A LOOK AT ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE PERSONAL SKATEBOARD COLLECTIONS

Last month we spoke to three deck collectors with extensive collections to learn the ins and outs of the game. Since none of us in the Jenkem office are serious hoarders, we learned quite a bit from old bosses who were willing to talk. One person we were unable to include was a man named james lambwho reportedly had such a wild collection that many considered him a “whale collector.”

It turns out that James has been buying decks in earnest for almost a decade and has since built a garage that looks like a little museum. Not only does he have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of boards, but his space in Ontario, Canada, has unopened Gray Goose bottles, classic American muscle cars and an indoor bowl. Curious to find out more about this man who plunged into crack, we finally got in touch with him to learn about the human behind it all.

Let’s start with the obvious question, how the hell did you get hold of all these expensive decks? What is your job?
I have been in the auto trade all my life. Flipping cars 10 or 15 years ago was very lucrative. Especially muscle cars. The first 12 years of my career I worked as an auto mechanic for a larger auto shop. He repaired cars at night and on weekends to earn extra money. Like every night until midnight and every weekend, Saturday and Sunday. I’ve always had this strong old school tough work ethic that I got from my dad.

When I turned 30, I decided it was time to put more money in my pocket, so I decided to open my own auto shop. And for the last 21 years I’ve been my own boss and now have a six-bay auto shop with five people working for me. There is no doubt that the money is good, but the headaches can be huge. And a lot of stress.

How long have you been collecting and what is the status of your collection?
I’ve been collecting since 2002. I stopped after a couple of years to buy a house and start a family, but got back into the collective game around 2012. Although I don’t know the exact number of decks in my collection, I’m guessing somewhere between 600 and 700 original vintage decks.

I am lucky to be able to display most of my collection at any given time. Many collectors who have large collections don’t have the space to display them all, and as a result, their decks are placed in boxes or storage. I like to see my decks every day. I think there are about 500 currently on display and in the next few months I plan to have all the decks on display.

A common stereotype of adult collectors is that they are divorced. Do you have to be divorced to have a believable deck collection?
Coincidentally, I’m divorced. But, he already had a large collection before the split. And since then I’ve been engaged for two years. Honestly, I don’t see divorce playing any role when it comes to collecting. I’m sure there are plenty of wives who don’t approve, but I’ve never had that problem.

Do you know someone who has lost their joint funds in a divorce settlement?
I’ve heard stories of collections lost in divorce, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge.

What is the focus of your collection?
The focal point of my collection is Vision Skateboards and its parent companies, such as Sims, Schmitt Stix, and Town & Country. These dashboards and charts were all made under one roof. However, I am interested in any board company that was active between 1982 and 1992.

I would say that most collectors are very interested in Powell Peralta and Santa Cruz. And those manufacturers had great skateboarders, great decks, and iconic graphics. I just prefer to collect something a little different than most. Also, during the height of my skating around 1987 to 1990, I was skating Vision boards and Schmitt Stix boards. It seemed natural to me to collect what I remembered skating.

What is your most prized possession?
I think my most prized skateboard would be my Tony Hawk board which is completely intact just as Tony had it when he took first place upright in the Airwalk SkateFest in Toronto, Ontario, 1988. Coincidentally, I was in that contest too!

There is a cool story that goes along with this skateboard. Several years ago it appeared on Facebook for sale. At the time she couldn’t afford the sale price, but another Canadian collector friend, Peter, bought it. I made it clear to Peter that if he ever sold the plate, I’d like the chance to own it. Well, not long ago that day came and I was able to finalize the sale. It had always been rumored that Tony gave the board to a young fan at the airport. However, during our negotiations, it was discovered that the plaque had actually been stolen from Tony while he was traveling from Toronto to Montreal.

When I found out about this, I contacted a friend of Tony’s and offered him the skateboard. He respectfully declined, but offered the opportunity to fly to his home in California and use the board to recreate some iconic images. That is yet to happen, mainly due to Covid, but hopefully, he will be on the cards soon.

