'Hollywood Treasure’ Host Joe Maddalena Previews Season Two

Hollywood Treasures Joe Maddalena - H 2012
Tommy Garcia/Syfy

Hollywood Treasures Joe Maddalena - H 2012

The second season of Hollywood Treasure, Syfy’s fun peek into the world of Hollywood memorabilia collecting debuts May 22. 

In advance of the season premiere, Joseph Maddalena, the CEO of Profiles in History, the memorabilia auction house, and the host of Hollywood Treasure, talked with The Hollywood Reporter about the business of movie memorabilia collecting and what to expect in season two.

Looking around Maddalena’s office it’s clear that he’s a big fan. The walls are adorned with original comic art, including the cover art for X-Men no. 116. In one corner is an original Twiki robot suit from the 80s hit Buck Rodgers that he bought from the actor who wore it, Felix Silla.  Next to Twiki is old Biff Tannen’s cane from Back to the Future II—the one he used to rap Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) on the head. Carefully arrayed on the floor are a couple of screen-used Captain America shields from the First Avenger and one of Thor’s hammer, all of which were recently sold at a Marvel-themed auction at held at a recent comics convention in Chicago.

The main offices are littered with more memorabilia and than it's possible to describe—Andy Warhol art, a George Clooney Batman suit, a set of Wolverine’s claws from one of the X-Men movies, and a whole diorama of models from the 1991 movie Toy Soldiers (about G.I. Joe-like dolls that come to life) that he acquired directly from the estate of famed special effects wizard Stan Winston.

Just let me pause for a second to say: This place is cool.

It feels like a fanboy’s version of those great ESPN commercials that have famous pro athletes just hanging around the studio. 

Seeing what Maddalena himself has hung onto for his personal collection emphasizes that he practice what he preaches.  The things he keeps for himself he says represent a “collection of memories,” things that have a sentimental value (like Twiki) or things he loves (like the X-Men).  It’s the same advice he gives to aspiring collectors: “Collect what you love.”  He adds that it is better to own one really nice piece than many okay pieces.

Maddalena says the typical collector is people like me, that is men from in their 20s to 50s collecting childhood favorites such as Star Wars and Star Trek. Many of them are in the industry, not just celebrities (though Maddalena is discreet about who) but directors, agents and others. 

The Silicon Valley tech crowd is another big group of collectors. The number of international collectors is also growing. They are more interested in movie memorabilia, whereas American collectors are more focused on classic TV—everything from 60s hits like I Dream of Jeannie or Hogan’s Heroes to recent shows like Friends.

Despite the wow prices for certain items—a Captain America costume just fetched $228,000 at a Profiles in History auction of Marvel memorabilia in April—Maddalena points out that many things sell for considerably less. At the Marvel auction, for example, a Bucky costume sold for about $2,000 and at an animation auction, cells from Saturday morning cartoons from the 60s and 70s could be had for a few hundred dollars each.

Compared to fine art, he argues, the prices for Hollywood memorabilia are still relatively cheap.

That’s what drives his interest in doing the show.  Even though the market is growing, “many people don’t know that you can own this stuff” so doing a TV show is “the beginning of this learning curve” for prospective collectors.  The show gives him the chance to take viewers inside his world, to show them a small sliver of his work and to answer the kind of questions that fans like me have about where this stuff comes from and how it is authenticated.

Season two promises to showcase some really great Hollywood treasures. A Hunger Games-themed episode will take viewers to North Carolina where the old mill village that served as the set for District 12 is up for sale.

Another episode showcases Sean Astin’s collection of memorabilia from acting in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But what has Maddalena really excited in season two is an episode devoted to a screen-worn pair of the Ruby Slippers that he helped arrange to be donated to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (with an assist from Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio).

Talk of the donation brings up one of the subjects Maddalena is passionate about: The lack of a museum in Los Angeles devoted to movie memorabilia.  He thinks that studio executives and others in the industry haven’t cared enough about its history and should do more to preserve it.  A movie memorabilia museum, he says, would instantly draw millions of visitors and be one of the most-visited museums in the country.

Now that would be really cool.

The Hollywood Treasure season premiere debuts on May 22 at 10 pm on Syfy.