In the Limelight

Contributed by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos
Photographs by Alice Cloos

Jon Berk is known and respected throughout the comic book community as one of the most knowledgeable collectors and historians in the hobby. He is both a civil trial attorney and an Overstreet Advisor who has spent nearly a lifetime putting together one of the most impressive collections in the world of vintage comic books and art. In addition to being a well-known collector he is a comic book and comic art historian who has done much research into the history of the hobby, including finding and interviewing the man who put together the famous Lamont Larson collection.

Now he has decided it is time to pass along the work of a lifetime so that others can experience the fun he had putting his collection together. As such, he has chosen ComicConnect to represent the sale of his collection. Currently The Jon Berk Collection Auction Preview is on display at Metropolis Gallery.

The opening night was held on Saturday, March 11, 2017 from 7 PM to 10 PM at Metropolis Gallery, located at 36 West 37th Street in Manhattan. The opening night festivities included complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages. The gallery exhibit will be open to the public from now until June 2, on Tuesday through Friday, from 11 AM to 5 PM.

As Allie and I stepped out of the elevator and walked towards the gallery the first thing we saw was the lit up display case to the right of the gallery entrance. Now, we both have been around a lot of rare and important books in our time and even own a few of them but I have to say that looking at a Detective #27, an Action Comics #1, and a Captain America #1 on the top shelf, Wonder World Comics #3, #14, and #31 all CGC high grade issues on the middle shelf and on the bottom shelf New Fun The Big Comic Magazine #1 February 1935 and #6 October 1935 along with a Motion Picture Funnies book just for good measure caused both of us to just look at each other with very wide eyes.

Walking into the gallery we encountered a vintage comic stand on the left hand side of the room just inside the entrance, the kind you would see in candy and stationary stores all over the U.S. in the 1950s and ’60s. It was filled with really nice copies of late 1960s DC/National comics and for a moment I started thinking about the two candy stores I used to go to when I bought my comics as a kid.

Next to that comic stand was another lit case with four shelves. The top two of them had four comics each, the bottom had five. All had early, hard to find and high grade copies of books that do not show up much on dealer racks at shows if ever including Detective Comics #1, Whiz Comics #2 (really #1) with the first Captain Marvel appearance and a Wonder Comics #1. There were two early issues of Action Comics, two more Wonder Comics, one Wonder World Comic, an Amazing Man comic, two issues of Fantastic Comics, and two Mystery Men comics all in that one case.

The rest of the room was filled with original art from Silver Age Kirby Fantastic Four art to a Ditko Spider-Man page from issue 6 to a beautiful Mary Marvel #5 cover and a page from Fawcett's Whiz Comics of Ibis The Invincible to the possible highlight of the entire collection and display, the cover to Planet Comics #1 done by Lou Fine. One of the most important pieces of art to survive out of the Golden Age of comics. There is no doubt in Allie's or my mind that this exhibit can really be called one of true museum quality.

With one of the most famous collections in fandom, Berk was interviewed in 2005 by Forbes Magazine where he was described as a collector “with the seriousness of a historian and the zeal of a kid,” a description that truly describes him.

When asked to give advice to collectors, he stated “Don’t have feet of clay. A lot of this stuff comes around just once. You’ve got to be ready to go for it.”

After being at this preview I can safely say that, yes, Jon Berk really did go for it. I got to talk to him for a bit at the preview and he told me that he began his life in comics when he was 7 years old reading Batman, Superman, and the Justice League of America comics. However, it was reading a Human Torch story that started his collecting Golden Age comics.

In the press release for the exhibit ComicConnect CEO, Stephen Fishler was quoted as saying that, “I have known Jon for over 30 years as a fellow historian, fan, client, and friend. I am truly humbled to have him entrust the solemn task of bringing his collection to market. It is an understatement to say it is one of the greatest, deepest and richest collections, not only in value but in historical significance I’ve ever had the privilege to be involved with.”

ComicConnect COO Vincent Zurzolo and I talked at the preview and he provided some insights about the auction. “I’ve known Jon for over 25 years. When I started selling comics full time he was kind enough to talk to me for hours about the history of the Golden Age. I will never forget how much those conversations meant to me, knowing what an accomplished and knowledgeable collector he was. My partner, Stephen Fishler has known Jon even longer and helped him build his amazing collection.”

I wondered if he had any idea in advance that Jon was thinking of selling? His response was, “Jon and I had spoken over the summer and he hinted that he may have some comics for sale soon and would let me know. I did not realize he was thinking of selling everything.”

When I asked for his reaction when he first saw what was going to be sold he said, “It was a mind blowing moment. I was happy and also realized that this was a great responsibility. We needed to represent his collection in a manner befitting the depth and magnitude of the comics and art that made up the collection. It is an honor to do it and quite humbling, especially when I was going through all the early, rare and pedigree Golden Age. Many of these books we had never seen before.”

Of course, I wondered if there was a favorite piece that really grabbed him and his response was, “It is so hard to choose as there are so many great comics. I am partial to the Fantastic and Wonder World runs. They are stunning, super high grade Mile Highs.”

I wondered what was getting the most attention so far from the collection and he said, “The cover to Planet Comics #1 by Lou Fine is probably the piece of art that has garnered the most attention. But the Action #1 and Detective #27 as well as the Fantastic #3 also drew a ton of attention at the Big Apple Con as well as tonight's auction preview.”

Given that ComicConnect has been a part of many sales that have made comic history I asked him where do you think this one will rank compared to those others when this event is over? “ComicConnect has had some breathtaking auctions over our tenure as the premiere online auction for vintage comics and art. This collection will definitely be a highlight. As far as single owner collections brought to market through our auction site, this may be number one. We will know for sure after the auction ends. We thank all the people who have contacted us with well wishes. We recognize and appreciate the buzz and fervor that has been created by this announcement. We can’t wait.”

It is going to be interesting to see the results of this sale as it might well be one for the record books. Items will be available for bidding starting May 15 and it is a completely online auction only which will end June 12-16. For more information on the auction or other questions email ComicConnect at support@comicconnect.com.