Bob Gerau has been collecting vintage fireworks for nearly a decade

Thursday, August 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:26 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 15, 2013
Bob Gerau of Columbia shows vintage explosive as part of his firework collection. Gerau has been collecting for about 9 years and keeps his private collection in glass cases.

COLUMBIA — Bob Gerau slid open the door of a glass case containing only a small portion of his estimated $100,000 fireworks collection. As he took out a colorful box of firecrackers with a cartoon illustration of President Barack Obama on the label, he said fireworks are "meant to shoot, not to collect."

Gerau is the owner of Bob's Fireworks at 7551 U.S. 63. The store is filled with pyrotechnics of all kinds.

In the back room of his store are six glass cases filled with hundreds of vintage explosives. A sign that reads "For display only. Not for sale" is taped on each of the cases, separating the fireworks from the rest of his store.

Some fireworks predate the year 1900, Gerau said. Some are worth so much moneyhe keeps them in a private vault in his basement. He officially started collecting in 2004.

"I jokingly tell everyone I have thrown my gold coins out of the vault and put my firecrackers in there," he said.

Gerau said as a young kid, he always had an interest in fireworks. He opened his first fireworks stand 48 years ago.

Initially, he started collecting fireworks for his grandchildren, but then he realized the monetary value of the collectables. 

Gerau said that two years ago he bought a pack of firecrackers for $150. A year later, he sold it for $450, tripling his investment.

However, he said he doesn’t collect fireworks for the money, but for sentimental value.

“I'm not looking to impress anybody," he said. "I'm just looking to show it."

For Gerau, a museum would be an ideal future for his collection.

"It takes a lifetime to put together something like this," he said.

When asked if he would sell his entire collection, Gerau was quick to respond, "Probably not."

Supervising editor is Margaux Henquinet.

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