Christmas Memory Lane – Sunday Comic Strip Classics

by Patrick Bain

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On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
A Sunday Comic Dick Tracy.

We’ll take a stroll down Christmas Memory Lane in a series of articles on nostalgic collectibles.  These comic and original art related collectibles may give you an idea for your Christmas wish list.  Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I think you will find something among these nostalgic investments that fascinates you.

The first landmark we see along memory lane is a Sunday Comic Strip featuring Dick Tracy.

Comic Strips – It Used to be the First Place to go in the Newspaper

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I suppose some newspapers still carry comic strips.  The Funny pages and Sports section used to be all I read in the Rolla Daily News as a kid.  These days, most people probably just read the daily strips online.  Nonetheless, a huge history of comic strips exists as part of Americana.  (I’ve seen many International comic strips as well, so I know it’s not just a part of American culture.)  Most of the comic strips focused on humorous self-contained gags, however, adventure, crime, superhero, and family life have all been staples of the Funny pages.  Whether you enjoy funny-looking people, talking animals, heroics, or biting political commentary, there is probably a comic strip for you.

Dick Tracy, always on the cutting edge of police technology, is a long-running strip created by Chester Gould.  Kudos to Norman Robinson III for raising the topic of the yellow trench-coat detective with the hideous villains.  Just a to give an idea of what Chester Gould art sells for, the Merry Christmas 1955 Sunday above sold in November for $4,560.  A daily from 1931, the premier year for Dick Tracy, sold for $6,900.  As a word of caution, these prices are modest considering Dick Tracy daily strips from 1944 sold for $8K within the last two years.   Early Dick Tracy comics like Large Feature Comics 1 sold for respectable prices.  The first comic book dedicated to Dick Tracy in Feature Comics sold for $21,600 in September through Heritage Auctions.

Other Long Running Newspaper Strip Favorites

As mentioned, comic strips come in diverse genres and many styles.  Since this post is called Christmas Memory Lane, I suppose I should share a few beloved dailies featuring that theme.  First up is that cat who is not above commercialism or a good meal, Garfield by Jim Davis.  This art sold for $1,920 in November.

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Is Snoopy more noble than Garfield?  Perhaps, over all, but not necessarily when it comes to patiently waiting to open Christmas gifts.  Of course, Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz likely earns a spot on the front row of any Comic Strip Hall of Fame.  Schulz wrote and illustrated the strip for 5 decades beginning in 1950.

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In spite of that massive inventory, almost everyone loves Charlie Brown and demand for Schulz original art is abundant.  This page featuring “Chuck’s” lovable dog sold for $31,070 in 2013.

Undoubtably, the Charlie Brown Christmas Special lives on in our collective memories with its beautiful animation, simple story, and unforgettable music.


Christmas Memory Lane Investment Tips

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Comic strips have been around a L–O–O–O–N–G time.  For early significant pieces of comic strip art, that’s a good thing (if they exist).  For enduring characters, that’s a good thing (even with massive inventory).  However, some funny pages have come and gone by the wayside along with their creators.  I have observed MANY instances of comic strip art from DECADES ago that sells for very little at auction.  Apparently, people don’t remember them.  When buying art, the name of the artist matters and the characters depicted also matter.  So, shy away from art featuring someone you don’t know by someone you also don’t know.  That said, there’s still important stuff out there.

An example is Little Nemo from the turn of the century.  By the way, that’s NOT THIS CENTURY!  The rare offering from Windsor McCay is actually a Christmas page, as well.  To be honest, I’ve never followed Little Nemo, so this one falls in the area of significance rather than daily relevance, at least for me.

Though I would rank Peanuts #1 personally, the comic strip I enjoyed reading the most is Calvin and Hobbes (mischievous and imaginative) hands down.  While Garfield may be a top cat in media and licensing, Snoopy and the Charlie Brown gang surpass him by orders of magnitude.  Contrary to both, Bill Watterson eschewed licensing his characters.  He also has made very few of his original art pages available for sale to the public.  Limited inventory and beloved characters among a fan demographic with lots of money makes for a comic strip perfect storm.  (Which is just what you would expect from Calvin.)  A colored Sunday Comic strip sold for over $200K in 2012.  The daily below exceeded $100,000 this year.  I’m still hoping Bill Watterson will restart his Calvin and Hobbes strip.  Wouldn’t that make a nice surprise along the stroll down Christmas Memory Lane?

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1 comment

Patrick Bain December 12, 2020 - 1:37 am

Apologies for missing the Calvin and Hobbes art. I uploaded some of the Heritage Auction sales to my Facebook page for close inspection.


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