When I roll into Burger King or Wendy’s, I’m looking for that value menu. If you are in the drive-thru lane at your local art emporium, there could be slim pickings for Jack Kirby art on a budget. But with few dissenters, King Kirby is the top comic artist of all time. So, wouldn’t we all like to have some memento created by a pencil from his own hand? Then it’s time to either call that rich uncle, befriend a benevolent oil sheik, or make a realistic budget!
Fantastic Four #95 cover art by Jack Kirby fetched $114,000 in 2020. The 1970 Kirby art grades C6 on the CAT Scale. That Heritage Auctions sale didn’t qualify as a budget item. But in this article, I’ll offer some possibilities that may qualify. (Relatively, speaking.) For graded 9.8, GoCollect FMV on this issue is $575.
How Big is Your Budget for Jack Kirby Art?
Personal finance 101 starts with creating a budget. I’ll be honest, I have created many budgets, but have followed few. So don’t think of this as a budget where you set aside $120 for groceries, $40 for gas, $700 for utilities, blah, blah, blah. Rather, think in terms of what you are willing and able to spend on a unique collectible. And, what will you forgo to save enough to pay for that one-of-a-kind piece?
If you’re loaded (with money) or found that oil baron, definitely pursue an iconic cover or splash that exemplifies Kirby excitement. This article is for people with modest means.
Low-Grade Art, But It’s Still Kirby
I warned you there’s not much on this Jack’s value menu. In fact, when you see the price for this first one, you may just say “I’m done!”. This is art that sold a few weeks ago, so the prices are fresh! Kirby created Atlas for DC during his stint with the publisher. Atlas, as a largely unknown character, grades poorly on the Comic Art Trends grading scale. I graded page 14 shown to the left as CAT R1. That’s as low as I go. And the final price for the 1975 art: $2,340. Ouch, that hurts! Remember, this is the CHEAP Kirby art among recent sales. Now on the positive side, the art by Kirby and D. Bruce Berry overflows with character and is a unique Kirby piece. At a little over two grand, many collectors can afford it, especially with a little discipline in other areas.
Staying with DC art by Kirby, let’s look at some recent Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth sales. The boy from the dystopian future where animals rule led Kirby titles in total first series issues. The title lasted 59 issues, well past when Kirby returned to Marvel. For the picture to the right, I selected a panel page that fell in the middle of recent Kamandi sales. This page features Kamandi prominently and grades CAT R3. The 1973 art sold for $2,760 last November. Of panel page sales like this in the last 12 months, prices ranged from $1,860 to $5,040. The average sale price came to $3,006 on ten sales. What does that math mean to you? A Kirby Kamandi page with decent action will likely run about $3,000.
Early Kirby, the Newsboy Legion
Among Jack Kirby’s early works, a band of boys that have survived with occasional resurgences is the Newsboy Legion, usually accompanied by the Guardian. Two recent Newsboy Legion pages making it to the market can be described as old and really old. At the end of November, a Newsboys Legion page from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen sold for $2,160. With only a small appearance by the gang, I grade it CAT R1. A page of art from Star Spangled Comics 19 also featured Simon and Kirby’s boisterous boys. Graded CAT R3 with a Golden Age plus, the page sold for $6,300. Pages like this require a somewhat bigger budget, but this Golden Age art came in a twice-up scale (13″ x 18″). I would describe art from 1943 as rare, so Kirby art from the period is especially newsworthy.
Any Marvel Art Among This “Cheap” Stuff?
Here’s a page that checks a lot of the right boxes. It’s old Kirby, 1964. It sort of features one of his best-known characters: Thor, in Journey Into Mystery. A couple villains plague the crowd; enter Cobra and Mr. Hyde. But the art gets only a CAT R2 grade with the minor villain’s appearance and the fact that Thor appears as Don Blake. And Don Blake really seems to be missing these days. Journey Into Mystery #106 Page 4 sold this year for $3,720.
In other Marvel art, 2001: A Space Odyssey appeals to a lot of buyers. Though not superhero, though not an early work, the mid-seventies series gets pretty good sales. Without significant characters, most pages grade CAT R1. But recent sales like Page 7 shown at the top, drive enough demand to sell for $3,600. Three similar pages sold in 2020 for an average of $3,000. In 2019, a cover from the series sold through HA for almost $30,000. (That cover featured Mr. Machine a.k.a. Machine Man.) The comic book must have been WAY more exciting than the movie!
Those are two examples of Marvel Jack Kirby art on a budget. Just don’t expect any landmarks for these prices.
If Possible, Focus on Iconic Kirby Characters
If you can do better than a few thousand dollars, the long-term returns and safety from loss increase dramatically when buying the right stuff. That is, lesser-known characters and works near the end of Kirby’s career suffer a greater likelihood of buyer disinterest. Does someone really want to buy an Atlas page? On the other hand, the Fantastic Four are as Kirby as they come.
Mid-range prices for Fantastic Four art from around 1970 can still be found under $10,000. As an example, Fantastic Four #97 Page 20 interior art sold for $8,400. With three of the Fantastic Four PLUS the Silver Surfer, it grades CAT R6. Though not heavy on action, there’s plenty of good elements. A page from the same period with less good stuff would be priced even better, but the extra value here should pay for itself in the long term.
Last Word About Kirby On A Budget
So, that’s a survey of Jack Kirby art for many-a-budget. I didn’t see any recent sales for under $1,000, but at least many options exist under $10,000. So plan carefully, save diligently, and keep your eyes open for opportunities. My simple original art investment plan may also benefit you. If that’s too basic, I’ll be putting out another round of my Silver Age Art Index soon. And finally a word of caution. Jack Kirby Studio illustrated Bulls Eye #2 art from 1954. It sold cheap for $960 in 2020. Is it worth it? Maybe, but I would be careful buying art by uncredited artists for forgotten characters.