Monday, July 30, 2012

BIG Bucks

by Arnie Fenner

A new record price for an original piece of American comic art was set last week when Todd McFarlane's cover to The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at the Heritage auction for $657, 250. Still shy of matching the amount paid last year for a piece of comic art, period (see below), it is nevertheless a staggering sum.

If you've watched pen & ink pages by John Romita, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby & Co. sell for prices ranging from a few hundred bucks to well north of a Hundred Grand in recent years, you might wonder what the hefty amounts being plunked down for comic book art really means (if anything). Why the huge leap in prices for pop-culture originals? Do the movies have anything to do with it or are wealthy fans simply indulging in nostalgia? Are these legitimate investments that will increase in value or will they turn out to be a future generation's garage sale inventory? And why these particular pieces and not others? I haven't a clue myself. But Heidi MacDonald has an interesting post on the subject at The Beat (read the comments section, too), while Jim Gurney has an equally fascinating post about value and what will (or maybe will not) last in his post "Measures of Greatness."

All of these artworks—with the exception of one—were sold by collectors (the artists had parted company the originals years ago for significantly less than these hammer prices). The exception is the Frazetta. Originally intended as a cover for Famous Funnies in 1955, it was rejected by the editors as being too violent; Frank took it to Bill Gaines at EC who gave Frazetta an option of selling the rights and original for $60 or just the rights for $30. Frank took the $30 and kept the art—the only piece of art Gaines said he ever published without owning the original. The Frazetta family sold the cover after Frank died in 2010.

Anyway, below are the 5 most expensive works of comic book original art. As of today.

#5 Spider-Man #1 cover by Todd McFarlane: $358,500.



#4 Weird Science-Fantasy #29 cover by Frank Frazetta: $380,000.



#3 Batman: The Dark Knight #3 splash page by Frank Miller: $448,125.




#2 The Amazing Spider-Man #328 cover by Todd McFarlane: $657,250.



And #1 Tintin In America cover by Hergé: $1,600,000.


10 comments:

  1. amazing covers! I really love it!

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  2. Thanks Arnie, Its articles on events and facts like these, that continue to legitimatize comic art in the face of the general public.

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    1. I agree, great to see comic art stand up and demand to be noticed.

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  3. I love that Tintin wins! :D

    Isn't that the Frazetta cover that Dave Winiewicz was praising so highly, the one that Frazetta had framed on the wall of his house?

    (60 USD from 1955 would be somewhere between 410 and 2,180 USD in 2011 - still dirt cheap for a Frazetta!)

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    1. Yep, that's the one that both Dave Winiewicz and Russ Cochran have talked about through the years. And yes, Frazetta had it alternatively either hanging in his studio or on display in the museum when it was running. Interesting thing was that Frank was never particularly concerned with the condition or preservation of his art and he'd smoke around it (and occasionally spill coffee on it) without a moment's thought. At one point Dave took this art work, which was evidencing foxing and nicotine stains, and had it cleaned and restored for the Frazettas.

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  4. Ah Spidey with cosmic powers. I have that comic!

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  5. Hi Arnie!

    I've always been a huge Tintin fan, and I love that last cover. Would you mind to give us a little history on that particular piece of art? It's in a sort of unusual square format. Any reason for that?

    Thanks, and great post!
    -Will

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    1. Hi, Will--

      I really know very little about the history of that original other than it had previously sold in 2008 of $943,000. Supposedly only five Tintin covers by Hergé are known to still exist, with two of them in private collections and I guess this counts as one of those. What happened to everything else...? The Hergé Museum opened in Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium in 2009.

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    2. Ah yes! And I would definitely like to visit that museum! Thanks for the input!
      -Will

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  6. Some of these prices may seem to be crazy. But then, look at the absurd prices that some people are willing to pay for works by questionable artists such as Warhol and Lichtenstein, just to name a few. It is about time that the work of some comic artists are commanding high prices. These guys are far greater artists in talent and skill, and have much more impact on the mass psyche than the artists that the academic elite pretend are worthy.

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