A down market? Not for comic sellers

By the end of bidding at Heritage Auction Galleries on Nov. 15, with total prices realized adding up to more than $5 million in its Vintage Comics & Comics Art Signature Auction, company officers were watching closely to see if the total would best the coveted world record total of $5.2 million.

With the very best of the original Mad Magazine cover art leading the way, accompanied by a #1 Walt Disney comic and an amazing “attic find” collection of original Golden Age comic book cover art via the Szenics collection, there was good reason to believe the mark was within sight.

When the hammer fell on the final lot the auction total crested at more than $5 million, coming up just short of the world record total. It was all taken in good stride at Heritage’s Dallas headquarters, as the company was trying to break its own record, set in October 2002, in a Signature Comics Auction that included the renowned Nicolas Cage collection.

“This was the second biggest comic auction that anyone has ever had,” said Barry Sandoval, director of operations for the Comics Division at Heritage, “second only to the $5.2 million auction that we held six years ago, which holds the Guinness World Record.”

While the total price record didn’t fall, there were several notable record marks set in the sale, including the highest price paid at auction for a U.S. comic art lot when Norman Mingo’s original artwork for Mad Magazine #30, the first to feature Alfred E. Neuman as its principal figure, sold for a little more than $203,000. The entire grouping of Mad Magazine cover art, the very best of the original works created for the publication, nearly doubled its pre-sale estimate, accounting for $746,000 of the auction total.

While it may not have gotten near the pre-sale media attention as the Mad Magazine artwork, a Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #1, featuring a mischievously winking Donald Duck, didn’t disappear from the screens of serious comic and Disneyana collectors for a single second. Intense bidding pushed the price of the comic ever higher until it reached $116,000. It is necessary to note that a Walt Disney comic of this high quality is a true rarity in the world of collecting, hence its commanding price.

“It’s easily the highest price ever paid for a Disney comic,” said Sandoval, “but then this was also the only true Near Mint copy of this key #1 that we’ve ever seen or heard of.”

The Zoltan M. Szenics collection was the source of great pre-auction speculation, as it presented a rare opportunity to offer a large grouping of very well preserved Golden Age comic book art, including examples of original art from Golden Age luminaries Lou Fine and Will Eisner. The 43 lots were expected to bring in more than $100,000 when offered and they did not disappoint. The art was gathered by Zoltan Szenics and his wife Theresa, both artists and letterers in the comics business in the 1930s, then stored away in the attic of an heir after the Szenics passed away. Buyers happily spent $187,603 to take home some of this classic, early comic art, with Fine’s cover art for Uncle Sam #11 lighting the way at $55,268.75.

“First rate Golden Age art from this early period is incredibly rare,” said Todd Hignite, comics consignment director at Heritage, “and Lou Fine’s over-the-top patriotic covers for World War II-themed National Comics must count among the most exciting comic art finds of recent history. That this collection survived at all is miraculous given the way the art was treated seven decades ago, but to surface with such a singular provenance is exceptional. The very fact that the collection includes such blue-chip examples truly makes this a landmark event.”

To see results from the rest of Heritage’s November 2008 Comics and Comics Art Signature Auction, visit www.HA.com/830.

Heritage’s next Signature Comics and Comic Art auction will be held Feb. 26-27, 2009, in Dallas, Texas. For more information, visit www.HA.com.

To reserve your copy of any Heritage auction catalog, call 800-872-6467, ext. 1150, or visit www.HA.com/catalog to order by email.

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