Out of this world: Records shattered for science-fiction art collection

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 James Allen St. John’s (American, 1872-1957) At the Earth’s Core book dust jacket, 1922, an iconic cover painting for a hugely important book by one of the fathers of fantasy illustration. This is one of the finest examples to ever come to auction and it was the star lot, selling for $112,500, thousands more than the estimate of $75,000 and up. All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

James Allen St. John’s (American, 1872-1957) At the Earth’s Core book dust jacket, 1922, an iconic cover painting for a hugely important book by one of the fathers of fantasy illustration. This is one of the finest examples to ever come to auction and it was the star lot, selling for $112,500, thousands more than the estimate of $75,000 and up. All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

DALLAS – Incredible art from one of the finest mid-century American science fiction collections saw out-of-this-world sales that exceeded the pre-auction estimate by more than $1 million — and shattered multiple auction records in the process.

The star lot in The Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science Fiction Collection auction was the book dust jacket James Allen St. John created in 1922 for The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, selling for $112,500. This price breaks the record for St. John’s art. More than 30 collectors made bids for the image that was published on the hardcover dust jacket of the first edition of Burroughs’ book (A.C. McClurg & Co., 1922), and is cited as a significant reason for St. John’s impact on the visual language of fantasy illustration.

The collection of 461 lots from the Aug. 13-14 White Glove auction at Heritage Auctions totaled $2,407,620, exceeding the pre-auction estimate by more than $1 million, and boasted a 100 percent sell-through rate by value and by lots sold.

“The marketing plan was fantastic,” Glynn Crain said, “and the results exceeded my wildest dreams!”

 This stunning painting by the pioneer of American science fiction, Frank R. Paul (American, 1884-1963), is one of the greatest known to exist. Titled “The Moon Conquerors,” it’s a watercolor and gouache on board, 23” x 16”, signed lower right, and sold for $87,500 against an estimate of $30,000.

This stunning painting by the pioneer of American science fiction, Frank R. Paul (American, 1884-1963), is one of the greatest known to exist. Titled “The Moon Conquerors,” it’s a watercolor and gouache on board, 23” x 16”, signed lower right, and sold for $87,500 against an estimate of $30,000.

“We knew beforehand that some of the lots were very rare, or even unique items that were traded privately before making their auction debut in this sale,” Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Hignite said. “To post a sell-through rate of 100 percent is spectacular, and only reinforces what we already knew: that the Crain collection is one of the finest ever brought to auction. We saw scores of new bidders, confirming our belief that this great material has huge appeal outside of the traditional collecting circles.”

Among the other highlights and world auction records set:

Frank R. Paul’s “The Moon Conquerors,” Science Wonder Quarterly cover, Winter 1930, nearly tripled its pre-auction estimate when it sold for $87,500, thanks to bids from 28 eager collectors. The water-and-gouache-on-board painting is signed by Paul and broke set the record for works by the artist, who had three lots in the sale.

Michael Whelan’s Foundation’s Edge paperback cover, 1983, more than quadrupled its high pre-auction estimate when it closed at $68,750, also setting a new auction record for the artist, thanks to bids from 40 eager collectors. The painting was published as the paperback cover of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation’s Edge (Del Rey Books, 1983), which is considered a central building block for science fiction in general.

 Michael Whelan’s (American, b. 1950) Foundation’s Edge paperback cover, 1983, is one of this famed artist’s finest paintings ever to appear at auction. Acrylic on board, 29-1/2” x 21-1/4”, signed and dated lower center, it sold for $68,750 - tens of thousands more than the estimate of $10,000 and up.

Michael Whelan’s (American, b. 1950) Foundation’s Edge paperback cover, 1983, is one of this famed artist’s finest paintings ever to appear at auction. Acrylic on board, 29-1/2” x 21-1/4”, signed and dated lower center, it sold for $68,750 - tens of thousands more than the estimate of $10,000 and up.

 This iconic 1950s science fiction image is one of the finest paintings created by artist Lawrence Sterne Stevens (American, 1884-1960).“Hand from the Void,” Super Science Stories cover, January 1951, oil on board, 19” x 14“, sold for $65,625, far above the estimate of $12,000.

This iconic 1950s science fiction image is one of the finest paintings created by artist Lawrence Sterne Stevens (American, 1884-1960).“Hand from the Void,” Super Science Stories cover, January 1951, oil on board, 19” x 14“, sold for $65,625, far above the estimate of $12,000.

Additional auction records were set for these artists:

Lawrence Sterne Stevens “Hand from the Void,” Super Science Stories cover, January 1951, was another popular lot, drawing more than two dozen bidders, who drove the final price to $65,625.

Nearly two dozen collectors made bids for Paul Lehr’s Infinite Worlds: the Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art book cover, 1997, until it closed at $38,750, nearly eight times its pre-auction estimate.

Edmund Emshwiller’s “Starship Soldier,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction cover, November 1959, also soared past its pre-auction estimate, by more than 500 percent, before finishing at $37,500. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Soldier would be published later as the highly acclaimed novel Starship Troopers.

For more information about the auction and to see more art that was sold, visit Heritage Auctions at ha.com.

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