Twenty years ago, Goodson started to collect vintage It’s a Wonderful Life memorabilia and autographs. He now owns thousands of collectibles from the film. The movie has also fueled a desire in the 40-year-old to share his collection with others. He said the film, and the memories it evokes, has a powerful effect on people.
“No matter who you deal with, the movie touched somebody,” Goodson said. “It gives people an opportunity to exchange … to talk. It gives you a feeling that everything is alright. And that’s a good thing.”
The Value of a Collection
The first It’s a Wonderful Life collectible Goodson obtained was an 8 x 10 black and white photograph of the Bailey family signed by Jimmy Stewart, who played George Bailey in the film. It was given to him by his wife, Coleen. That gift has now multiplied into close to 4,000 related items. Goodson has received pieces from all over the world.
“Everyone that touched the movie, I have something of,” he said. “Autographs, stills, Christmas cards, scripts, financial documents – you have to be in it for the hunt.” Godson’s collection is, no doubt, one of the largest of its kind in the world with an estimated the value of $250,000.
Value, however, has nothing to do with why Goodson collects It’s a Wonderful Life memorabilia. He simply likes the movie’s message. “George Bailey had a dream of being an architect and to travel … of receiving the accolades that go with that,” Goodson said. “And he had all of those things all along. The reality was how many lives he touched and how he was important. It’s about appreciating where you are.”
Highlights of the Collection
Ask Goodson what his favorite It’s a Wonderful Life collectible is and the answer is easy. He has a strong affinity for an album page signed by Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy), Henry Travers (Clarence), Beula Bondi (Ma Bailey), Frank Faylen (Ernie Bishop), Ward Bond (Officer Bert), Gloria Grahme (Violet Bick), and H.B. Warner (Mr. Emil Gower). The page is also one of the more valuable items Goodson owns.
“You just never see [those names] together,” he said. “You just know that had to be in all of their hands at one time.” Goodson also said he likes the nearly 400 original movie stills he has acquired over the past two decades.
Ornaments autographed by Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey) hold a special place in his heart as well. He often gives them away as gifts. In fact, Grimes and Goodson have been friends for years. The actress said she rarely meets collectors with such an honest love for the film.
“There are a lot of collectors out there, and I have seen a lot of collections,” Grimes said. “But Richard practices a love for the film, and I haven’t seen others practice that love. He is kind of a George Bailey in real life. He is just a wonderful person.”
The Present and Future of Goodson’s Collection
Though unsure of what he ultimately intends to do with his collection, Goodson has let others use his items for fundraising and literary projects. He just wants to keep the movie’s message alive.
“I just want to see where it goes,” he said. “I could never sell [the collection]. It’s too large - people would have to piece it out. I would love for it to benefit someone. It really needs to be pushed back into the community somehow.”
One person who has been aided by Goodson’s collection is author Steve Cox. Cox wrote the book “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book,” and used Goodson’s movie pictures to supplement his work. “Richard eagerly became a primary source for me, and a generous and enthusiastic one at that,” Cox said. “He has never been the type of person to horde his collection or be a miser with his rare memorabilia. I am grateful for that.”
Currently, Goodson is working on a project of his own. He is compiling stories from people who have been affected by It’s a Wonderful Life for a book. He said the impact the movie has had on generations of viewers lends insight to what people truly value in the world.
“You just get to a point, and you look at things for what they really are,” he said. “Everyone is a fan of the movie for a different reason. Somehow, I get to be a part of it without paying the dues. That is very humbling. Without [my collection], I wouldn’t have met all kinds of people. It just keeps returning on its investment.”
Have a Wonderful Story to Tell?
If you would like to share an It’s a Wonderful Life memory with Richard Goodson, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.