I got back into collecting comics around 1987 when my son, who was 12 years
old, started collecting Spider-Man comics. Like most kids who grew up in the
50's and 60's, the first things I collected were stamps, coins and baseball
cards. I was lucky that my Dad worked for sanitation during my early years and
would bring me the comics and sports cards that others threw
Unfortunately - and quite buy accident - when I was about 13 he
threw out all my toys, comics and cards 2 weeks after Christmas. Then when I
went into military service, my Mom got rid of everything else that I accumulated
up until that time except stamps and coins, which were stolen. As you might
guess, I now throw nothing out.
Little did I know then I would later get
hooked on collecting comics. It started when I decided to go to a local comic
book show in Rockville Centre with my son, thinking he was nuts because he paid
$11 for a ratty Spider-Man #11. I only went with him to make sure he
didn't get ripped off - but in the end I not only bought some more Spider-Man
comics for him, but I also picked up a comic for myself. There was one specific
issue that caught my attention and when I saw it, it was like deja-vous. I
couldn't believe the emotions it elicited within me. It was like a jolt back
into my early childhood!
That specific comic was World's Finest
#126, from 1962, featuring “The Negative Superman.” I still have
As I mentioned earlier, when I was growing up my family did
not collect anything. They just threw things out. As money was always tight
collecting things that were not practical was out of the question. Perhaps old
records, especially Italian records, were the closest they came to collecting
anything. Oh, and music rolls since we did have a player piano.
serious about collecting sort of happened by chance. I had placed an ad in my
local paper, which resulted in my spending $1,000 (a lot of money for me) for
thousands of newer comics. At the next show, after taking out a Spider-Man my
son needed, I started to trade for more Spider-Mans with dealers and other
collectors, while selling others. Before long I made my money back and then ran
I got a call from a young fellow who said he had thousands of
comics, such as Batman #2 and up! After questioning him on whether he
said #200 up, he restated #2 and up and also had many other early comics like
Detective Comics #44 and up - “Up” meaning to about 1962. He
got them from a storage facility where he worked for $100!
For a few
thousand comics, mostly from the 1940s to 1950s, I paid him $8,000.
had just refinanced my mortgage 2 weeks before.
No, the story is not
He then tells me there is a second half of the collection and
that he is going to try to get it from his boss. Naturally my wife was a nervous
wreck, but sure enough, three days later, he calls to tell me he has the
Risking a divorce, and despite my family thinking
me crazy, I took the initiative and paid another $10,500 from my 3 charge cards.
That is what catapulted me into comic collecting.
After achieving more
than I ever expected in comics I feel I've “graduated” to Pulps. I
had a complete high grade Silver Age collection and all the big books, like
Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27.
I had passed on
buying pulps a number of times though I was always attracted to the Frank Paul
cover art on Amazing Stories.
One day, however, around 1991, I
decided to go to a show in New York City in pursuit of comics. While I didn't
find any comics, I did see a book dealer who had boxes of pulps. I was
intrigued, so I took another chance and bought a fair amount of them. In that
first purchase of about 50 pulps was a nice copy of Weird Tales #1, which
I still have. I paid about $500 for it.
Then, in early 1992, I received
a catalog from a dealer who had come across a great collection. I had some cash
put together, so I took another chance and bought about $20,000 worth of key
pulps. Expensive at the time, but now they would be considered
Although I still love comics, now I find pulps generally more
rewarding. I feel they are more 3- dimensional. The art is better than on most
comics, many of the stories are by renowned authors and they are much more of a
challenge to get. I also like that pulps were the precursor to comics and the
improved product of the Dime Novel era.
I guess I always had an interest
in some of the major characters, but never knew that they had originated from
the pulps. My father, long gone, used to imitate the Shadow's laugh and on
occasion, (although I did not know them to be pulps at the time) would have a
Planet or two around the house. I can also remember watching Johnny
Weissmuiler as Tarzan and Guy Williams as Zorro and all those great Westerns on
TV back in the '50s. I guess that was what started my interest in these
As I started collecting the pulps, however, I got more and
more interested in the history of how they began. I discovered that the dime
novel had a direct link to the pulps and in turn the comic characters of today.
What also became evident was the influence that they had on the American
way of life, while at the same time being reflections of the way things were and
the way things ought to be.
The American hero began with the Dime Novel
(1860) and the Story Papers of long ago, with true characters like Daniel Boone,
Buffalo Bill and Jesse James becoming the first fictionalized heroes. Other
totally fictional characters then took over, like Nick Carter and Frank
Merriwell. Then the pulps continued in even more dramatic fashion with the likes
of Tarzan, Zorro, the Shadow and Doc Savage then finally graduated to the
superheroes in comics like Superman, Batman, the Flash, etc. And, of course,
many of the people who crafted the comic industry came from the pulp field. Most
of the ideas for their comic characters came from the fertile minds that grew up
I guess like most collectors, I love the feeling of
custodial ownership with each purchase and knowing that I am surrounded by my
hobby in a room I built for them.
Another thing I've enjoyed in the pulp
field is what's known as Pulp-con. Pulp-con is a yearly convention in Ohio where
I can meet and cajole with other fellow collectors who really have a reverence
for this stuff. You might have heard of my driving buddy, Jim Steranko, who is a
noted pulp expert in addition to the fame he's achieved as an artist and as a
Naturally, it's a rush to find that one pulp you've really been
looking for, then it's on to the next one. I appreciate the find more so then I
did with comics because unlike comics, pulps require much more of a chase.
Comics, for the most part, can be had as long as you are willing to pay the
bucks for it. They can all ultimately be found, and that is not the case with
The one specific item, however, that gives me more pleasure than
most is not even a pulp, but is certainly related. That item curiously enough
came without my direct knowledge during my purchase of the Bethlehem collection.
It is actually one of the Story Papers I alluded to earlier. This
particular one is from The Boys Of NY, which was a Frank Tousey
publication way back in 1886. That issue revealed a story and the existence of
The Man In The Black Cloak, a possible precursor to the Shadow. I did an article
years ago in Comic Book Marketplace alluding to the possibility of its
origin of the Shadow and examining some of the coincidences and parallels in
this story. I hope to write more about this character next year and still
consider it my prized possession.
Possibly the best dollar for dollar
find, however, was the Charles Strong collection.
Charles Strong was a
writer who also wrote for the pulps (Phantom Detective and others) and
hardcovers back in the 1930s and '40s. He later became one of the editors for
I was fortunate enough to buy about 500 paperbacks
from the 1940s and 1950s as well as about 250 comics and maybe 100 pulps plus
about 1,000 hardcover books from one of his daughters. All like new! Perhaps a
few had some dust shadows, but otherwise they had been undisturbed in boxes for
50 years. They were very high grade and included most of the Thrilling
line, Thrilling Comics and Startling Comics including Big
Yank, Uncle Sam, and National. For those I paid a buck each!
Fore the paperbacks I paid 15 cents each, and for the hardcovers and pulps $1
each. Suffice to say, it was a pretty good deal!
I don't let too many get
away, but the biggest deal that did get away was one where I relied on a
partner, not that it was entirely his fault.
It was a totally complete,
high-grade science-fiction pulp collection (thousands of pulps), including
Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Tales of Mystery and
Magic etc. We had made an offer of $22,000, stating that he would fly out if
anyone else offered more (as it was a collection on the West coast).
Unfortunately for us, a dealer/collector who lived on the west coast got to it,
paid $1,000 more and drove off with it.
Today, that collection would be
worth about $250,000! And believe me it is not the money. It's having all those
high-grade books. Instead, now I've had to seek them out over the years, one by
one, and continue to upgrade, often paying through the nose for them. No
complaints though really, as I have done quite well overall and do enjoy the
A r c h i e w i l l b e
A r c h i e , a n d n o t m u c h w i l l c h a n g e t h a t . <