Thompson shares insights before selling keys in comic book auction

The names Don and Maggie Thompson are ubiquitous in the comic book enthusiast world. As pioneers and advocates of comic book fandom, first with the publication of their “Comic Art” and “Newfangles” fanzines, followed by decades dedicated to Comics Buyer’s Guide and many titles dedicated to the comic book industry and its countless devotees, the Thompsons curated a comic book collection any collector would be proud to call their own. Heritage Auctions is offering the Don/Maggie Thompson Pedigree Collection as part of its Nov. 21-23 comic book auction in Beverly Hills, Calif., giving collectors a chance to own top-rated comics with impeccable provenance.

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Thor #126 Don/Maggie Thompson Collection pedigree (Marvel, 1966) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages. The first issue of the title after the name change from Journey Into Mystery. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions

Antique Trader: When did you and Don start collecting comic books and original art? Did you each collect before you were married? Or did it come about after?

Maggie Thompson: I started collecting when I was about 5 years old—around 1947. I do have original art in my collection that is connected to that early era, thanks to my parents’ support. They began a correspondence with Pogo creator Walt Kelly, and he decorated his letters with his drawings. Of course, the family kept that correspondence. However, I became the sort of person we think of today as a collector when I began to collect E.C. comics, starting with Mad #9 (1954). Don was also already a collector when we first met in 1957, focusing especially on Classics Illustrated and the E.C. comics. When it was clear we were going to be a couple, we actually built a savings account and funded our collecting efforts out of it. Eventually, later, we sold the duplicates that resulted from our combined collections.

Antique Trader: What do you feel are your most important collecting principles?

Maggie Thompson: A collector should collect items which he or she likes. Then, worst-case scenario, the collector owns what is cherished and appreciated.

A collector should care for what is in the collection. No matter how long our life expectancies may be, we are all only caretakers for the collectors who will come after us.

Collectors should understand and sympathize with other collectors, whether or not they share specific interests. And non-collectors should try to sympathize with and respect the interests of others. There’s a shop called My Mother Threw Mine Away. Think about it.

A specific concern connected to comic-book collecting is the fragility of paper collectibles. Many people were introduced to comics when they were kids—giving little if any thought to the nature of the pulp paper and binding involved in comic-book production. Of course, that means that the few surviving early comics that are in great shape can bring higher prices in the marketplace today.

Antique Trader: What comic book investment advice would you share with comic book collectors (i.e. “musts” and “must nots”)?

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Representative of the other key comic books available in the Nov 21-23 auction is Thun’da #1 (Magazine Enterprises, 1952) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white pages, is the only comic book drawn entirely by Frank Frazetta (cover and interior). No examples have been graded higher than the one offered in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 21-23 Signature Auction.

Maggie Thompson: It may surprise some that Don and I did not buy as investors; we bought what we wanted to own. So it is that my advice remains: Collect what you enjoy. I don’t think I have any “musts” or “must nots,” except to caution that owners should take care of what they have so that others can also enjoy the treasures in years to come.

Antique Trader: Approximately how many pieces did you consign for auction? Which are your favorite pieces and why?

Maggie Thompson: Oddly, I have no idea how many pieces were consigned for the auction. The two who put the auction lots together were Heritage Auctions specialists Steve Borock and Lon Allen. It was Steve who convinced me of the advantages of consigning to Heritage in the first place, and it took him a couple of years to convince me—and then to work out the arrangements that made it possible to facilitate the project. I turned the whole venture over to the two of them, and they worked for hours to filter the most appropriate items for sale out of many thousands of accumulated issues. I hid out in the rest of my house while they plowed through short boxes to find the best, most sought-after items in the best condition from decades of collecting.

One aspect of the auction project is that it is a project: I intend to spend some of the proceeds from the sale on the purchase of crummy-condition copies of the same issues. That way, I’ll still have the comics in “reader-copy” form in my collection, including the “key” issues that are everyone’s favorites. The copies will simply be beat to heck, which is fine with me.

Antique Trader: What would be your overall summary of the Don/Maggie Thompson Pedigree Collection selections that are in the Heritage Auctions Nov. 21-23 sale?

Maggie Thompson: The items on sale in this auction were chosen by specialists as examples in excellent condition of a number of what are known as “key issues,” which is to say that they are important issues in the development of a number of important characters, especially those super-heroes developed by Marvel and DC in the so-called Silver Age of Comics. And they are being offered at auction by the original owner of those copies.

The entire Nov. 21-23 Signature Comic Auction catalog is available for viewing. For more information, call toll free 1-877-HERITAGE (437-4824).

Watch a video preview of important keys from the collection below.

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