Bruce Lee Collectors’ Corner – John Negron

John began collecting Bruce Lee memorabilia, at the age of thirteen, right after The Little Dragon’s premature death in 1973. At this pivotal time in his life, he was looking for a role-model to help him navigate the oppressive environment of bullying and drug abuse he saw all around him in New York City. Like many young boys of that era, John had grown up watching Bruce Lee in ‘The Green Hornet’ TV series during its 1966-1967 premiere run. Even though he was too young to understand the intricacies of ‘Gung Fu’ at that time, he was captivated by what he saw. This early exposure ignited a passion for Bruce Lee collectibles, which has endured for 47 years! Now, aged 60, John is still as passionate about his hobby as he ever was.

 

 

“When I began collecting, there was no Facebook or Twitter.  We just had landlines – no cells – and, of course, the timeless option of writing to pen-pals who shared the same interest. This was our social media platform. Back then, I communicated with other collectors through “Fanzines”. These were basically fan-made magazines prepared on Xerox (copy) machines and then sent by mail to a defined subscriber-base. Most times, the publisher barely made back their mailing and printing costs, so it was mostly a labor of love. Despite the limitations, this fanzine-network was essentially our eBay, because we could easily find other collectors that way. We would then strike up friendships, call one another and write letters. I would routinely share stories with these “Pen-Pals”, and we would also swap and buy items from each other… The funny thing was one friend never knew what another friend looked like. We only knew each other’s voices and could recognise each other’s handwriting. I was like a kid in a candy store, when I was waiting for an item to come in the mail. It’s not like today, where you can track a consignment on eBay. Thanks to social-media, I am finally starting to meet the guys I would unwittingly rub shoulders with in New York City’s Chinatown. After all these years, technology has brought us back together.”

“Back in those days, if you had access to a Chinatown in your city, you could uncover the prize-vault! When the Kung Fu craze was in full flow, there were countless martial arts publications. If they even mentioned Bruce Lee on the cover, they got an immediate sale from a Bruce Lee fan or collector, or perhaps from a martial artist wanting to know more about this legendary icon. One monthly publication we all loved was the now historic ‘Kung Fu Monthly’ poster-magazine, which spawned about 32 issues in the USA. However, other countries also adapted the concept and went into high production numbers. The US versions usually sold out very quickly, because most kids bought two for a dollar – one for the wall and another to read and save. The pictures were awesome at that time, but the paper quality was not that great, and they eventually fell apart at the seams! Nowadays, these ‘Kung Fu Monthly’ editions are very desirable to almost every collector and command top dollar for the ‘not-so-common’ issues. Now, with the arrival of the ‘Bruce Lee: The Life, The Legacy, The Legend’ poster-magazine series, we have a new generation of top-quality poster-magazines, which are made from durable premium art-paper and designed to last. I, for one, look forward to enjoying this poster-magazine for many years to come.”

Today, John’s collection covers an incredibly broad spectrum of Bruce Lee memorabilia – everything from figurines to vintage magazines to photographs to Bruce Lee-themed chess-sets and everything in between. He even has a tile from Bruce Lee’s kitchen, which has been authenticated by Linda Lee!

“Even after 47 years of collecting, I still have not limited myself on what I like to collect from the world of Bruce Lee…  I have magazines from all over the world and am well known in the community for that aspect of my collection. I also collect figurines, statues, stamps, newspapers, lobby cards, T-shirts, posters, toys, lighters and plates, as well as autographs from Bruce’s students, family and friends – just about anything, really. “

John comments on one aspect of his collection, where his tastes have definitely changed over the years: “Back in the 70s and 80s, we loved to collect the early “Largo” Bruce Lee figurines. Today, when you look at these poorly-made plastic figures, it’s laughable. Despite the bold claims on the packaging, they are barely “pose-able” and are in no way comparable to the 300-400 dollar resin figurines available today, which are so lifelike and so beautifully made.”

 

John continues: “At this point, I have thousands of items, but the ones that stand out the most – and are my pride & joy – are my original 9 Fu-Shon City statues. I have acquired all of them at one time or another. However, after detailed negotiations and spending a great deal of money, some of them have arrived broken due to their weight and fragility. So the search continues for the ones that are missing…”

 

 

In spite of the deep volume and variety present in John’s collection, he still feels it is incomplete: “There are still three prized items, which I would love to add to my collection: an autograph from both Bruce & Brandon Lee and the 1972 cover issue # 3 Golden Movie News Magazine. I have always told myself: when I get these three items, my collection will have come full circle and will be complete. I will then collect no more… “

 

 

We would very much like to thank John for sharing his story and some of the items from his amazing collection. He has suffered a number of personal tragedies throughout his lifetime, and this inspiring hobby coupled with the support and friendship he has received from many people within the Bruce Lee community has really helped to sustain and encourage him during some very difficult times. We are sure you would all like to join us in wishing him all the very best for the future… 😀

 

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