But he still spends most of his days getting what he calls "my daily fix"--sorting through new items for his collection.
New York book dealer L. W. Currey, one of the world's largest sellers of rare science fiction and fantasy books, surveyed Ackerman's collection in May. He said the collection is significant, but he declined to estimate its value other than to say that, to the right buyer, it could be worth several million dollars.
"You would need more than one person to do an evaluation," Currey said. "Books, magazines, film-related material, no one has their finger on the value of all of that. I would have to do considerable research on the movie material because we are specialists in first-edition books and magazines."
Because the collection is so diverse, Currey said, "the sum may not be worth as much as its individual parts. A single buyer may not have an interest in all the material and might undervalue some pieces."
Since his visit, Currey said, he has notified buyers who are interested in purchasing the collection. Those expressing an interest include educational institutions and individuals, he said. But he declined to identify them.
Ackerman said he has thought of conducting a yearlong auction to unload his 36,000 books, 125,000 movie stills, 18,000 movie lobby cards, original movie scripts and manuscripts and the uncounted number of magazines, autographs, paintings and props. But, he said, "It would be a criminal shame to have it scattered around."
"I wouldn't sell it unless it was kept together and I had some input on its display," Ackerman said. "If somebody purchases it, they would get a bonus from me because I would go on collecting for the rest of my life, and, after I have looked at something for a week or two, I would give it as a gift."
Hopes Collection Will Stay
Ideally, Ackerman said, the collection will stay in Los Angeles so he can oversee its operation and perhaps work as curator. "I'm probably the only person who has seen all 300,000 things because every day for the last 59 years I have been putting them on shelves."
Ackerman said he can understand why city officials, more concerned with fixing potholes and paying police officers, might not put the preservation of other-worldly mementos at the top of their priorities. But he said he doesn't understand why those who have made their fortune in fantasy will not contribute to his museum.
"It does sadden me that none of the independently wealthy science fiction and fantasy people don't seem to have the same feeling about its history that I do," Ackerman said. "They could so easily make it all come true and sponsor a museum in Los Angeles where it belongs."
Poster From Spielberg
Star Wars creator George Lucas said he wasn't interested in the collection, Ackerman said. And from Spielberg, whose Amazing Stories series recently debuted on TV, all Ackerman has received so far is a poster from the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," with the inscription: "A generation of fantasy lovers thank you for raising us so well."
Should he sell the collection, Ackerman said, one of the first things he would do with the money would be to purchase the one item he has been after for years but could not afford: the first edition of "Frankenstein," published in 1818.
The book, which Ackerman said is priced at $5,000, would go nicely with the 200 other editions of "Frankenstein" he has already collected, he said.