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King of pop culture collectibles: Finding the Holy Grail

Created date

February 3rd, 2009

Every collector has a Holy Grail. For some, it may be a highly prized baseball card; for others, a rare first edition book. For Gary Sohmers, it s the prospectus to Disneyland.

In 1952, Walt Disney drew up three copies of the nine-page business plan, maps included, to present to bankers in New York City. He was fishing around for the $5 million he needed to build his amusement park, and the prospectus was his way of showing what investors would get for their money.

Unfortunately, the New York bankers rejected Disney s proposal, and the cartoon giant later turned to television network ABC, who loaned him the money in exchange for an exclusively produced show.

For unknown reasons, one of the New York bankers that Disney flew out to meet in 1952 kept the prospectus locked away in his files. Decades later, the prospectus ended up in a Long Island yard sale and, from there, in the hands of a collectibles dealer who took it and a stack of other papers to sell at an antiques show.

"I visited this one dealer s table making a pile of things that I thought were interesting," recalls Sohmers. "As I was digging, I came across this manila folder with rub-on letters that said Disneyland on the front. I picked it up and threw it in my pile of stuff and paid $200 for everything."

Following the show, Sohmers met with a friend who happened to be Disney s archivist. "I showed him the prospectus and asked him if it was any good, and he said, You don t know what this is? This is the prospectus to Disneyland. Even we don t have this. "

Since discovering the extent of his find, Sohmers has had several offers, one for as much as $100,000. He politely declined in all instances, and the prospectus rests safely in the King of Pop Culture s safe deposit box.