Owning an Action 1 isn't all that it is cracked up to be.
It is believed about 200 exist from an original 1938 print
run of about 200,000. That makes it scarce and very valuable.
Remember that a 9.0-graded copy sold in 2014 for about $3.2 million.
But it's not unique.
And that may be where many collectors in the collectible
comics market are inching towards: buying and selling original
art used in the making of comic books and book covers, and hand-drawn
items by artists.
Owning a one-of-a-kind page of art would make the collector
the only person on this here green-and-blue earth to possess
It would be kind of like owning a Picasso or Rembrandt, no?
Okay, that might be a stretch, but the euphoria the collector
experiences would be similar: I got a Kirby. I got a Ditko,
I got a (put hot artists name here).
The price of the item would reflect the popularity of the
artist, and much of it is sold by auction.
But buyers beware: purchase original art from a reputable
dealer or auctioneer, and remain alert for counterfeits.
Sketches are probably the easiest pieces to counterfeit but
pages can also be mimicked. The same applies if the collector
is interested in childrens book art, poster art and movie
Also be aware there are pieces of art and pages redrawn by
the original artist. It was a way for comic artists to offer
legitimate copies of their original work, and make a few bucks.
But it's all above board and it should be known the work is a
copy of the original by the original artist.
The history of the buying and selling original art includes
a controversial side. An example includes some of Jack Kirbys
original art somehow making it out of storage and onto the comic
conventions floors and he didn't get a nickel for it.
Kirby is estimated to have drawn about 10,000 pages for Marvel
between 1958 and 1970, but only about 2,100 pages were returned
to him in 1987 following a round of legal battles. No one really
seems to know what happened to the rest, maybe the company believed
it owned it and used it to barter or to gift, maybe some pages
were thrown out or lost, or maybe some walked out.
Comics great Neal Adams got DC Comics to stop destroying
and trashing original artwork, as the company then believed it
had no value.
Are we seeing why some of this original work from particular
eras and artists is potentially worth a lot? Much of the original
art from the Golden Age and a significant part of the Silver
Age doesn't exist.
As artists gained control of their artwork, many sold it
off to supplement their incomes. It was a niche market in the
1970s, 80s and 90s, with only the die-hard fans buying
original art or sketches.
Nevertheless, the joy - and potential investment payoff -
of owning a unique piece of art has been a growing field in the
market. And the demand for original art is expected to grow,
says Barry Sandoval, director of operations for comics and comic
art for Heritage Auctions in Houston.
Sandoval says about half of Heritages comic-related
sales is in comic art.
In a way, thats a more amazing development
than the recent sky-high prices reached for key comic books,
That is saying a lot. Remember, a 9.0-graded Action 1 sold
for more than $3.2 million in an e-Bay auction in 2014.
Sandoval says it wasn't uncommon in the 80s and 90s
to find a Marvel or DC artist signing and selling single pages
of his artwork during an appearance at comic shops or conventions
for a few bucks. But single pages that sold for a pittance then
can now auction off for tens of thousands.
Covers could sometimes be had for $20, $30, $50 back
then, he says. In some cases (sales), it literally
could be a factor of a 1,000 for what people paid.
Again, as in any collecting, not all original art will reap
big rewards. Similar to the traditional art world, a Rembrandt
would demand a higher price than a painting from an unknown.
Comic artwork by a top artist, like Will Eisner, Adams, Kirby
or Ditko, would command huge prices. Expect to pay premiums for
covers and front-page splashes, which are coveted more than,
say, Page 10 of an 18-page story.
Sandoval says for some collectors original artwork is a shift
in their goals after achieving their aims in collecting comic
A lot of them transition into comic art, especially
when they get to the point when they realize, Well, I got
a Fantastic Four 1, a Tales of Suspense 39 (first Iron Man),
a Journey Into Mystery 83 (first Thor) there are other
guys out there who have the same comics, too, he
If you have a certain piece of art, there is a powerful
satisfaction from knowing that you're only person who has it
and if anybody else wants it, they have to get it from you."
He says the advantage of collecting comic books is a collector
can better control the amount spent on a book, based on the grade.
There are multiple copies of an issue and if a collector can't
afford a high-grade book, a low-grade book is usually available
within the collectors price range.
Yet with comic art, it's a little bit harder to do
that, because everything has gotten so expensive. Usually, if
a few years have past, most of these people are recouping their
original sum and then some.
For an idea of the market, Google original comic art
and see was pops up.
1 & 2 - The Tombs of Dracula, comic book and comic art
3 & 4 - Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic book and comic
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.