Collector amasses tribute to The King
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PHILMONT-When Joe Krein was 9 years old, his grandmother started his Elvis Presley collection with a Christmas gift of 3 recordings-2 albums and a 45.


      Now, 39 years later, Mr. Krein has hundreds of Elvis records and CDs, including an original acetate of the soundtrack for G.I. Blues once owned by The King himself. He has also collected thousands of other Elvis items, from bubblegum cards to autographs to Mother's Day menus from Las Vegas hotels.
      Many items from the collection have been featured in books on Elvis. And a soon-to-be-published book Mr. Krein co-authored with Sue Mc Casland, Elvis Live at the Sahara Tahoe, includes memorabilia, rare photographs and interviews Mr. Krein conducted with the star's family, his entourage and his co-stars in the movies.
      Elvis died 30 years ago this month. Had he lived, he would have been 73 this year.
      Mr. Krein has no trouble finding items for his collection, because he's well known in what he calls the Elvis World. He maintains his own website, and he hosts a 4-hour live webcast on another site every Friday for a radio station in England. Locally, he emcees a tribute show on WZCR ("Cruisin 93.5") three times a year, on Elvis' birthday, the anniversary of his death and Christmas.
      "Do I like the music? Ask my wife," says Mr. Krein. "I love educating people about it."
      One floor of his home is devoted to the collection, and dehumidifiers run constantly to keep it safe. In addition to the vinyl and CDs, there are movie posters and lobby cards, tickets and backstage passes, sheet music, scarves, Styrofoam hats, tour books and lapel buttons. Everything is original, and obvious souvenir items are ignored. "I don't bother with plates or ashtrays or t-shirts," he says.
      Neither does he collect anything produced after 1978, with a few exceptions such as an Elvis stamp issued in 1993 by the U.S. Post Office. Some items are very rare and valuable, including scarves and menus from the International Hotel, Elvis' base in Las Vegas for three years before the hotel became the Las Vegas Hilton in 1971.
      Mr. Krein owns small, medium and large "hound dogs." While the small ones Elvis threw into the audience during concert appearances are relatively easy to come by, Mr. Krein has another one twice that size and another that's almost two feet tall.
      He also has an Elvis "poodle" skirt, the rock'n'roll version of a popular teenybopper fashion of the 1950s, and an Emenee four-string guitar in mint condition, in its original cardboard box. The guitar, manufactured during the 1956 promotional blitz for Elvis, originally sold for $12 in the Sears Roebuck catalog.
      He owns hundreds of photographs, including a framed one that was given away by theaters promoting Love Me Tender, Elvis' first movie, and another that glows in the dark. There's a 1970s jukebox with plenty of Elvis tunes among the selections, and several portable phonographs geared to play at 33, 45 or 78 rpm. One has an Elvis autograph embossed into its lid.
      There are autographs from other rock legends as well: Roy Orbison, John Lennon, Ricky Nelson, Dick Clark, the Everly Brothers. Mr. Krein has original Sun 45s signed by rockabilly legends Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as two of the five 7-inch singles Elvis recorded on the Sun label. His dream, he says, is to own all five.
      Mr. Krein is especially proud of a leaded-glass window that came from Vernon Presley's house behind the mansion at Graceland, where he once stayed for a week. It didn't cost a thing: Mr. Krein saw the window in a dumpster and asked if he could have it.
      Mr. Krein says most of the things he buys come from other collectors, because online auctions make it too easy to pass off reproductions as the real thing. Several significant items, including a double-platinum award from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), were acquired from the estate of an RCA executive.
      Mr. Krein's children share his enthusiasm. Aaron, 12, says he uses his natural talent for organization to keep the back office in order. And Kelsie, 17, is president of King's Kids, an Elvis fan club for teens.
      What he would like most, Mr. Krein says, is to make contact with others who share his passion. "I'm so looking for other collectors," he says. "Maybe you could put my number in the paper, and if anybody sees the story they could call me."
      Mr. Krein's telephone number is (518) 672-4530. His website is at
      To contact reporter Richard Roth, e-mail