I first met Ron Bogdan in the Mercer Mall parking lot last spring, shortly after he landed in the pages of U.S. 1 (February 25, 2009) and several other newspapers in the area. I had just cleaned out my parents’ house, including the roughly two dozen yearbooks from the high school my siblings and I graduated from — St. Anthony’s, later renamed McCorristin, and now known as Trenton Catholic Academy. My father had been the janitor there for about 15 years and he brought home a yearbook every year from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s.
For $10, Bogdan took the books off my hands, adding them to his ever-growing collection that was missing one very important volume — his own senior yearbook from Willingboro High School, Class of 1976.
Bogdan had started GetMyYearbook.com to assist people in finding their high school memories. Like most of his customers, he had lost his senior yearbook and spent years trying to find it. Over the course of a year in business he racked up hundreds of books from high schools everywhere, buying and selling his way to a veritable empire of unfortunate hair decisions and old friends.
Happily for Bogdan, media coverage helped him find his own yearbook. The brother of a Willingboro classmate called his brother in Texas, who had married another classmate from 1976. The couple had two books, one of which they sent to the grateful entrepreneur.
Bogdan’s ability to find what he refers to as “the ultimate trash-or-treasure” is growing as quickly as his collection. Last year he had about 175 books. Today he owns a little more than 1,500. He has managed to find books for co-workers, Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, and even a rare volume for an avowed fan of Batman comics — the 1938 Bobashela, the nickname of the yearbook printed by Trenton Central High School.
The 1938 Bobashela contains the junior-year career of a fellow Trentonian named Jerry Robinson. If you are not a Batman fan, comic book artist Jerry Robinson, who still lives in New York, is the co-creator of the Joker, the creator of Bruce Wayne’s mother, Martha, and the namesake of Robin. In one brief career, he helped establish Batman’s raison d’etre, his worst enemy, and his most trusted friend.
And I have a little piece of what helped established him, thanks to Ron Bogdan. My own year book is my ultimate piece of trash for me, but Jerry Robinson’s is a true treasure.
Bogdan also happened across the senior yearbook of his mother, who had died when he was just a boy. She had attended Hightstown High, and he found her book from 1955. It’s been a good year for memories in Ron’s world.
In business, he’s doing much better than he was a year ago, he says. A continuing interest by newspapers and TV — CBS Philadelphia is planning a TV spot for him around prom time this year — has turned more and more people his way. In an average day his website gets about 220 hits, and he is on the hunt for hundreds of books. Members can sign up for $7.95 and put in a request. So far he’s sold about 250 books, most of which are worth about $50 to him. Some go for more, some for less. What he won’t do is gouge.
There are many yearbook collectors in cyberspace, most of which sell through eBay. Bogdan says he has seen these guys inflate prices depending on the level of interest. One, in fact, tried to gouge him when he placed a bid on a book that had been sitting idle for several months. The seller pulled the item, then re-listed it for twice the price. “That’s just scummy,” he says.
For the moment, Bogdan is staying at his day job, overseeing the collections department for AnswerNet, a national telecomm company that has an office on Witherspoon Street.
He is still the only employee for GetMyYearbook.com, and probably will be for a while, but he is comfortable saying that he expects to make a living with the yearbook business in about three years.
In the meantime he will continue to promote GetMyYear book.com however he can, including on his monthly radio show. Every second Thursday from 3 to 3:45 p.m. Bogdan broadcasts a show about yearbooks and memories on WBCB, 1490 AM, in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
The show is generating at least some interest, he says. His website’s daily hits pass 300 the days following his broadcasts.
Contact Ron Bogdan at www.getmyyearbook.com, or E-mail him at email@example.com.