Does Crime Pay in the Golden Age?

by Norman Robinson III

110246_0962d8babee609e8d180b2238ec94f8a970c75b6-202x300 Does Crime Pay in the Golden Age?During the Golden Age crime stories in comics were hugely popular back in the 50s. It was the era of Dragnet and Perry Mason. Theses stories were tales of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, society vs. the sociopath. However, this was before the days of self-censorship in the industry, and some writers and artists just let it fly. None more so, then the creators of Crime SuspenStories #22 the cover depicts a man with a bloody ax and a woman’s head in his grip. This comic was so controversial it was “used in Senate investigation of juvenile delinquency;” with this crazy ax decapitation cover, censorship wasn’t far behind.

Back in 1954 McCarthyism was in full view for the American people. Dr. Jonas Salk begins inoculating children with his polio vaccine. The 50s also saw the first kidney transplant succeed. In the world of sports, the New York Giants win the World Series. Baseball was still America’s favorite sport. The Jack Benny Show and Adventures of Rin Tin Tin were playing on TV. The Seven Samurai appeared in theatres and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was published. Comic books had also reached a milestone, total sales of comics reached 20 million copies a month. Comic books had also become controversial and politicians questioned their impact on juvenile delinquency. There was even a Senate investigation into delinquency. It dredged up some pretty horrifying covers on crime comics back in the day. Crime SuspenStories #22 was used in the Senate investigation as evidence of malfeasance by comic book companies. Nowadays these books are cherished by collectors, paragons of unrestricted artwork and fiction.


150309-daly-dick-tracy-tease_k0blhw-300x169 Does Crime Pay in the Golden Age?Crime SuspenStories #22

This comic was scripted by Albert Feldstein with a team of artists: Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Bernard Krigstein, Marie Severin, Jack Kamen, and Joe Orlando they did the pencils and ink on this “hum-dinger” of a comic book. It showed up in Woolworth’s back then on April 10, 1954. This “Jolting Tales of Tension in the EC Tradition” has a truly morbid cover. It must have been absolutely impossible to defend this back in the day of blazers and petticoats. How is this book currently holding up?  Crime SuspenStories #22 is the most popular book of the Golden Age last month. The returns are not up to scratch, unfortunately.

Short-Term (1-Year)

Title Grade Cost Return
Crime SuspenStories #22 8.5 $13,200 -13.2%
8.0 $8,208 -24%
7.0 $6,600 -15.4%

The red running off these declining returns; might have been arterial spray from the beheading, as it is so stark. These declines for Crime SuspenStories #22 may have something to do with the collapse in oil prices and the uncertainty of the markets. These EC books are typically owned by Baby Boomers and that group is getting older now. Time to sell their near and dear collectibles for a brand new Lexus, or at least a downpayment. Whatever the reason for the decline, now is definitely not the time to buy EC books unless you get them very discounted.

sam-spade-kicking-cairo-300x201 Does Crime Pay in the Golden Age?Conclusion

I had to go out two years to find significant gains in the lower grades. This makes sense as with lower grades comes lower prices and the availability of buyers at the $1,000 to $3,000 range is huge. The higher-end buyers are harder to come by. Apparently, crime does pay in the lower grades at about two years out.

Remember with these books do your research, there are newer homage copies, issues with the paper, and a variety of knowledge of Golden Age crime comics that you need to learn before swimming with the sharks. Slide on that fedora, blow your secretary a kiss, light a lucky strike, and take a cab to your local comic shop to make crime (comics) pay.

“The stuff that dreams are made of.” -Sam Spade (Maltese Falcon)


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