Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

The Crawford Institute of Pop Culture Collectibles

Last Update: 2022-05-18
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Crawford Institute of Pop Culture Collectibles

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Welcome to the Crawford Institute of Pop Culture Collectibles!

I'm your host, Michael Crawford. I've been a collector of everything my entire life, including stamps, and coins, and movie posters, and advertising, and comic books, etc. etc. etc., but it wasn't until I started collecting toys in the late 80's that I found my true passion. In the mid 90's I started reviewing toys, action figures, and other pop culture collectibles, an activity that continues to this day. And in February of 2000, I started my website for those reviews, which is where I'm hosting this virtual tour of my collection.

Some quick facts:

- the building is open inside, with no walls, just one large room.
- all walls are shelved with shelves 8" wide.
- there are eleven defined wall sections, each a different color and theme.
- there are 20 uniquely designed towers of shelves in the center of the room.
- the total display shelf space is 1545 square feet. For comparison, if you use Detolf cases for display, it would require 355 Detolfs for the same display space.

I have a history with museums. As a kid, I got the collecting bug from my father, and we traveled a lot with a trailer. On our trips around the country, he collected many antiques and rocks, and created a 'museum' in our garage. My elementary school was very close to the house, and my class would come down each year to visit. This planted the seeds for my adult yearning to have my toy collection set up in a similar way.

In our first home, I had a set up much like many collectors, where I dedicated a room to my collection. But a lot of stuff was boxed up, never to see the light of day, and that bummed me out. Enough so, that when we went looking for our next - and current, and hopefully last - house, around 2007, I wanted enough space to build a separate building to set it all up.

Putting up the building was one of the first things we did, but it turned into a storage place for lots and lots of boxes, as well as a place for me to take photos for the reviews. The building, as you can see in the first exterior photo, is rectangular. It is 50' feet long, and 25' feet deep, for a total of 1250 square feet. No interior walls, nothing to break up the displays. Before I started on building it all out, I wanted to catalog everything I had - what I was going to keep, what I was going to sell, and what I was unsure about. And that took forever to accomplish, because getting the motivation to go through box after box was near impossible.

And then covid came along, and I had a lot of time on my hands. About the same time, I finished up the daunting task of cataloging, and sorted out all the stuff I was positive I didn't want any more. In the spring of 2020, I began building out the interior.

I know I'd need to build my displays if I were going to do this for a reasonable amount of money. Even simple shelving is expensive at this quantity, and getting shelving that matched my vision of various areas was even more complicated. I came up with a simple design for the wall shelves, and for towers that would reside in the center of the room.

I also needed to repaint the walls - it had been 10 years since the building was built by the time I got around to working on the interior build out. They needed a fresh coat, but the room was packed with stuff, and it wasn't going any where. Moving it all out to do all the walls at once was out of the question, and painting only one section of wall at a time doesn't work well. If you've ever tried it before, you know you can always tell where you started and left off.

So I decided I'd paint each section of the room a different color as I worked on it, something that sorta, kinda, maybe matched the theme of the collectibles that would be in the area.  The Yellow Section is mostly Simpsons, the Gray Section is mostly Batman, the Brown Section is western and war related stuff, etc.

Next was the design of the wall shelves. Each shelf would be 8" deep, enough for most items but not too much wasted space. The nine foot ceilings meant I could do five shelves, with a 22" height off the floor and for the top shelf, with the other four shelves with a 16" height. That seemed to accommodate the broadest number of items, and by using risers - smaller shelf sections attached to the shelves - I could split the shelves up height-wise as I needed. For example, I could do a 4" wide riser, 4 - 5 inches tall, on an shelf eight inches wide and get two rows for smaller items like mini-busts.


These wall shelves extend around the entire room, except for the entryway and the four windows.

The tower designs came next. Again, I went with a simple set up, sturdy and utilitarian. All the shelves are currently white, whether on the wall or the towers. Eventually, as I build out more specific dioramas in various areas, this will change, but for version 1.0 I wanted consistency.

While I laid out several different floor plans in advance, I ended up altering most of the towers on the fly, as I decided what looked best in place. These towers have legs attached to the ceiling for additional support, and shelves that range in size from 3'x6', the largest, to 2'x4', the most common. I also used a number of 2'x8' towers and 3'x4' towers, and laid all of these out in different patterns, based on the area. It was important to maintain at least three foot wide aisles between the wall shelves and towers, and between the towers themselves.


Obviously the shelf heights in the tower matches the heights on the wall. Maximizing space while creating an interesting flow was my main objective. Some of these towers are standing on their own - others are connected to one another.  All walk ways between shelving are at least 36".

The building has a furnace of course, but right now does not have air conditioning. It sits on a concrete foundation, and does tend to stay cool during the summer. The windows are covered with both a UV film and a black out shade, which helps keep the heat out, and there's a good dehumdifier and air purifier as well. However, I'm considering adding an air conditioner at some point.

I get asked about dust a lot. Dust is not a major issue, since the building doesn't get a lot of traffic and there are no pets allowed in. The key is to keep dust itself to a minimum first - no pets, no carpets, no upholstered furniture, no open windows or doors, no vacuuming the floor. Changing your furnace filters regularly helps, as does a good air purifier. I use a Corsi/Rosenthal box, and it works great, and may add a second. I do still dust occasionally, but it's not the major effort it would be without the steps to keep dust at a minimum up front.

There's a security system of course, with cameras and alarms, which is managed by ADT. I also get immediate alerts on my phone if any doors and windows are opened, or if the cameras pick up any movement. While there's no pets inside, the outside is patrolled by two dogs who really aren't fans of strangers.

That's the general breakdown, but if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email. And below you'll find a link to all the videos you could possible want - make sure you subscribe, as I add three new videos on collecting and the Institute every week.

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The Institute Videos
Please use the following link to various videos covering the CIOPCC, including Themes, Favorite Collections, and Must Sees!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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