I love Heritage Auctions. My books would be void of data without them. So, this is no indictment on Heritage Auctions or any other sales outlets for original comic book art. But I think I speak for all middle class fans, realized art prices have left me numb. Today, I will review mind-numbing, body-tingling November Heritage Signature Auction Highlights from this Fall’s sale. Then, you decide and tell me your take on the realized art prices.
Before I start, here is a link if you want to browse some of the offerings. Online Catalog: 2020 November 19-22 Comic & Comic Art Signature Auction.
We’re locked in our seats, the roller coaster car slowly, menacingly climbs toward the apex, get ready for that white knuckled, scream-tastic, gut wrenching experience ahead.
Jim Lee X-Men Art: Feel the Exhilaration
Some buyer must have trembled when the gavel fell on the cover art for Uncanny X-Men 268. Who knows why, but Black Widow, Captain America, and Wolverine posed for the cover as if promoting a Marvel Studios crossover event. Exhilaration and pride welled up in the hearts of Jim Lee fans at the final sales price: $300,000. Not bad for art published as recently as 1990.
Another interesting X-Sale for Jim Lee involved commission art. Generally, published art sells much higher than unpublished, but Lee illustrated this X-Men triptych in spectacular fashion. The triptych involved three X-Men splash pages joined together to make one image. Too amazing to see low-res, so just check out the link to view the $45,600 sale.
Now we know why Jim Lee made the short list for X-Men Artists that Rock. Let’s check out another superb cover sale: Ghost Rider 5 by Lee. The confrontation depicting Ghost Rider and the Punisher hotly battling fetched $72,000. Both cover sales exceeded any previous Jim Lee sales price through HA. The next closest price came in 2018 on X-Men 248 art by Lee; that one garnered $65K.
Kirby, Ditko, Todd McFarlane, or Pokémon?
Whose stuff sold higher, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Todd McFarlane, or Pokémon? Let’s divert from art for a moment to hear the description of the Pokémon sale.
A Pokémon First Edition Base Set Booster Box that’s sealed in its original shrinkwrap is the pinnacle of Pokémon box collecting. Created in 1999 by Wizards of the Coast, the set featured 102 cards, and most notably the Charizard. This box contains 36 booster packs, each with 11 cards for a total of 396 cards! These box sets have become very scarce, due to their low print run, and very few still remain in the sealed state. Since the cards haven’t been handled, they are likely all in GEM MINT condition. In September 2020 we sold a similar box for $198,000! A PSA 10 1st edition Base Set Charizard alone recently sold for over $220,000 so there’s no telling where this box will end up this time. If you “gotta catch ’em all” then this is the lot for you! From the Pokémon Central Collection.
You wonder what it sold for? Get ready for five G’s of force sucking the breath out of you: Three Hundred and Sixty Thousand Dollars! I must admit, I don’t get it. Surely, the buyer is NOT going to open up these packs. Does he need to boost his card set power ratings? These things don’t have bubble gum in them, do they?
Back to Heritage Signature Auction ART Highlights
Dropping Pokémon, which of these prestigious artists had the next highest ART sale: Kirby, Ditko, or McFarlane? In a big win for modern art and artists, the multi-talented Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-Man 328 panel page wins the prize. Though stunning to me, I commend his fans for the $120,000 sales price on the 1990 artwork featuring our favorite arachnid. I’m stunned because Steve Ditko’s panel page from Amazing Spider-Man 10 from 1964 earned a paltry $96K. Ditko’s page sported all the action any fan could want, and it’s 56 years old!
Jack Kirby’s top art sale did NOT feature Spider-Man. But, it did feature one of Kirby’s iconic characters: Captain America. Though not terribly old (1976), the sales lot included all seventeen Kirby-Royer pages from Captain America 210. For seventeen Kirby pages…wouldn’t you guess that would run a few hundred thousand dollars? I wonder if the seller felt disappointment at the $108,000 final hammer price including buyer’s premium!
I do want to ask a serious question on our roller coaster ride of art prices. Considering the success of Lee and McFarlane sales, does the collector/investor community favor their art over Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko? Along those lines I will mention the following sales including superstar Neal Adams as well:
- Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman: X-Men 2 Page 9 (1963) sold for $38,400.
- Steve Ditko: Incredible Hulk 6 Page 12 (1963) sold for $36,000.
- Neal Adams and Tom Palmer: Avengers 93 Page 23 (1971) Captain Marvel splash page sold for $31,200.
Just a Sampling of the Spectacular Sales and Featured Artists
Today’s discussion on Heritage Signature Auction highlights scratches only the surface. If you want more analysis or a focused conversation on a particular artist, please speak up! The thrill-ride prices seen in the midst of a pandemic illustrates the demand from both collectors and investors for original comic book art.
P.S. So I’m not accused of ‘bait and switch’, the Detective Comics 27 graded 7.0 sold for a cool 1.5 million. And in another head-scratcher for me, Super Mario Brothers 3 sold for $156,000, largely because of the position of “Bros” on the box.