Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art Speculation

by Patrick Bain

061821A-300x157 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationA relatively few artists have made iconic contributions to Marvel Comics.  Based on his Conan the Barbarian comic art, Barry Windsor-Smith ranks in that class.  Recently, Jason Short wrote about BWS and the X-Men.  Jason focused on Windsor-Smith X-Men artistry from the eighties and early nineties.  I want to focus on some sales of Windsor-Smith art and take a look at the market, particularly for cover art from Conan the Barbarian #2 (1970).

Barry Windsor-Smith Art Background

X-Men-55-e1624286958552-207x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationJason’s article gave a mention to Barry Windsor-Smith’s first comic art, X-Men #53.  In X-Men Artists that Rock, I gave a shout-out to BWS, Jim Steranko, and Neal Adams for their early X-Men art.  I feel the innovative work of these pioneers paved the way for the revolution of the new X-Men.  Returning to BWS, his art on Conan may have jump-started that series and popularized a lot of other Barbarians among seventies comic titles.  That includes Red Sonja, Kull the Conqueror, Claw the Unconquered, IronJaw–and why not Groo the Wanderer, and Cerebrus the Aardvark.

Marvel-Comics-Presents-83-Weapon-X-comic-art-by-Barry-Windsor-Smith-e1624287435429-216x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationBesides contributing to most of the first two dozen Conan comics, BWS illustrated Ka-Zar in Astonishing Tales, The Avengers, Weapon X, and others for Marvel.  As an independent creator, he brought Archer and Armstrong to life, as well as Rune.  After Conan, BWS fans probably seek his Wolverine art with the most passion.

X-Men #55 cover art by Windsor-Smith fetched $132,000 in 2020.  Marvel Comics Presents #83 cover art featuring Wolverine sold in 2017 for $52,580.

Open the King’s Treasury for Conan Art

Conan-the-Barbarian-8-Page-20-e1624287471695-209x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationPast sales actually are an indication of future results (but no guarantee).  So, let’s review some Barry Windsor-Smith comic art highlights from the last few years.  In January, a spectacular splash from Conan #8 fetched the stunning price of 84 thousand dollars!  For context, a lucky buyer bought the John Romita, Sr. cover art from Amazing Spider-Man #63 at the same auction for the same price.  Generally, interior pages can’t compete with an early Romita, Sr. Spider-Man cover, though the cover featured only the Vultures framed by a Spider-Man spotlight.

Later, I’ll review Conan cover art sales by Windsor-Smith.  First, three BWS early Conan panel pages sold in April through HA.  The pages all featured dramatic Conan action and averaged just under $10K each.  I don’t know when Machine Man became a significant character, but mid-eighties Machine Man interior pages by BWS fetch similar prices.

Barry Windsor-Smith Art for Mid-Town Buyers?

Conan-the-Barbarian-6-Page-9-e1624288169887-210x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationSince I hate to act like everyone ought to have a hundred grand to spend on comic art, let’s look at art available for the Mid-Town buyer. An early Conan panel page coming to auction in June should fit in the mid-range mentioned above.  [Editor’s note: Conan the Barbarian #6 Story Page 9 went for a cool $18,000. ]  On the lower end, a cool-looking, probably unpublished, Kull page should sell well below the Conan pages.  [Editor’s note: Final sale price $4,320.]  Likewise, an Archer and Armstrong interior page devoid of action should fetch a modest price.  [Editor’s note: Final sale price $2,640.]

Signature Conan Art by Barry Windsor-Smith

Conan-the-Barbarian-2-comic-art-by-Barry-Windsor-Smith-e1624288723297-206x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationIt’s time to pull up your Barbarian knickers and strap on your best sword.  The following art is not for the faint-hearted or light in the wallet.  The savage hordes are descending from every nook and cranny, so if you want to be king of this mountain, get ready!  The cover of the second comic appearance of Conan auctions in June.  Though not iconic like issue 1, it boasts art by Conan icon BWS.  [Editor’s note: See below for staggering final price.]

Conan-the-Barbarian-11-202x300 Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art SpeculationThe place to start is recent past sales:

  • Cover art for issues 8 and 5 are similar in age to issue 2, prominently featuring Conan.  Each sold for roughly $60K in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
  • Though dramatic, the issue 10 cover fetched only $66K in 2019, probably because of Conan’s diminutive figure.  However, same year, the cover of CtB #11 raised $90,000.  Conan grabbed a lot more real estate on that page.
  • Interestingly, excellent covers from issues 4 and 9 sold for just under $90K way back in 2013-2014.

Speculating on the Power of the Beast-Men

Conan the Barbarian #2 cover art has a lot in its favor: prominent Conan, 2nd comic appearance, early Barry Windsor-Smith.  While reviewing sales prices from 2013 to 2019, one might wonder if BWS Conan is stagnating in price.  However, the huge sale price on the Conan #8 splash bodes well for the seller of CtB #2 cover art.  I expect the price to easily exceed the other Conan cover sales.  I would not be shocked if the final sales price with Buyer’s Premium nears the $132K from the X-Men #55 cover sale.  I’d guessed around $110K.  [Editor’s note: Shocking final sale price of $264,000 blew away expectations and makes one wonder what other BWS Conan art will sell for in the near future.]

For more original art talk, check out my recent review of sales for Original Art First Appearances.

Upgrade2_Footer Barry Windsor-Smith Comic Art Speculation

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Patrick Bain June 21, 2021 - 7:03 pm

Even though the results are in and the final sales price of the Conan the Barbarian 2 cover blew my guess away, I would love to hear what your thoughts are for this and other record prices achieved in the HA signature auction.

MCurrie 22 June 21, 2021 - 7:45 pm

Great article as always Patrick!!! I don’t think anyone was expecting the prices we saw at this HA signature auction. I couldn’t believe that the unpublished BWS Marvel Presents Wolvie cover went for over $100K. I was actually partaking in some live phone bidding for the auction on a Todd McFarlane Spidey page as well as a Zeck Punisher limited series page. Both went way over my estimates. On the page by Todd I didn’t even get a chance to bid it climbed so fast during the live bidding and ended at $84K. The Zeck page I at least got a chance to bid and for a moment things got quiet and I thought I had it around $21K. WRONG hahaha. The silence was over and next thing I knew it was over $33K. It’s a unique market where things you rarely see are coming to market. I think collectors realize this and are going all out because of it. With comic books there will be plenty opportunities to get most issues if you have the money. With a piece of art it very well could be your last chance regardless of how much money you have. Keep these great articles coming cause us art fans love them Patrick!!!!!!

Patrick Bain June 21, 2021 - 7:53 pm

Thanks for reading, Matt! You are right about the built-in urgency of original art. Since there is only one, there’s no guarantee you’ll get another chance to buy it at ANY price. In my mind, that is the main inherent advantage of original art. AND, the reason why original art has a better chance of riding out economic troubles.

mcurrie22 June 21, 2021 - 11:52 pm

I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why for the time being I have shifted all my comic related “investing” to comic art. If other collectors can afford to do the same I would highly recommend they do so. If they can’t afford to do so then I would recommend they sell the currently overvalued books in their current collection so they can.

Patrick Bain June 22, 2021 - 1:02 am

enuff said


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