March 09, 2004 02:28 PM

Let’s face it, there are no dull stories when it comes to the Jackson family.

The latest is set in unfashionable Asbury Park, New Jersey, and has to do with such delights as gold-trimmed costumes, metal-studded shinguards and other memorabilia — including a sketch of a boy, celebrity letters and music awards — all of which belonged to the Jacksons and were secretly warehoused in the eastern city for the past 18 months, the Associated Press reports.

The huge cache reportedly was the prize from a lengthy legal battle waged against the Jacksons by a onetime business associate.

Construction company owner Henry V. Vaccaro Sr., 63, has just announced that he sold off the collection this week for more then $1.4 million, though he would not disclose the name or nationality of the buyer. Vaccaro did say, however, that the belongings would go on display in Europe and Japan.

Vaccaro’s former firm, Kramer Guitar Co., made instruments for such performers as Eddie Van Halen before the company went bankrupt in 1992 and was purchased by the Jackson family’s Jackson Communication Inc. — which, says AP, soon defaulted on payments.

Fighting off bill collectors, Vaccaro sued JCI and was awarded a $1.4 million judgment, which the family said it couldn’t pay. “They sold off my company and I got nothing,” said Vaccaro. (Calls by AP to reps for Michael Jackson and for the Jackson family were not immediately returned.)

It actually took Vaccaro nine years of legal wrangling, and the employment of private investigators, to get hold of the collection, which was then in Oxnard, Calif., near the Neverland Ranch.

But when the collection came to him in New Jersey in 2002, Vaccaro said he “couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe it. … I knew it was worth more than the amount of the ($1.4 million) judgment.”

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