My first encounter with Mad magazine was in my uncle's dorm at UCONN where I saw a copy of the fly swatter cover (number 57, September 1960) lying on his desk. Although I was only 9 years old, I recognized the brilliant satire behind that cover and soon I began spending my allowance (25¢ Cheap) on the output from the usual gang of idiots.
I amassed quite a collection, but there was a gap... issues 1 to 61, that is, those issues published before I started buying the mag.
Issues 1 to 23 were the comic-book-formatted Mads and were very expensive. But publisher Russ Cochrane saved the day when he reprinted the comic books in oversized hard cover format – so who needed expensive old yellowed dog-eared comic books, when I could have Mr. Cochrane's beautiful pristine reprints?
That narrowed the gap in my collection to issues 24 to 61. The higher end of the gap was affordable and I picked up those issues from various sources for a few bucks apiece. But the low end of the gap was much less affordable and I resigned myself to living with a permanent gap just like Alfred E's dental work.
Nevertheless, I posted my want list in various places on the Internet and one day out of the blue, I received a response from a fellow who offered to sell me 21 issues in the low end of the gap for $30 plus postage. (The fellow's mother had collected the 21 and he wanted to give them a good home. I assured him I would give his Mom's Mads a good home and we completed the deal.)
Those 21 issues were numbers 24 to 44 in fine to very fine condition. Number 24 (the first magazine-formatted Mad) in very fine condition alone goes for over $750, so this was a very fine deal.
After that, I filled in the rest of the gap very quickly.