Collector’s Haven is not an easy storefront to spot, wedged between a psychic and a beauty shop. But the door leading up a flight of stairs rewards the curious with a variety of vintage comics and vintage figurines.

Cousins Conrad Moungviengekham and Steve Moungviengekhah own the store, which has been open since 2012 and gained a devoted following through word of mouth.

2015-02-24 14.01.32 (2)The shop began as equal parts sports and comic collectibles, as Moungviengekham’s interest was predominately sports and Moungviengekhah’s in comics, but over time has focused more on single-issue comics and collectable figurines.

“I’ve always been into this stuff,” said Moungviengekhah, who hasb been collecting comics since he was a kid growing up in Oakland. “[Collecting figurines] started a little later in life when I could afford it. I had to get the whole crew of X-Men. Started off with that.”

While the store contains a small but well-curated collection of manga and graphic novel trade paperbacks, including a select group of “indie” comics, big-name superhero comics are the main draw at Collector’s Haven. “At the end of the day, it’s still Marvel and DC that sell,” said Moungviengekham.

One of the shop’s repeat customers, Tony Velarde, has found a extension of home in Collector’s Haven. Velarde comes in almost weekly to carefully peruse the newest arrival of collectable figurines, particularly Marvel and DC pieces from the early ’80s and ’90s.

Velarde met Moungviengekhah a year ago. Velarde hadn’t begun collecting, but when he found out Moungviengekhah owned Collector’s Haven, he expressed interest in learning more about acquiring figurines, and Moungviengekhah took him under his wing.

“I always wanted to collect when I was a kid, but I had four brothers, and by the time [the toys] got to me they were broken up,” Velarde said. With his son in his final year of college and a new expendable income, Velarde wanted to invest in a $5,000 collection, and he’s been coming roughly every week since.

While Velarde’s interest in the collection is for fun, the figurines can also be seen as an investment.

“Most of the time, the longer you have them, the more they’re worth, ”said Moungviengekham as he rang up Velarde’s four most recent purchases.

Velarde’s been known to hide figurines he wants in the hopes no one else will notice before he can buy them. He’s bought so many collectables that he has a box of them in the store worth more than $1,000 waiting for him to find room in his home.

Tony Velarde holding the piece which will be his "figurine of the month" on Facebook.

Tony Velarde holding the piece which will be his “figurine of the month” on Facebook.

Not only are Velarde’s boxes of collectibles behind the counter waiting to be taken home, but he has found a home for his airbrushed paintings of comic characters, which hang on a dedicated section of the store’s walls.

Velarde has airbrushed a sign for Collector’s Haven that will be placed on the street and make the store easier to find. It’s his way of giving back to the store and the people that have become an integral part of his life, even though it may mean he’ll have to become better at hiding the figurines.

Collector’s Haven
374 17th St., Oakland, 94612
(510) 788-4310
Mon-Fri: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sat: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

About The Author

Katie is the Music Editor at OL. She's a music geek, culture junkie, massive A's fan, and Oakland native. When she was six, she stood for five minutes with a felt pennant stuck under Chris Mullin’s armpit. Check out her Oakland music listings at www.oakampd.com, follow on twitter/instagram as @craziesthawk, or contact at katies@oaklandlocal.com

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