A Special Editorial from Playset Magazine
By Rusty Kern

Bill Nace, left, and Rick Keller at OTSN. Of the many photos your editor has taken of Bill,
this was the last -- and the best."

The collecting community has lost a special personality with the passing of Bill Nace, 58, at his home in early February. We learned of the tragedy from a phone call from one of his best friends, Rick Keller, and the news spread like wild fire. The jovial, giant teddy bear was dead.

There was a second wave of concern as well. Not just the fact that a wonderful guy was gone, or that a huge supplier of playset items was missing, not just the question of who would there be to replace him; but a fear for our own collections. Like when my Dad passed on, I personally felt more vulnerable, as if a great barrier to the unknown had been removed. It was unnerving. I think, in the weeks that passed, and through conversations with fellow collectors and dear friends, we may have some answers to offer. We also have a great tale of the Big Teddy to relate, courtesy PJ Robinson.

First, Rick Keller has announced he will continue Bill’s position of “Chairman of Parts” at future toy shows, not just in memory of Bill, but because he feels the common need of community and scholarship the collecting community provides. So, if Bill left a hole in the supply chain, Rick is stepping in to fill it. As a compatriot, long time collector and a dear friend of Bill’s, Rick knows the ropes and will continue the tradition as a supplier of parts and playsets into the collecting supply chain. He will be at Indy, OTSN, Kane County and many others. Like the sweet farewell of the Air Force’s Missing Man formation, Bill’s chair will be empty at these shows, but Rick Keller will be there for him, and for you. We know everyone of us will support and encourage him.

Second, there was no barrier. Bill was human and filled with warmth, and he loved his toys as we all do. His time came too early, but he would, and probably does, continue doing the things he loved. Time and again the designers of the great Marx playsets reminded me they felt lucky if their sets had a run of two years, let alone forty, fifty and beyond. It amazes them that these wonderful sets continue to give as much pleasure and excitement as they do. The point is, they keep us young at heart and do no harm. It’s important to each of us individually to continue what we love; without regard to mortality --- as kids you never gave it a thought regarding your toys. It is for fun, learning and camaraderie, pure and simple; a form of society formed of mutual interests.

Beyond that, your toys, chosen well and preserved, may well be a better investment than the stock market, and are certainly more fun than watching those old numbers swell and plummet.

Toys are a constant link to your childhood and a return to purer times, simpler thoughts, and a belief in the future. Tell me that won’t keep you young. And remember, it is only through the “eyes of a child that we may enter heaven” – or something very much like that. You can be assured Bill is there. In that sense, then, as your toys return you to those childhood days, open your heart and invoke your innocence, they become a very effective form of estate planning.

Lastly, I understand that Bill had prepared his wife Marcia for this eventuality. I understand she is ‘well aware’ of the value of the things he left behind, and they may now provide a source of revenue for her and the kids. Talking about this, several of my friends and I have made a pact to look after one another’s collection if “one of us gets hit by a truck.” For the protection and comfort of my wife, I am putting small notes in my playsets, tucked deep down and out of the way, of the price paid and any upgrades made, and the price I think the set should bring should anything happen. There. I have a plan, and it feels good. I can thank Bill Nace once again for helping me out. Now I’m going to forget it for awhile.

So derive your enjoyment, trade, upgrade and buy; sell and have fun with friends with complete abandon. Never look back on a trade or a deal. Stay young.

Here is a nice story from PJ Robinson about Bill that you may enjoy as I did.
In the mean time, God Bless you all.

Publisher, Playset Magazine

by PJ Robinson,
Moderator of the Marx playsets list

It seems like many years since I met Bill Nace at the Valley Forge Toy Show in Pa. It was the second show I attended after getting back into the hobby at the advice of Gerry Watts. The size of the show amazed me compared to the small one I had attended in NJ. I prowled the aisles with my wife looking for Gerry Watts and Stad with whom I had made a few mail order purchases. At the end of one of the first rows I saw two tables covered with original MARX figures. Even the floor had boxes. This was stuff I had only read about or seen pictures of, and it was at dealer Bill Nace’s table. As I began to look over his stock he gave me that friendly smile of his and offered to help me find what I was looking for. I told him I was just getting into the hobby and looking for Marx Civil War items and I had little money to spend. That statement didn’t faze him and he expressed his happiness at my announcement and pointed under the table. He told me he was asking just dollar or two for any of the items in that box. I rooted around and fished out a cream Robin Hood Stag. I held it up and he said something like “Oops” and we both laughed. He offered it to me at a reduced price but of course not the dollar or two I paid for the other items I had picked out. After that he began pointing out rare Marx items on the table. He even motioned me behind the table and showed me dark brown 54mm Indians among other rare items he had back there. He was a gentleman.

Several years ago at a show when Bill Kipper heard I was heading for West Virginia he asked me and my daughter to pull a joke on Bill. We were to approach Bill and ask if he knew Kipper and then tell him he had swindled my young daughter in a deal. Bill looked at us and stated bluntly that he doubted our story as Bill Kipper was a fine man and besides that he loved kids. He then sort of recognized me and we told him it was all a joke. To show how amazing this man was some 30 minutes later he gave us the keys to his truck so that we could go out and see if we could find anything good, cause he felt it was too darn hot to drag it all inside.

Over the years I made purchases from Bill at Valley Forge and the East Coast Show. He usually had what I was hunting for at the time. Each year I looked forward to seeing him and chatting with him. Surely he will not be forgotten.