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Friday, April 09, 2010

Comic Cuts - 8 April 2010

Hope you all had a happy Easter. I actually took the Monday off, so it has been a short working week, most of it spent trying to nail down the introduction to the H. Rider Haggard book. After a shaky start last week (I spent quite a lot of time reading about Haggard before actually putting fingers to keyboard) I had, by Tuesday, a lot of disconnected notes and no real idea where I was going. The whole thing came together Wednesday and, as of the time I'm writing this on Thursday evening, the whole thing is nudging the 4,000-word mark.

So that's all my news out of the way. And for anyone waiting on details of the three Carlton books I edited that are now available... well, I'm still waiting for copies, so I'll post details as soon as I get them. If you want anything, third time of asking's the charm, apparently.

David Roach alerted me to the huge prices that are being paid for some old British comics on eBay these days. "I've been tracking a very interesting collection that's being sold off at the moment by a seller whose father bought first issues of everything fresh off the newsstands and then stored them seemingly unopened," says David. I had a look and I have to agree with his assessment that they're some of the best conditions I've seen for some of the titles, judging from the scans. But, still... the prices some of them reached have been eye-watering, and which I'll list in ascending order...

Look and Learn #1—£13.50; Bible Story #1—£15.49; Treasure #1—£42; Twinkle #1—£72; Diana #1—£77; Wham! #1—£81; TV Land #1—£90...

and now we're entering what I'd consider the absolute upper levels of prices for British comics...

Swift #1—£175
Bimbo #1—£182
Valentine #1—£225

and nestling in the rarefied atmosphere of stratospheric prices...

Tiger #1—£925!

That's not a typo: someone genuinely paid almost £1,000 for a first issue of Tiger. There were 22 bidders and the highest bidder had to pay £925 to win. Which means there was a second bidder, the runner-up, who was also willing to pay over £900 for this particular copy.

Now Tiger #1 is, in American parlance, a key comic. It's the first appearance of one of the finest British comic strip yarns ever, "Roy of the Rovers", although you couldn't compare Roy with Superman or Batman for collectability.

There's a certain cachet to owning the first issue of any magazine and comic collectors do like their first issues. But Bimbo #1 for £182???? I think a couple of people must surely have got carried away in the moment. Early issues of Valentine, as David pointed out to me, are incredibly scarce, but I'm sure neither of us considered it to be scarce to the tune of £225. "I've been following eBay closely for 6 years now," says David, "and in all that time it's the first issue of Valentine under #10 I've ever seen for sale, so I think it's safe to say this is a genuinely rare title. It was, effectively, a comic without a known value. I guess we can now say that its' value is £225 in high grade."

The recent Compal (Comic Book Postal Auctions) spring auction (results here) saw another British comic cross the £1,000 barrier when an issue of Beano #5 (again, one of the finest copies known) sold for £1,331. #6 went for a comparative knockdown £969.

Mind you, I suspect the person who paid £175 on eBay for the first issue of Swift is kicking themselves as Compal flogged off 79 copies, including #1, for a measly £121.

Like David, I'm a big fan of the 10p box! I was priced out of the collecting market years ago when individual issues of comics I wanted started to hit £3 and £4 apiece. Once you work out that a year's run of 52 issues is going to cost you over 200 quid, you start to think about what else that could pay for. Like, say, a quarterly gas bill. Not nearly as much fun, I'll grant you, but increasing the obscene wealth of my French-owned gas company's shareholders is one of life's annoying necessities.

When I started writing the above there was an auction in progress on eBay with 15 minutes to go on the sale of a copy of Beezer #1 which looked fantastic in the photo... but make sure you always read all of the accompanying text, including the additional notes published by the seller, who admits, in this instance, that the main photo isn't a photograph of the copy he is selling. He has added two photos since which show some damage to the copy being sold, nothing like the unblemished image buyers are confronted with when they first look at the page.

At £26.66 (10 bids) with 11 minutes to go it was already well out of my price range. I'm expecting this to leap in the last few seconds... same price at 10 minutes to go... 9 minutes... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... I'm fighting the boredom of watching this damn clock ticking down... 3... is this what Twitter is like? Chronicling every damn minute of your life?... 2... If it doesn't change before we reach zero I'm going to feel like a right idiot... 1 minute to go...

At 30 seconds remaining it jumped to £32.55 and at 5 seconds to £52.77. Not a bad haul for a comic someone describes as "poor".

I suspect that countdown could well mark the end of my comic collecting days.

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