Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stan Lee Ripped My Comic !!!

Sometime in 1979 (if memory serves me correctly; it may have been 1978), my childhood friend and fellow comic collector, Joe Carbone, and I, were taken to a NYC comic con by his dad. I think I went to the show with maybe $50 or $60, deciding that I was going to put a good portion of it toward getting one really nice book. I wound up choosing issue #11 of The Fantastic Four, featuring the origin and first appearence of the Impossible Man. I think I paid around $30 for the book. The Overstreet Guide from 1979 places the value in Fine at $33, so I guess $30 sounds about right for the condition of this issue, which I'd put around a Fine -. The 2006 guide has it at $264 in Fine and $1750 in Near Mint. The Excelsior himself, Stan Lee, was at this con and signing comics. I got in line with my new purchase, figuring, “Ah, perfect, I can get my #11 signed by Stan Lee himself! The line wasn't too long and it was set up in the hallway of the convention. I can't remember what hotel it was being held at, but it was a relatively small space in the crowded hallway. When I got to him, Stan, sitting behind a small table, asked me my name (and made some now forgotten comment about the old F.F. issue) and proceeded to inscribe it to me and sign it. Unfortunately, Stan pressed fairly hard on the cover and as he signed it, his ball point pen sliced right through the (then) 16-or-so-year-old-paper. I noticed that and showed it to him, so he took it back and wrote the now infamous line , “I'm sorry I Ripped It - Stan.” On the one hand, I was pretty pissed that Stan had ripped what had been a pretty proud investment for an eleven-year-old, and on the other, I had a special, one-of-a-kind note on my book from Stan Lee! As I was leaving the table, I showed the book to my friend's dad who got pretty upset and used a couple of expletives about Stan ripping a kid's comic and how he should have paid for it. I let it slide and I guess the book is fairly unique. I've often wondered if I'd prefer to just have a nice clean copy of the book, without any signature at all, as, to many collectors, writing on the cover of a comic, other than maybe a store date, is frowned upon. Later on, I did a trade with my friend Joe for his Fantastic Four #14, which he bought that day and also had signed. Looking closely at that signature, you can notice that Stan tore into that cover a bit as well!

Addendum - Looking back at the signature on the #11, it's in a bit of a different style for Stan. The way the 'S' leads into the 't' is more of a cursive 'l' than the normal upside down and elongated 'V' shape that he usually uses. On March 31st, 2012, I met Stan again (for the 3rd time) at the New York Comic Book Marketplace, where he signed my copy of IDW's The 'Amazing Spider-Man John Romita Artist's Edition.' (btw, a video I put together showcasing this book can be seen here: John Romita - Amazing Spider-Man Artist's Edition The signature he used on that is closer to the one on the #14 here, than it is on the #11.  So that makes the #11 even that much more unique!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Number Nine, Number Nine...

Up until last year, the only number I was missing out of the first 20 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man was #9. It's a classic issue, featuring the first appearence of Electro and a beautiful Steve Ditko cover. For some reason, over the 28 previous years of my buying comics, that book never made its way into my collection. In this photo from a 1979 NYC Creation Comic convention you can see my mom considering purchasing a copy of Spider-Man #9, while I and the dealer look on. I can't say I'm totally thrilled at the way my mom is holding the book . . . seemingly creasing it at the mid-way point in the spine. I'd much prefer it be cradled in the left or right palm, and the pages turned with the other. And I'm surprised at the dealer, pretty much leaning his body weight right on top of his own books for sale! I'm just an innocent bystander, hoping that my mon will buy the book but, unfortunately, she ultimately passed on it. I seem to remember the dealer wanting $80 for it; however, looking back at an Overstreet Price Guide from 1979-1980, #9 in Mint is listed at only $33. Based on a close-up, zoomed-in view on the photo here, this #9 looks to be in pretty nice shape. Too bad we didn't get it. It was probably around $30! The 2006 Near Mint value is $2150. Last year, I finally picked up a copy of this book. I'd followed a number of Ebay auctions for #9 over the last few years, but never really seriously considered bidding on any of the nicer grade copies because they were going for too much money. But last year I saw an auction for what looked like a pretty clean copy, except that, when you looked at the cover in a certain light, you could see some scratches or impressions of writing on it. The cover reflectivity and colors were still pretty good, it looked pretty smooth otherwise and laid flat, and it had a low opening bid, so I went ahead and bid on it; to my surprise, I won it for $125! The 2006 Guide lists it in only Good 2.0 condition for $108. Without the scratches/marks I'd grade the book a Fine +, which would put it in the $400 or so area . . . so if you take off a bit for the scratches and I think it was a pretty good deal. Overall, the book looks great, with a bit of edge wear at the top and some corner blunting and creasing, but with some nice cover gloss still retained . . . and in a mylar it looks awesome!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Amazing Spider-Man