What do you think of modern skate graphics?
Modern graphics for the most part suck. There is no real meaning behind the art and I feel like the graphics are not well thought out. And there is no real skill involved with the actual application of the chart. Most are heat transfers.

“Every dollar I save goes towards skateboarding and collecting”

What are some things you could buy if you sold your entire collection?
Well, there’s no denying that I have a ridiculous amount of money in my collection. Exactly how much, I have no idea. But if I had to sell all the decks tomorrow at market value, I could probably retire comfortably. But seriously, it’s not something I’m interested in talking about or discussing. It’s not relevant, and it’s just not important to me.

I am often accused of being a “baby trust fund” or a lottery winner or have some high power job with a high salary. None of these could be further from the truth. I have built my collection from scratch by working hard every day. What most people don’t realize is that I don’t have a retirement savings plan. Or a cabin. Or a house on the beach, etc. Every dollar I save goes towards skateboarding and collecting. It’s an obsession or a borderline addiction, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

You also have a pretty crazy collection of old school cars, how did you get into that?
My father was a car mechanic and had his own shop when I was very young. He was always fixing a car for my mom or for himself at the family home. I guess it was just a natural progression for me. I loved old flame paint jobs or airbrushed murals. and the classic Cragar chrome rims. A 1970 Chevrolet Supercar it was my car of choice. american muscle.

Before I collected skateboards, I devoted all my time and resources to muscle cars and drag racing, but I loved so many different cars that I started buying more as I saved up. Since then I have sold a few cars, basically to free up funds to buy more skateboards. At that point, collecting skateboards had become my new priority. So I kept the cars I had a connection to or couldn’t live without and sold the rest.

Do you have a favorite car in your collection?
Definitely my 1970 Chevelle SS 454. I’ve owned several 1970 Chevelles in all different colors, but my silver Cortez with black racing stripes and black vinyl roof is my number one favorite!

Do you have any moral issues for having so many Gator boards?
I have zero moral complexes. I am able to separate the board and the graph from the man himself and his horrendous deeds. In no way do I idolize Gator as a person, nor do I condemn his actions. The fact is that Jessica Bergsten’s murder had absolutely nothing to do with skateboarding or skateboards in the ’80s. My focus on Gator’s involvement in skating was in the ’80s.

Let’s be honest, the 1984 Gators spiral graphic is legendary and iconic. Thousands and thousands of that graphic and professional model were sold, and that continued until 1988. To this day, that spiral graphic is highly collectible, highly sought after, and commands above average prices. The fact that there are so many color combinations and variations makes it that much more cool and collectible.

“The original will always be original.
And a reissue will always suck.”

Do you ever worry about rare or counterfeit decks being reissued?
I wouldn’t say I’m worried about rare decks being released again. That manufacturers reissue what they want. Original will always be original. And a reissue will always suck. Reissues must be used for skating. In my opinion, the originals should be used for the preservation of skateboarding history. I don’t think reissues affect the value of an original deck, nor do I care.

Fakes, on the other hand, may be a different story. Some are so well made that it’s getting harder and harder to identify them as fake.

Do you have any advice for new collectors?
Make friends and make contacts. I’d say 80% of my deck deals are done behind the scenes with guys I’ve done business with before. I have always been known for a smooth and easy transaction with no bullshit.

Also, ask questions. Find out. It’s so easy to get burned. It has become very expensive, so if this is something that interests you, disposable income is a must.

Do you think that if you started selling your decks you could move the market? How to change the price of what certain boards are worth?
If I were to sell my entire collection of Gator spirals of 100+ boards for much less than today’s value, I think it might affect the market and drive prices down overall.

But I do not want to give the impression of being a great and important passionate collector. Because that’s definitely not me. I’m just a guy who loves skateboards more than most people. And if other people knew how much time I’ve spent helping others with their collection or answering questions or this or that, they might see that I’m just a nice guy who cares and loves the ’80s.

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