500 Comics and Other Items Stolen from Florida State University Library

- by Michael Stillman


Florida State University Library (FSU photo).

Almost 500 comic books and related material have been stolen from the Florida State University Library. Although just reported in the past couple of weeks, the thefts took place between March 17, 2020, and February 10, 2021. A total of 496 items were taken and have been described by the FSU library as “comic books, serials, containing and related to superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Publications include those by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comix publishers, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, and Big Little Books...Other works include monographs and serials related to comic book collecting, history, and criticism as well as posters and prints featuring comic book characters and art.” Most are from the 1950s – 1970s.


They were given to the library in 1981 by the late Robert, Sr., and Frances Anne Ervin and named for their son as the Robert M. Ervin, Jr., Collection. It was the younger Ervin who collected the material in his youth. While no value has been assigned to the collection, and there is no mention of anything of enormous value in it, it is safe to say that with the explosion in prices for comics over the past few years, it is worth a lot more than it was at the time of the gift.


Unfortunately, the items were not marked as belonging to the Florida State University Library. Some may have mailing labels to addresses in Tallahassee, Florida. As such, and not being notably rare, they could readily be sold in the market without raising suspicion. Presumably, someone will be checking to see whether someone from Tallahassee began selling many comics contained on their list on places like eBay after March 17, 2020.


For the record, the collection was not there to enable FSU students to read comics instead of studying. Florida State has an excellent academic reputation, ranked in the top 20 among public universities by U. S. News and World Report, and #5 for best value among all colleges. The material was not available in the reading room but would have required a request made to the archivist. They are there for research and undoubtedly tell us much about the culture of their time. Perhaps some student will be better able to determine why some people are paying millions of dollars these days for comic books that a few decades ago sold for a dime. That is worthy of a study.