I started working here in 1993 as a temporary assistant to the bookkeeper, so I mostly worked in what passed for the office. When that assignment ended, the owner hired me permanently to work in the receiving room, which I did for about a year before moving to the sales floor, the register, the sections, management, etc.
About 18 months after I was hired, a customer asked me where all the masks came from, and I asked, "what do you mean?" I hadn't noticed the masks. I guess I had my eyes on the books and never looked up. And over the years I have heard a surprising number of long-time customers say the same thing. With the visual cacophony that is Green Apple--shelf talkers and posters and signs and pictures and the books themselves--it's hard to ever look up.
But when you do, you see one of the (many) quirky features that makes Green Apple different from, well, any other bookstore, chain or independent. And to answer the question, the masks have come from all over the world. Some were collected on the original owner's travels, some were sold to the store, some were found in shops by employees.
We are so rich in masks, in fact, that they rest on top of filing cabinets and are hung haphazardly in the window. It's not that we don't love them, it's that we love books the most and we're never caught up enough to catalog, organize, or properly display the masks. Someday.
They were cataloged once, about 20 years ago, and somewhere in our offices we have a binder of slides with some info about many of the masks, but I can't find it today and many more masks have trickled in since then.
Contest time: there is a mask in the store modeled on the original owner (and still landlord) of Green Apple: Richard Savoy. A picture of him from the 1960s is at left, and a few masks are at right. First person to correctly ID the mask in the photo below gets a free Green Apple t-shirt of their choice. Update: We have a winner. Kate Wilson of Drexel Hill, PA got it right. It's the one in the bottom right of the photo.