One of the hidden joys of collecting comic books is stumbling across collecting comic book art. Once you have been collecting comic books for some time you get restless and come into contact with comic art being sold at cons near you. The notion of purchasing your favorite artist’s published work sets in and begins to grow. Eventually, you come across a piece of artwork that speaks to you or what you like about that particular hero, and wham- bam! You are an art collector.
When I started I was buying everything that appealed to me, this is probably not a sustainable approach. Anyone that has enjoyed comic books from a young age into adulthood is going to be under a spell buying all this great art. The top place that most folks of means buy is Heritage Auctions. In addition, many of the other online comic book retailers have auctions as well. Check them all out, but before you buy, answer this question: What do you want to own? What are some basic rules for comic book art when you do decide to collect?
Rules of the Road for Buying Comic Art:
- Buy art for a character you like
- Look at the quality of the art. What is the paper quality off-white to cream? Ask yourself, will it display nicely?
- How many panels does your favorite character appear in? If only one panel you may want to reconsider and buy a different art piece.
- Buy from a reputable seller, after all, art forgeries have happened in the past to knowledgeable buyers. Let the professionals at these auction houses work for you.
- Create a set price based on previous prices for similar artwork. Heritage is very good about providing access to its sale history.
- Pay extra for priority shipping, otherwise, your Picasso could end up in the back of a truck for two days in 98-degree heat. Click it-then-ship it!
- Do not purchase the art of unknown characters. The only exception to this rule is if the art is done by a well-known artist, then buy it on the cheap.
Dick Tracy is an American comic strip featuring a tough and intelligent police detective, he was created by Chest Gould. It debuted on 10-4-1931 in the Detriot Mirror and distributed by Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977. His popularity basically tracked with the WWII generation and has endured into the Modern Age with films like Dick Tracy (staring Warren Beaty). No, do yourself a favor do not bother to check this one out, makes Tim Burton’s Batman look like a Davinci by comparison. Anyhoo, Tracy was popular and still holds a place in Americana detective lore.
For my part, it was a shoot in the dark that paid off somewhat. I paid about $150-$200 eight years ago for three Chester Gould original art Dick Tracy comic strips. The current value of each is based on the year Gould created them, and the rough estimate is about $600 each. This represents a +300% increase since I purchased them 8-10 years ago. If I owned a full view of Dick Tracy in all the panels it is worth a great deal more. I own two pieces with two panels and one with just the villains playing poker. If there is no Dick Tracy, the villains are limited at roughly $400 price or a little more than double what I paid. This goes back to Rule #3; make sure your hero appears in at least several panels. Put simply, with every panel of hero appearance the price increases.
In review, let’s stick to my seven basic rules, and it wouldn’t hurt to buy some books on comic book art. Try to expand your world view to include comic art as a serious collectible investment. Then learn to become knowledgeable about the art you collect. Over time you will expand your world view to include comic art as precious. You might make some mistakes, but you will also have a heckuva a lot of fun. Remember in the immortal words of Dick Tracy “Crime does not pay!” Crime might be a “fool’s errand,” but speculation is in that gray area of a steal of a deal. It can pay huge dividends, especially with comic book art.