 2010, one went for over £750,000.
Avid comic book collectors include actors Nicolas Cage, 56, Ben Affleck, 48, who played the caped crusader in 2016 Batman v Superman, Samuel L Jackson, 71, and British TV host Jonathan Ross, 59.
Nicolas Cage is a huge comic book fan
(Image: Rex Features)
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Randy said: “I have several worth six figures. I started collecting comic books when I was about six when my father bought them to help me learn to read.
“I never thought they’d be worth a fortune some day. I just loved the adventures.
"Over the years, I traded in my original comic books for rare collectibles, and during 25 years in the garment business put all my savings into comics.”
A decade ago, he began focusing on Batman comics.
Heritage Auctions’ Robert Wilonsky said: “It’s one of the most important, highly-rated and best condition Batman comic book collections in the world. It’s remarkable and rare.
“Batman is more popular than ever. We see extensive bidding from the UK, and British collectors are incredibly eager.”
But Palm Beach Sheriff’s Det Sgt Michael Tramonte knows Randy is the true superhero.
He said: “Without his relentlessness to never let it go, he’d never have got his books back. It was the biggest haul of stolen goods I’ve ever seen a victim recover.”
Lawrence, of Boca Raton, smiled: “As Batman once said, ‘I have one power: I never give up’.
“But in future I’ll leave adventure and crime-solving to him.”