Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2019 Issue

Comics: No Laughing Matter

87d8d80c-8081-43c3-938b-bb783df15d86

Whether for want of subjects, or the increased presence of mood lighteners in the first waning days of summer, I have sometimes written about the comic book business as a parallel universe to rare and used bookselling. This month I’m at it again.  Why? To answer the age old question:  are comic books really more appealing than rare books?  And the answer: a qualified yes.

 

Comics are deeply woven into the American fabric, although the thread employed was once quite fine.  One could buy a comic for 5 or 10 cents and read and reread latest installments of the super heroes of the day. Or, if one had literary pretensions, it was an extra nickel for a Classic Comic Book of some famous literary work.  The stores that sold comics tended toward the seedy, and the comics themselves might be a bit obscured to protect the sensibilities of the elderly and upright.

 

At home, comics fell into the category of things that, if left on a living room table, were thought to convey vice, if not depravity.  “Keep those things in your room.”  Compare this to books, that were thought to convey education and intelligence and, if neatly arranged on shelves, to testify to high family standards.

 

Well, times have changed.

 

These days, comics are embalmed at birth to ensure greasy fingers and unscrupulous copy-and-pasters do not ever touch pristine examples.  The last people to have any physical contact with the new comic are the companies that grade them, and the fee is about $25.00 to place them in their plastic mausoleums.  Thereafter the comic becomes part of the commoditized, world and your comic not much more or much different than a share of pink sheet stock on the Vancouver stock exchange.

 

Not so long ago most daily newspapers printed stock quotes but today not so much.  Now we turn on the television or use a smartphone to connect for up-to-the-minute quotes and breaking news.  For comics, there are various marketplaces, but the best way still is simply to visit a comics shop because you can hear first-hand what is hot and what is not, and often be offered rarities from the collector-owner’s hidden reserve.

 

Certainly some collectors also need to attend the comics shows to feel fulfilled, and it is entirely normal to dress as your favorite character.  There are some who view this as over-the-top, but these are the same people who stopped trick-or-treating when high school rolled around.

 

Whether wearing street clothes or whatever, who's at these shows has also changed.  Not so long ago movie stars went to Europe or Montana in the summer.  These days they show up at comics shows to promote their increasingly comic-book based movies that once were on Hollywood’s Olympus, but now are on the front lines of the movie theatre versus home theatre and straight-to-streaming wars that undermine the price and value of star power.

 

From all this I gather that when the next Gutenberg Bible comes up at auction, it will be slabbed, the plaster edges melted into a seamless clear box filled with inert gas that lets you see the front and back covers and spine but not experience first-hand the two volumes.  For that you’ll have to buy the two volumes and break the seals.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
    <center><b>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Feb. 4-5<br>Buy Tickets Here - $12</b>
    <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
    <center><b>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Feb. 4-5<br>Buy Tickets Here - $12</b>
    <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
    <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
    <center><b>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Feb. 4-5<br>Buy Tickets Here - $12</b>
    <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
    <center><b>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Feb. 4-5<br>Buy Tickets Here - $12</b>
    <b><center>San Francisco Antiquarian<br>Book Print & Paper Fair<br>Friday, Feb. 4, 11am-8pm<br>Saturday, Feb. 5, 10am-5pm<br>Attend in person!</b>
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br> Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana<br>Online<br>Now through January 25, 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> (Flag) — Commemorative Thirteen-Star Flag. Pre-Civil War, Thirteen-Star Flag of the United States, from the collection of Charles Kuralt. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Fitzgerald, F. Scott. <i>Tender is the Night</i>. First edition, presentation copy, and a former mystery. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Salinger, J.D. <i>The Catcher in the Rye.</i> A strikingly fresh first edition of Salinger's essential novel. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> “America's second Declaration of Independence” — signed by Whitman. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> [Dylan, Bob]. Some of the earliest known professional portraits. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Y-Worth [Yarworth], William. <i>Cerevisiarii Comes: Or, the New and True Art of Brewing…</i> A rare and early English work on the art of brewing. $5,000 to $7,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>A Record Breaking Season</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> <i>The Book of Mormon,</b> first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold Sept. 30 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> Vincent Van Gogh, <i>Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gachet, Evening,</i> etching, 1890. Sold Nov. 2 — $161,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edward Ruscha, <i>Stains,</i> title page, one of 70, signed, 1969. Sold Nov. 9 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26,</i> hand colored aquatint, 1828. Sold Dec.9 — $137,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edmund Dulac, <i>The Snow Queen,</i> watercolor, gouache, pen & ink, 1910. Sold Dec. 16 — $125,000.
  • <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>February 26, 2022</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> ALLEN, Ethan. <i>A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen’s Captivity from the Time of his Being Taken by the British, near Montreal…,</i> Rare second edition, 1779. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne ("Mark Twain"). <i>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.</i> New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> LANE, Edward William, translator. <i>Tales of a Thousand and One Nights; [or], The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.</i> London, 1838–1841. 32 parts in 33. $7,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> GRANT, James, Lieut. <i>The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, performed in His Majesty's Vessel The Lady Nelson...</i> London, 1803. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions