The Stamp and Art collections of Kerby Confer
The Pennsylvania-born DJ broke the world record for a rare stamp sale - but his first love was Donald Duck
Kerby Confer grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The start of his teenage years coincided with the birth of rock and roll, though there was little he could afford to do about it beyond listening to the radio and the town was too conservative to have it playing on its only two stations.
However, Confer realised that after sunset he could pick up radio stations from all over America, and began writing down and copying the things DJs would say, wishing he was in their position, cueing up and controlling the music.
So when a 24 hour pop music station was founded in Williamsport when he was 16, Confer showed up on the first day and said he would help the station in any way for free when out of school hours, on condition that he got a job as a DJ at the minimum wage.
Confer DJ-ed on the station for a couple of years. Then he heard a job had opened up at WCAO radio station in Baltimore, drove through the night to be one of the 50 applicants in the morning and got it. That led to a TV show in Baltimore too.
Eventually, he moved from front-line DJ-ing to buying radio stations with problems, fixing them and selling them on. This has gradually brought great wealth - just like his childhood favourite Scrooge McDuck.
Just eight years old when his parents divorced, Confer had 25c a week to spend on entertainment. This roughly broke down as a movie in a cinema two miles away or two comic books from a store one mile away. The comics tended to win out, and they introduce him to Carl Banks creations Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck.
|A version of Disney's animation of Scrooge McDuck|
"The very first panel of that comic book read something to the effect of: 'If you had umpteencentrafugillion dollars, what would you do with it? This is what Scrooge McDuck does with it, and he is the richest duck in the world.'
"And there was Scrooge diving off a diving board into his vault of gold coins. I can remember it vividly. It was the first time I had laughed out loud while reading a comic book.", he told collectors' magazine Scoop.
Whilst his business interests were coming together in the early 1980s, he received a catalogue with a picture of Scrooge McDuck in his money bin for $500.
Though he missed the sale, Confer's interest was renewed and he started travelling to auctions of images of the classic comic characters. Only then did he first hear the name Carl Barks, who created the images of them in the first place, and a major collection began.
At some time at the end of the 1980s, Confer also picked up a four block - the unique 'plate block' complete with a section of margin - of Inverted Jennies, the world-famous US 1918 stamp with the Curtiss JN-4 ('Jenny') plane printed upside-down.
That block, one of a few which Col E H R Green had separated from the original sheet of 100, was sold at Robert A Siegel Auctions in 2005 for a world record price for a philatelic item of $2.97m - smashing their previous record of $2,090,000 for a 2c Hawaiian Missionary Cover.
It was purchased by collector Bill Gross, and later used in an extraordinary swap to complete his collection of US stamps.
It's must more recently that Confer has sold his Carl Barks oil paintings - just a couple of weeks ago at Heritage Auctions. One of these was Embarassment of Riches, which depicts Donald Duck with Scrooge McDuck in the latter's money bin, and brought a stunning $161,325.
Barks's works have increased steadily in value over the years, proving to be a strong investment - not that that was Confer's intention. It may be assumed that the current owner is enjoying the same childish mirth that attracted him in the first place.
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Image: Heritage Auctions (Carl Barks painting)