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Collecting Comics & Art

Collecting Comic Art ..... Part Five

There are price ranges for all collectors, and though price is a consideration when you decide on what to collect, it does not mean that you cannot collect nice art. I collect items that may be as cheap as $100. I have also spent as much as $15,000., and I have traded for items at much higher values. Though some people may not be able to spend $2500. or more for a Flash Gordon original by Raymond. He might still be able to buy a Rip Kirby by Raymond for as little as $200. Above I have exemplified that a Dick Tracy can sell for as little as $175. or as much as $5000. Keeping that in mind, a collector may still be able to locate affordable pieces by most or all of his favorite artists.

I have viewed a lot of collections in my years as a collector, and I have never seen an outstanding collection that was composed of expensive items only. However I have on occassion seen collections where there are no items worth more than a few hundred dollars - and they have still been totally outstanding collections anyway!!!

I have also seen collections where the collector was not able to spend more than a few hundred dollars in a year & still was able to locate some lovely examples of great artists. Sometimes he would be lucky & quite frequently would find an outstanding piece at a fraction of it's value. He was therefore able to put together a very nice collection.

Just because you cannot afford a great piece today, does not mean that you would not be able to in the future either. Before I started collecting artwork seriously I thought I would never own a 1940's Prince Valiant Sunday or a 1930's Flash Gordon. After all, in 1970 $250. for a good "Val" was far more valuable than I would ever be able to afford. Today I own several Prince Valiants from just those years & I have Flash Gordons as well. They were quite a bit more expensive than they were in 1970 by the time I bought them too.

Keep in mind also...a work of art does not have to be extremely valuable to be collectable. Your favorite artist's work may be very cheap. So in collecting comic art be sure not to equate high value to nice art, because it may indeed only cost $5 or $10, and that doesn't mean it isn't good art, that just means it is good cheap art.

Though the financial aspect of collecting is very prominent as you plunk down enough money to buy that Mercedes Benz 450SL you have been eyeing, it should not be the main reason for collecting comic art.

The main reason should be for fun & entertainment. When I look at my Ingels "Haunt of Fear" cover I am engrossed in my love for the art and in the artist's style, as well as my nostalgic attachment. If I had to say "I can't believe I paid $6320. for that!", I would likely not be a collector, as the purpose of collecting has always been (to me) for spiritual appreciation and not neccesarily future investment.

A frequent question I hear from people is "where do I find original comic art?". In my life as a collector I have dealt with people from all walks of life in pursuit of art. Sometimes I will find an old storage facility that has a stack or a single piece. I have bought from a fan that got the piece from the artist, or I have gotten it in an old antique shop in a small town. The easiest way however is to locate a collector or a dealer, like myself, who sells art to most likely support his own voracious appetite to add to his/her collection those items that most interests himself. Unfortunately there are still only a handful of dealers around the world.

Places where artwork can be seen by the public include the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art and Ohio State University in Columbus (which houses the Milton Caniff collection among others) and on occasion displays travel the country's more popular museums such as the Smithsonion in Washington D.C. & the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City.

In addition to the above institutions, permanent collections exist in Syracuse University, Boston University (where almost the entire run of Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray resides), the National Cartoonists Society in NYC, The Smithsonion has a large collection, and the newspaper syndicates themselves also house permanent collections.

Unfortunately however, enormous quantities of art were routinely destroyed by not only the syndicates & comic publishing houses; but even the artists themselves would destroy their art. In the cases of the publishers, they generally had no use for the art after it was published. If they did they could easily reprint from a proof copy of the art that would be kept in the files for that purpose. The result was either the return of the works to the artist, gifts to people who ask for them or storage & then outright trashing once the storage areas were full. Some stories of "horror" are of Frank King, creator of Gasoline Alley, who burned thousands of originals in his backyard when he needed to empty out his barn; and Dick Calkins, artist on Buck Rogers from 1929-1939, who built a bonfire in his yard after a contract dispute with the owners of the strip. As a result there are only a few examples of Calkins work on Buck Rogers known to exist & only a slightly larger quantity of Frank King originals known.

On the other hand there were a large number of artists whose work is very accessible due to their retrieving the art after publication, or even in some cases publishers who would not throw out the art & instead keep it in their warehouse. Bill Gaines, the publisher of EC Comics in the 1950's, kept 99.9% of what he published in his vault until 1980 when it was slowly sold off to collectors through an art dealer. This material was sold through a series of quarterly auction catalogs which only just finished in 1990. Harold Gray was such a stickler for getting his art back after publication by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate that almost 100 percent of it still exists today. But due to his endowing it to Boston University, only a tiny amount is known to be in private hands, these are almost entirely inscribed by Gray, indicating that in general they were gifts. That is a perfect case of supply having nothing to do with the actual quantity of extant examples, and the resulting high value of early, quality examples is due to this.

The value is not always determined by number of known pieces. Alex Raymond, Hal Foster & George Herriman are possibly the 3 artists whose work is in highest demand. Even though there is a very large quantity of their work still existing, their popularity creates a demand that is still larger. There are hundreds or maybe even over 1000 pieces by each one of them extant!

Though that may seem like an extraordinary amount of art, they were great artists & their work is so highly prized that prices continue to escalate for the quality pieces. The Flash Gordon Sunday page 6-23-35 sold for $1500. in 1974, $6000. in 1986, $15,000. in 1987 and finally selling for $30,000. in 1990. A similar curve would be seen in high quality examples by other artists of great popularity even though there are large quantities of their art available. Another example of this is Steve Ditko & Jack Kirby. There are hundreds of Ditko pieces in collectors hands, and thousands of Kirby pages; yet the value of there art comtinues to escalate as more collectors look for their art, itself which is from one of the most popular periods of comic art collecting. That period being 1955-1968.

Some of today's most popular artists are; Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, Mark Schultz, Simon Bisley, Mike Zeck, Rob Leifeld, Bill Sinkiewicz, Jon J.Muth, Berke Breathed, Brian Bolland , Moebius (Jean Giraud) and numerous others. These artists I have listed represent some of the most popular & more expensive items. However, there are hundreds of artists working in comics today & for any collector, their art is generally available, even if the price might be prohibitive. So if you want to collect, take some time to study your interests and then do some research and you may find just what you're looking for.

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