via HERITAGE AUCTIONS: Tune In to the Greatest Auction in TV History: The Comisar Collection, featuring props, sets and costumes from All in the Family, Batman, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, The Sopranos and hundreds more momentous shows. Nearly 1,000 items will be up for bid June 2-4. See for details and more information

It began simply enough in 1989, with two hand-painted title cards from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that appeared before commercial breaks and promised “More to Come.” These were the first of more than 10,000 artifacts James Comisar acquired over more than three decades of collecting and conserving, restoring and protecting television history. More to come. No kidding.

Comisar spent decades – and millions of dollars – gathering decades’ worth of sets, props and costumes spanning the medium’s birth to its Golden Age to the era of Peak TV – from Howdy Doody to GunsmokeI Love Lucy to Star TrekBewitched to I Dream of JeannieThe Office to E.R.The Sopranos to Mad MenAll in the Family to Breaking Bad. He assembled enough material to fill the television history museum he long dreamed of opening.

But after decades of trying to establish that museum to no avail, Comisar came to a difficult decision: If these TV treasures couldn’t find an exhibition space where others could experience them, the time had come to part with a momentous portion of his renowned collection.

On June 2–4, Heritage Auctions will offer nearly 1,000 pieces from The Comisar Collection, most of which have never before been to auction. Among its voluminous highlights: The Tonight Show set from which Johnny Carson kept a nation awake and entertained until his 1992 farewell. The desk and New York City skyline where David Letterman became every college student’s Late Night fixture during his NBC tenure. Archie and Edith Bunker’s Queens living room from All in the Family, including the two most famous chairs in sitcom history. And the bar around which the Cheers regulars congregated.

For auction highlights – visit:

Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions

“After 30 years of saving and sacrificing to acquire and protect this collection, then meeting with studio heads, network presidents, theme parks and different cities across the country, I have come to accept that I won’t be able to establish the museum for TV fans I always dreamed of,” Comisar says. “I am extremely proud to have done my part in assembling and safeguarding this collection. Now, it’s up to others to take over this cultural mission.”

The remarkable list of props, sets and costumes available here honor the must-see TV of every era and genre.  Other touchstone objects in the sale include George Reeves’ woolen blue tunic and molded muscles from The Adventures of Superman; Captain James T. Kirk’s command-gold top and the Grecian tunic worn when he and Lieutenant Uhura shared TV’s first interracial kiss on Star Trek; Barbara Eden’s pink-chiffon costume from I Dream of Jeannie; U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon’s badge and boots from Gunsmoke; and the signpost featuring the hometowns of the doctors and soldiers who staffed the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on M*A*S*H.

In the climate, humidity and light-controlled warehouses built specifically for art and historic works, Comisar stored the ensembles worn by Tony Soprano and his crew when Christopher Moltisanti became a “made” man; the tools used by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to cook Breaking Bad’s blue meth; the midcentury bar where Don Draper and Roger Sterling and the other Mad Men mixed their cocktails; and serial killer Dexter Morgan’s kill table.

This auction offers the most complete history of television ever available in a single place.  Joshua Benesh, Heritage’s Chief Strategy Officer stated, “When acquiring items like these – pieces that took decades to collect and wouldn’t have survived had it not been for James Comisar – you’re getting so much more than the object.  You’re buying American history.”

Quite literally: Versions of Archie and Edith Bunker’s living room chairs and the M*A*S*H signpost reside in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. But those weren’t the only ones made during those series’ runs.  Comisar, whom Forbes called “a one-man Smithsonian of TV memorabilia,” tracked down the remaining survivors for long-term preservation.

The Archie and Edith Bunker chairs in The James Comisar Collection were made for the ninth and final season of TV’s most influential sitcom and were also used throughout the run of Archie Bunker’s Place.

And three signposts were made for M*A*S*H: One was destroyed in a fire, one was donated to the Smithsonian, and the third is in this auction.

The treasures in the Comisar Collection are staggering – There is also the outfit Clayton Moore wore as The Lone Ranger, the Spanish black felt hat and satin mask Guy Williams sported as Zorro on and, best of all, the extraordinarily rare Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin’s costumes worn, respectively, by Adam West and Burt Ward during 120 episodes of ABC’s Batman.

From Batman’s first episode, “Hi Diddle Riddle,” comes one of its most iconic outfits: Frank Gorshin’s green jacket covered in The Riddler’s trademark question marks. But the Bat-costumes aren’t the only things Comisar is offering from the Batcave: Here, too, are the sole surviving “bulletproof” Bat-Shield and Robin’s Batarang grappling hook.

Everything offered in this auction event is near and dear to Comisar, but at the top of this list has to be the set used during the final decade of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, including the desk, chairs, couch, Burbank skyline backdrop and other items present the night Carson said his last goodnight to America. Comisar, who acquired the set directly from Carson says the late-night host couldn’t believe anyone would want to see his set, which Carson described as “the tackiest set in Hollywood.” Comisar spent decades caring for it.

Comisar hopes these historic props, cherished costumes and instantly identifiable sets will find new caretakers, whether they’re collectors, curators, institutions or simply ardent fans of the TV shows that entertained, informed and raised generations.

#  #  #

ABOUT JAMES COMISAR: The 58-year-old Comisar grew up in sitting in front of TV set and grew up dreaming of a television career.   At age 17, he launched a writing career that included a stint writing jokes for stand-ups such as Joan Rivers and Howie Mandel. He then went to work punching up sitcom scripts for Norman Lear, Ron Howard, Fred Silverman and others.
His work on that side of the screen provided him with a peek behind the scenes, where he found familiar costumes languishing on racks and beloved props piled up on dusty shelves.  “That was the turning point because now I knew where these pieces were, that they existed and that there was no care given to them,” Comisar says.
James’ story shares some similarities with Debbie Reynolds, who grew up in the studio system and experienced firsthand the lack of concern for motion picture costumes.  She once told Comisar, “There was zero awareness for the history that lived in those garment.”  Later in her life, Reynolds had to give up her mission of trying to convince Hollywood to build a museum. Eventually, Reynolds said, “Nobody would step up, so I said I’m done – I can’t keep fighting this battle.” She wound up put everything up for auction and died a few years later.
“This history can’t spend forever in a warehouse,” Comisar says. “I have this theory that all important art finds its curator. I feel like I’ve taken this as far as possible, but I am excited to find out who takes the baton and cares for and celebrates these objects. These pieces are part of our shared experience. And they need to go back out into the world.”

ABOUT HERITAGE AUCTIONS: Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels and Hong Kong.                                                                                                                                                                                               Follow us: and

This entry was posted in Celebrities, Film Stars, Television Star. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.