Regrets, I've had a few. They are part of a long list under
the heading of shouldve in my collecting phase
of my life.
It happens all-too-often in collecting and antiquing, shouldve
bought this or that. But the price may have been a little too
high. Maybe the prize item can't be turned around at a decent
profit quick enough.
Or the spectre of a bad buy hovered over me, urging me to
walk away, nothing to see here.
Granted, comics are often in the hands of vendors who have
no idea how to grade and price properly and expect the moon.
Worse, many refuse to acknowledge that comics should be graded
and priced accordingly.
All comics, $3 read the scrawl on a box I spotted
recently in a bookstore. The books, in their conditions, were
worth 50 cents each. And of course, none were graded, let alone
bagged and boarded (see Wayback Times issues 102
But I digress.
Whenever I make the wrong decision and leave behind a good
find, a penny pinchers remorse sets in. And when I return
with cash in hand, the prize is gone. A few examples come to
my mind, like the batch of Charlton Emergency! comics in the
sale bin at a Charlottetown, P.E.I., book store.
Remember that television show? It starred Randolph Mantooth,
Kevin Tighe and Julie London, where fire rescue crews attached
to L.A. County Rescue 51 linked in by radio to Rampart Hospital,
saving people from sure doom. It was a great show that ran between
1972 and 1979.
Really? It was that long ago?
Anyway, there I was staring at the batch in the bookstore.
I bought a few that were in better shape, the best being in Very
Fine, but left behind the rougher copies, meaning they were well
read and no better than Good.
But a little thought in the back of my head kept telling
me to take them all. They were only a buck each. I shouldve
listened. Emergency! was not that common in Ontario and all grades
remain as hot as the show.
Charlottetown also gave me another tick on the shouldve
list. An antique dealer had a hardcover Katzenjammer Kids book
of comic strips, from the early 20th Century, no less. He wanted,
if I recall correctly, $50, which was a little steep then, but
a steal today.
popularity of the Katzenjammers as a collectible is mixed in
Canada. Created by Rudolph Dirks it first appeared in 1897 in
the American Humorist, a supplement to Randolph Hearsts
New York Journal newspaper. The strip is significant in comic
art history as it was the first to use speech balloons to contain
the spoken dialogue uttered by drawn characters.
The strip is still going strong - it's considered the oldest
strip in syndication - through King Features Syndicate and is
drawn by Hy Eisman. It inspired a stage play, a number of cartoons
and a U.S. stamp.
I decided not to purchase the Katzenjammer book. While not
a big seller in Ontario, it was easily a stooopid
move. I shouldve thought forward, as in years, not the
usual days or months like a short-term business plan.
To own a little bit of history is always great. I did manage
to find a Katzenjammer book from the 1930s in a collection I
When collectors think they're moguls, they regularly make
that mistake. I have. I forgot how to enjoy the item for the
I also recall a decent collection of low- to mid-grade comics
that I let slip through my fingers because I wouldn't budge on
price. For a measly $100 more, I could have picked up a substantial
silver age and bronze age collection that included a Poor copy
of an early key silver age Showcase by DC Comics. I could have
made half my money back in a day if I was a little more, say
we say, willing to negotiate and less obstinate.
Gosh, Mr. Kent, how many screw-ups does it take to learn
Well, when I negotiated to buy a small collection of about
600 books that included a low-grade copy of Amazing Fantasy 15,
the first appearance of Spider-Man, I paid slightly more than
what any other dealer would pay, but I was thinking long-term.
That book is a significant catch in any condition.
But then again, on the other hand, there are sellers who
just hate vendors. No matter how hard you try, the deal won't
I recall one man who had a collection of comics, where only
a few were in higher grade, the rest were well read. Indeed,
a number had bug holes in them, so when I held the comic to the
window the sunlight came shining through.
I went home, did my sums and additions, and telephoned him
with an offer that I knew was more than what other dealers proposed.
I thought I had heard all the swear words in the English language,
but that day I learned a couple of new ones. And no, I didn't
get that batch of Classics Illustrated.
1 - The 1937 Katzenjammer Kids Story Book, Rob Lamberti photo
2 - U.S. 32-cent Katzenjammer Kids stamp
That golden age Canadian edition Captain America that was part
of Mike Kowalchuks collection sold May 16 for an astounding
$4,750 in an Internet auction. The Good-plus condition book was
published in 1942 . With the buyers premium, the final
tally was $5,676.25. But theres more. The Marvel Mystery
Comics black-and-white Canadian edition that was listed as Poor
sold the same day by auction for $1,434, including the buyers
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti,
who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents
an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in
the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while,
but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild- mannered
crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped
he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades.