Collecting Comics the Hard Way; One Page at a Time
This cover for Batman #30 from DC (1945) by legendary Bat-artist Dick Sprang is currently up for bid.
Everyone knows classic comics are a hot commodity. The first appearances of Batman and Superman have sold for more than three million dollars in the recent past and every time a new character pops up in a movie or TV show you can predict the spike in value of their first appearances. But there’s another comic collectible even more rare and prized by collectors: the original artwork pages.
Since the birth of comics, artists have been mapping out their panels and drawing their heroes on giant 11-inch by 17-inch comic art boards. While they’re referred to as boards, the pages are actually three-ply paper with a light blue border. The border represents the area of the page that will be shrunk and printed in the actual comic book. Around the border there’s space for page numbers, company names, artist names, and of course, notes for inkers and colorists. While some artists have moved to digital formats, many still use art boards today.
Original art pages have become another source of income for artists as well. Many artists have dealers that sell their work for them at comic conventions, on eBay and several different websites. Current popular artists can see their pages selling from $500 to $1,000 a page. But those prices don’t even come close to those of deceased creators of the Gold and Silver Ages.
Original comic pages give collectors a behind the scenes look into how their favorite stories are actually made. But what makes them most desirable is not only that they were drawn and inked by the creators, but they are one-of-a-kind collector’s items. The pages themselves are, of course, printed in comic form, but each page exists as single piece of art, giving collectors a unique chance to own a piece of comic book history.
Back in the late 1930s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster were penning the first issues of Action Comics, comic book pages were thrown away after going to the printers. This was before anyone knew there would be any collectible market for comics let alone original artwork. This is one of the reasons Gold- and Silver-Age original art pages can sell for such high prices.
The X-Men’s Wolverine’s made his debut on the final page of The Incredible Hulk #180 from Marvel comics, 1974. The page, drawn by the amazing Herb Trimpe sold for a record $657,250 at Heritage Auctions after a buyer’s premium.
Look no further than any comic book auction site to see what I mean. Comiclink.com is currently featuring the cover for Batman #30 from DC (1945) by legendary Bat-artist Dick Sprang. With nine days to go and currently 111 bids, the cover is sitting at $28,500. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see this Sprang cover sell for more than $60,000. But that’s not even close to some of the highest-selling pages.
Just like comics, original art pages sell for more based on what’s happening on them. Maybe it’s the death of a character, or in the case of the X-Men’s very own Wolverine, his first appearance. Wolvie made his debut on the final page of The Incredible Hulk #180 from Marvel comics, 1974. The page, drawn by the amazing Herb Trimpe sold for a record $657,250 at Heritage Auctions after a buyer’s premium.
But it’s not just the old pages selling for astronomical prices.
Back in July of 2012, Todd Mcfarlane’s cover of Amazing Spider-Man #328 from Marvel, 1990 set the record, selling for the same price of $657,250, also at Heritage Auctions.
Todd Mcfarlane’s cover of Amazing Spider-Man #328 from Marvel (1990) set the original record of $657,250 at Heritage Auctions in July of 2012.
Frank Miller’s iconic cover of Batman the Dark Knight Returns #2 was expected to break records $195,000 for the cover of Batman #11 from DC, 1942. When the last bid came in, Miller’s cover sold for $478,000, once again at Heritage Auctions in May of 2011.
In May of 2011, Frank Miller’s iconic cover of Batman the Dark Knight Returns #2 was expected to break records but no one guessed that it would smash the previous record of $195,000 for the cover of Batman #11 from DC, 1942. When the last bid came in, Miller’s cover sold for $478,000, once again at Heritage Auctions.
I can show you auction prices for original art all day that will convince you that collecting original art is a game for millionaires. But that’s not the case. Sure, if you’re looking for classic Jack Kirby Superman pages or Steve Ditko Spidey pages, you better bring a comically large check. But there are much more affordable pages out there for less than fabulously wealthy collector.
A quick eBay search comes up with more than 2,700 auctions for original art pages starting as low as $10. Collecting original art pages is an amazing way to connect with the history and process of comic book creation. While we might never be able to own some of the more iconic pieces, there’s plenty out there for the collector on a budget.
Matt Baum is Worthpoint’s comic book Worthologist and Co-Host of the Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast. If you have questions about these comics or any others feel free to post them in the comments section below or hit him up on Twitter, where he’s constantly yelling about stuff even nerdier than what you just read.
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