Dental products, board games, baseball caps, cans of soup, PEZ dispensers, magazines, unique artwork and potty-training aides — these are items that shoppers may find at any general retailer.
These kinds of pieces can also be found in Rodger Bumpass’ Burbank home, except they’re all related to “SpongeBob SquarePants,” in the form of memorabilia he’s been collecting for almost 20 years.
Bumpass isn’t just a rabid fan of the show, he’s a veteran actor, with more than 45 years of experience. For the past two decades, he’s provided the voice of Squidward Tentacles on the iconic animated television series.
“About a year or two within the run, I started to notice that the show was really popular, and, at the same time, there was a preponderance of merchandise in the stores,” Bumpass said on June 26 at his home. “I used to go down to Target and see [them] everywhere — the toy aisle, the greeting-card aisle, the party aisle, the bedroom aisle, the bathroom aisle and even the automotive aisle.”
He decided about two years into the show that he would start collecting show memorabilia, and his first piece was a talking action figure of Squidward, which he bought from a Big Lots store.
From there, his hobby snowballed into collecting anything related to the Nickelodeon show.
He has either bought most of the items or received them from the network. However, Bumpass said there was one time when he bartered with a fan to complete a watch collection.
So far, Bumpass has more than 2,000 pieces of memorabilia, which he keeps in built-in glass display cases in his living room. The thought of quitting has never crossed his mind and, as the show continues to stay on the air, he said there will always be something for him to buy.
“The merchandising has gone down a little bit, but there’s stuff out there that I don’t have,” Bumpass said. “It’s more like a treasure hunt now.”
One item he’s still looking to add to his collection is a 1-foot-tall action figure of Handsome Squidward, an alter-ego of his character that appeared in an episode during the show’s fifth season.
Bumpass also has unique, fan-made memorabilia, which includes a Squidward made out of pipe cleaners and a recreation of “Bold and Brash,” a painting his character created during the second season.
“SpongeBob SquarePants” will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Friday with a mixed live-action and animated special.
According to Nickelodeon, the franchise has so far generated $13 billion in retail sales of consumer products and has received multiple Emmy Awards.
There are only a handful of other animated series — including “The Simpsons,” “South Park” and “Arthur” — that have been on the air in the United States as long as or longer than Nickelodeon’s hit show.
“You feel so grateful that you can be a part of something that has a legacy like that,” Bumpass said. “We have young adults come to us during conventions thanking us for their childhood. To be a part of someone’s formative years in a positive way is really the best thing about this whole show.”
When asked about what should become of his collection when he is finally satisfied, Bumpass said he hopes Nickelodeon will adopt the memorabilia and put the items on display for the public to admire.