Pop Culture: Collectibles market continues to thrive

Despite the perception by many of economic uncertainties and the nearly constant reporting by the traditional or old media of what might happen as if it were fact, the collectibles market continues to thrive.

Bound inexorably to the mainstream of American history, pop culture artifacts offer both important ties to our past and – particularly in times of unease – links to periods of greater comfort or happiness. This notion may be easy to dismiss out of hand, but given serious study over protracted times, it stands up to the scrutiny more times than not.

Heritage’s 2007: Almost $600 Million

Heritage Auction Galleries posted results exceeding $590 million in 2007 for its auctions and privates, the company has reported. Ending their year with the inaugural Heritage For The Holidays gift catalog (items included the Elvis Presley “Dream Car” Cadillac for $119,500, and an F-5 fighter jet for $150,000), the firm eclipsed numerous records in numismatics, comic books, fine art, original comic art, movie posters, and other specialties.

“2007 was an exceptional year in total sales,” Greg Rohan, president of Heritage, said in a press release, “but even more exciting in the broad range of record-setting and fascinating items that we sold. Heritage now holds auctions in two dozen specialty areas, and our market presence is strengthening across the board. We started the year with another world-record coin and currency auction at the Florida United Numismatists convention – more than $78 million, the most valuable coin and currency auction ever held; our New York International Numismatic Convention auction held immediately thereafter pushed our one-week auction total over $83 million!”

Jackie Robinson Jersey Tops $340,000

Much like many of the games in which he played, Grey Flannel Auctions’ Dec. 5, 2007 saw Jackie Robinson speeding to a win. Included in the results of the auction was a 1951 game-used Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers home jersey. The final sale price was $341,779, almost seven times the $50,000 reserve.

The event also included a 1994 Seattle Mariners rookie alternate jersey signed by Alex Rodriguez ($29,881), a Bobby Orr game-used Boston Bruins jersey from the early 1970s ($25,410) and a 1972-733 game-used Wilt Chamberlain Los Angeles Lakers jersey ($27,584).

Stolen Fantasia Pieces Found

“Nearly 20 years after they were stolen from a New York cartoon museum, two original Disney watercolor pieces were recovered last week thanks to a Florida antiques dealer,” the Stamford Advocate has reported. “Bill Tirrell, a dealer in New Smyrna, Fla., contacted police in Rye Brook, N.Y., in October after he purchased the two paintings and learned they were snagged from the museum.”

Prior to their disappearance, the paintings from the collection of noted animation expert Mike Glad had been in the custody Museum of Cartoon Art in Rye Brook, the predecessor of the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton, Fla., which closed in 2002. They depict Mickey Mouse in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Walt Disney’s Fantasia. The e-mail newsletter Scoop reported that art expert Peter Merolo had confirmed authenticity of the paintings and that they were taken back to New York.

Lego Collectors in Print

John Morrow and the his team at TwoMorrows Publishing have made a habit of taking collecting niches and turning them into well written and beautifully designed specialty publications. They’ve done it with periodicals such as The Jack Kirby Collector (dedicated to an appreciation and understanding of the late Fantastic Four co-creator, artist Jack Kirby) and Back Issue (focused on the comic books of the 1970s and ’80s), and books such as Mego 8-inch Super-Heroes World’s Greatest Toys! (which is pretty much what the title sounds like) and Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure (which is likewise descriptive of the contents). They have produced scores of other specialty publications, mainly in the comic book world, ranging from appreciations of specific artists to analysis of genres within the field.

Now Morrow and his compatriots have seen another need they can fill in the form of delivering information to Lego collectors.

Brick Journal magazine is touted by TwoMorrows as the ultimate resource for Lego enthusiasts of all ages. The publication, edited by Joe Meno, showcases events, people, and models in every issue, with contributions and how-to articles by top builders. It also features product introductions and is produced with cooperation from the Lego Group. Their first issue ships next month. The previous incarnations of Brick Journal are available as PDF downloads from www.twomorrows.com.

Stan Lee’s First Comics Work

On Feb. 24, 2008, a copy of Captain America Comics #3, published in May 1941, was offered in auction by ComicConnect.com. While only the third issue of the long-running series that featured the iconic, patriotic character, this particular issue has a secondary significance that might actually eclipse its character-related provenance.

It contains the first published work by legendary comic book impresario Stan Lee.

Lee is arguably the most famous American comic book industry figure, and is credited as the creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and many other comic book, pop-culture, and cinema icons. Additionally, with the box office success Marvel’s characters have enjoyed in recent years, he has become noted for his cameo appearances in the films and promotional appearances on news, talk and interview programs in support of them.

Hired by his relative Martin Goodman, the publisher of Timely Comics (Marvel’s predecessor), Lee’s first published work was a two-page text feature in Captain America Comics #3 entitled “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.”

What even many longtime Captain America fans don’t realize, though, is that this particularly marks the first occasion that Captain America actually threw his shield at his enemies as a weapon rather than using it merely in a defensive manner. It would, of course, become the character’s trademark move.

This copy of Captain America Comics #3 will be sold as one of hundreds of lots listed in ComicConnect.com’s first event auction. The copy, certified in 6.5 condition by third-party grading service CGC, is from the Crowley Collection, a pedigreed high-grade collection once owned by Fawcett Publications editor Wendell Crowley.

J.C. Vaughn is the associate publisher and executive editor of Gemstone Publishing. Members of the Geppi’s Entertainment Publications & Auctions staff contributed to this piece.

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