ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011


NOT my copy-- mine is much rougher shape
OLD TYME STUFF Auctions are every other Thursday across from Vincents in the Big Woo.  Run by Ron and Denise as a family operation I really enjoy going to them.  I first started about five years ago off and on when I'd meet my cousin there who is a collector and re-seller of vintage toys.  Lately I've been going more often and I like the mixture of really bizarre (A full size Western Bank Safe) to cool (a 50s TV that looked like it was out of the Jetsons) stuff that always is appealing.

I've bought some crazy lots over the years including a box of toys including a cow that was hard plastic and apparently could be set up to dispense milk, which I got because it was in the same lot as a really jinxy Planet of the Apes Bank in absolute MINT condition-- which I ended up reselling for about 10X what I paid for it.

One week I was there I wanted to bid on a lot of World War II era newspapers including one that said "JAPS SURRENDER!" which I would have framed and mailed to my brother who lives in the land of the rising sun and often finds himself at odds with their rather strange work ethics and boss/employee class system, but I wasn't able to stay long enough for it to come up.

It's set up quite nicely in an old factory with a little snack bar in the back so I usually grab a bite while I'm waiting for whatever I'm interested in to come up on the block.

This past visit I got there early enough to check out the preview-- on auction day they are open 830-5 so that bidder's can come in and take a look at the lots.  It's nice to be able to go through them at a leisurely pace and decide if there's anything you're interested in.  For this week I was looking for Old Vintage Photos for my good buddy Joanie Gage and those can be tough because they often come in huge scrapbooks so looking to find gems can take a bit of effort.  Veronica was admiring a set of dishes and I came around the corner and saw a pile of Golden Age Comics sitting on the table being graded by someone next to Ron the auctioneer.  There were quite a few Action Comics, some Star Spangled Comics, a few issues of All Star Comics and right there on top-- BATMAN #11.

This is dangerous because I'm carrying a good amount of cash, because my plan was to go get new tires at Harding Tire around the corner.   It's bad to come across a rare item like this and to have money on you.

Golden Age Comics, for those not into the hobby-- are comics published from 1935 to the early 50s.  There's heated debate among collectors as to when the Golden Age becomes the Silver Age but most agree it's the first appearance of The Martian Manhunter in 1955.  I'd argue it's when the comics went from BIG to closer to what we think of today as comics.  The first Golden Age comic book I ever saw was Batman #14-- great Penguin cover-- sitting on the display rack behind Paul Howley at his great store THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT when it was in a much smaller location on Chandler Street.  I was probably 14 years old and when I bought it from Paul for $50 he was shocked that I was into the older stuff and I was blown away by how much bigger (both content and size) Golden Age comics were.

I ended up collecting Batman's #2-20 over the years, but #11 eluded me.  I'd see it from time to time at conventions but it would be in the $2-3K price range and I just wasn't willing to pay that for it.  Golden Age comics are particularly rare because there were paper drives during WWII that took most of them.

This was a book I had to have.

I graded it at a solid G condition and went home and looked it up in a pricing guide-- thinking maybe $700 I was shocked and saddened to see it graded out at about $1400 in this shape.  Yikes!

When I got back to the auction I talked to Ron and he told me the book would be in a lot coming out by 730-- and he wished me luck in getting it.   There were already several left bids for it and quite a few new faces in the auction house but I found my spot and waited.

As other lots came and went, I looked around to see who my competition was going to be.  There was a guy who looked like Toby from AMERICAN SPLENDOR who bid on and won a really cool 1950s Japanese Toy Bus-- and he wasn't afraid to spend.  Almost directly across from me was a guy who looked not much older than college age who was with either his girlfriend or sister and it was clear she was here for him.

As the first lot of books came out-- A run of Superman Action Comics-- he sat up-- this was my competition.  Dave Hartwell, longtime legend among comic collectors both here in the Woo and in the industry as a whole came up behind me.

"Which lot are you bidding on, so I don't bid against you?"
It shows you how much class Dave has.  And had he said he really wanted the Batman book I would have deferred to him too.

The Action Comics lot-- several books in fact-- went for about $1800-- the college guy outbid by someone on the bank of phone bidders over to the right.

The next lot included the Star Spangled Comics lot and that one only went for about $350-- there was hope that this wouldn't get out of control.

Auctions are a funny thing-- The auctioneer asks for $50-- nobody bids, then he asks for $25 and bids come in, pretty soon surpassing the original opening bid of $50 by several hundred dollars.  It's the emotional attachment someone gets thinking they might get a deal, then they hang on.

I had a strategy.  I would jump in when the opening bid hit $200-- far above what I thought it would actually start at-- hopefully taking the steam out of bargain hunters.

The Batman lot was the last lot of the comics to be offered.

All right-- I get my bidder card ready and College Boy is leaning forward.  I'd hoped he was just a Superman fan, but no luck.
The bidding starts higher than I hoped and bounces around the room, College Boy, some phone bidders and those left bids drive it up-- then the auction slows and Ron announces going once...

Going Twice....

I whip my card in the air-- he catches my bid.


Let's hope for a mild winter so these old tires of mine hold up.

The next auction is Thursday the 15th.