The heart of my comic book collection consists of my Amazing Spider-Man books. Up to issue #300 of the first series, I'm missing only #27 (third Green Goblin appearence) and #217 (not sure why I never picked this one up). Granted, not all of the books, especially early on, are in the greatest shape, but there are a few really nice copies. #13 with the first appearence of Mysterio and #14, featuring the first Green Goblin story, are particularly nice. #2 and #7, both with classic Vulture covers, are in overall nice shape as well. My #1, purchased for me by my mom for $325 in 1980 , is what I would consider a VG+/FINE – book. It’s a nice book (hey, it's Spider-Man #1!) but by no means a CGC 9.0. The same day that the Spidey #1 was purchased, we also picked up a Spider-Man #4, with the first appearence of the Sandman. I remember the day well, when Richie from Tomorrow's Treasures came over our house in Queens with some choice books. We knew him well from buying comics at his usual Acqueduct flea market set-up; he’s still operating after all these years. Richie is the first comic dealer you see at the NYC Big Apple Cons when you come up the escalator. The only regret from that day is that we didn't buy a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. It was in better shape than the Spider-Man #1, but it was the same price. At the time Amazing Fantasy #15 was worth less in the guide than the Spider-Man #1. Of course, now that's changed and the #15 in high grade is worth more than the #1 in a comparable grade. My mom was making the money decisions and she figured I was putting together a collection of the Amazing Spider-Man, so it made more sense to go with the #1. Thinking about it now, I wonder why we didn't just buy both, but $325 for a comic book in 1980 was still a lot of money! Looking back at the Overstreet Price Guide from 1980 it's amazing to see that after #1, the prices for Spider-Man comics were actually pretty low in the high grades. The #4 probably cost around $40. I likely paid in the $10-$20 range for a lot of the other early Spidey books, most of which were acquired in the late 70's/early 80's. I've been debating whether to get the #1 professionally graded by CGC. I've also thought about having it “pressed.” a process used by comic restorers (although, technically, this isn't considered restoration) where they literally press the comic to remove wrinkles and some surface defects. It might raise the grade by a bit, for a relatively low price. Naturally this requires the book to leave my hands, so maybe that's what's held me back from doing it so far.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Most of my friends know I've been an avid collector of all kinds of comic-, art-, and music-related ephemera and non-paper collectibles; it's something I've been doing since I was old enough to make the decision to keep something I owned, rather than have someone else (read: parents) make that choice. I've heard lots of horror stories over the years of parents throwing away their kids’ toys and comics and it saddens me. From my own family I can hear the dissapointment in my Uncle Jack's voice when he recalls how after going to serve in the Armed Forces in the late 50's, he came home to find all his comics gone, thrown away by his mother, my late Nana Rose. We're talking Golden Age Supermans, Action Comics, along with much more DC, probably Timely, and lots of EC Horror books. In todays market, this represents thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of comic books. Of course, the only reason those same comics are worth as much as they are today is precisly because my grandmother chose to discard a few boxes of seemingly worthless “joke books” taking up valuable floor and closet space in a small Brooklyn apartment. She can hardly be faulted for failing to forsee the future worth of those cheaply printed comics. Still, there were those few individuals, even at that relatively early time, who did realize that some of the toys and comics of their day might be worth money down the line. Though—until I was ten or so—I didn't treat the comics I read as a kid with much more respect than most kids would, I still managed to hold onto most of them, even the Ghost Rider #15, featuring the villain with a big eye for a helmet, the Uncanny Orb, with multiple puncture holes on the cover. When I was nine, one of my father's theater students gave me a box of his old late 60's comics, including some issues of Spider-Man. Most of the comics were pretty beat up (the Spideys in particular!) but my mom had heard about a comic price guide, so she went to the library looking for it. It had been checked out, along with the two or three other remaining copies of the guide in local libraries. Finally, she was able to track down a copy and discovered that these comics, in better condition, could be worth a lot of money. From there, it was a natural progression to build on my comics interest and actually start collecting. That led to her writing, a few years later, one of the very first books on collecting comics, titled Collecting Comic Books (what else?). You can see the cover, drawn by one of my favorite artists of the time, Michael Golden, well known for his work on The Micronauts (and you can bet I had a lot of Micronauts toys!). You can see the cover here: Collecting Comic Books This blog will showcase some of the items that I've amassed over the years, including scans of comic covers, original art, toy pics, and various other photos (vintage and new) and scans of interesting things in the collection. Hope you like what you see!