Would you rather own a wall-size oil painting by your next-door neighbor’s kid or a sketch by a legend? Most collectors have to balance their avarice with their wallet size, especially when talking about Kirby art and comics. So, if your pockets don’t run deep, let’s talk about Jack Kirby, Ruby-Spears, and bound comics.
Jack Kirby Ruby-Spears, Where Are You?
I knew there was something described as Jack Kirby art for Ruby-Spears. But ‘Ruby-Spears’ was a complete mystery to me–Anime character? Jewelry? Weapon of war? Fancy way to serve strawberries–what did I know! As a wonderful side-benefit of writing these articles, I learn about semi-trivial things such as, who and what was Ruby-Spears. Like this…
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Show’s creators: Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. All of a sudden, these two guys are heroes of my childhood! In 1977 they formed Ruby-Spears Productions. Even though Thundarr the Barbarian may have been their best show, they made one exceptional decision. By hiring Jack Kirby to do concept work, not only do we have a great topic for this article, Kirby collectors have another potential source for originals by the King.
ComicLink Kirby Preview
Previous CAT Eyes on Original Art articles have focused on Heritage Auction and ComicConnect previews. Now it’s time to give ComicLink’s October Auction some love. ComicLink’s auction ending on October 11 features 42-Forty-Two-42 separate lots of Jack Kirby Ruby-Spears art. That’s Forty-Two!!! Sorry, that’s just such a huge number of pieces available that some are bound to sell at bargain prices.
Did I mention ComicLink is offering 42 lots of Jack Kirby art featuring new characters, new machines, new locales? Art falls in the category of pencils only, inked, and some colored with the help of a Ruby-Spears Production artist.
What Might They Sell For?
Even though I don’t assign CAT grades to sketch art, we do have some past sales for guidance. Step 1: Survey JK R-S art offered on the ComicLink exchange: pencil drawings $10K and color paintings $20K. Ok, that’s probably high. Step 2: Look at some recent auction sales.
In ComicLink’s August auction, I found sales of pencil drawings ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 for a very elaborate and detailed picture. Color pictures similar to the current offerings (Jack Kirby with R-S production artist) also could be found in that same price range, depending on aesthetics and detail.
Personally, I think the pencil-only art is cool because it really exemplifies Kirby. The drawback on the color art is that some of the Kirby style is lost to the color work.
No Art, But Maybe Some Old Kirby Comics
Every so often I get some feedback on an old article, particularly my series on Bound Comics. The beauty of those library-style books is the opportunity to pick up some old keys by masters like Kirby for prices that don’t require a third mortgage from Vinny on the second mortgage from Guido. (No offense if your name is Vinny or Guido!)
One guy reached out to me recently to tell me of an “OK” set of bound comics he picked up a while ago.
Like most of us, “S” was interested in owning some of the great comics of Marvel lore but realized CGC 9.8 copies may not be in the cards. Instead “S” was BLEEESSSSSSSSEEED!!! to pick up this set. In case you can’t read the details in the pictures, “S” snagged the first 41 Spider-Man comics including Amazing Fantasy 15. Can one ask for more…How about the first 100 Fantastic Four comics! Well, let’s just throw in Incredible Hulk 1-6. Yessss, “S” was blessed!
If like me, you are getting green (or grey) with envy, you might want to read my Shazam article on the Seven Deadly Sins. Of course, if all this wasn’t enough, guess what “S” found on the inside cover of his books.
Update on the Bound Comic Market
Read it and weep (for joy, right?!). From the Library of Jack Kirby. What a treasure!
Ok, let’s do another market update on Bound Comics, particularly high-end items like this. In April 2021, I reported that Bound Comic sales were trending to FN 6.0 prices. Comics of all kinds boomed in 2021, and bound volumes excelled as well. Heritage Auctions assigns a nominal value of VG 4.0 prices to the contents of bound comics when they list them. They assign the VG 4.0 value regardless of how pristine OR lusterless the contents may be.
A bound volume featuring Amazing Fantasy 15 and ASM 1-20 sold at the beginning of 2022 for $90,000, roughly three times VG 4.0 price. But HA described this book as the “most remarkable” condition they’ve ever seen. Given the trend to higher prices I had seen, I was curious the percentage of books that sell above AND below the VG 4.0 estimate.
I number crunched roughly the top 200 by price-bound comic sales at HA. Prices in this study ranged from just over $2,000 to almost $150,000. Sales occurred from 2003 to present in this list. Interestingly, 53% sold for over their VG 4.0 estimate. Average premium came to 246% of estimate, or a 146% increase.
On the downside, the other 47% sold for an average discount of 37%. That is, for bound comics selling less than VG 4.0 price, a $10,000 estimate resulted in $6,300 price, on average for the underperformers. All of the high-end sales in 2022 exceeded VG 4.0 price so far.
Bound: Up or Down?
What caused some to go higher and others lower? More analysis is necessary, but I observed many of the poor performers were spiral bound like the Detective Comics bound above. Binding comics is tough enough for the purist when considering trimming sides, gluing spines, and sometimes stitching, but worse–poking dozens of holes to spiral bind.
Just as one would expect, high-grade bound comics sell at a premium to books with lesser grade contents. Many of the best performers were recent Marvel Silver Age sales. But consistently above the water line books included Dell file copies featuring funny animals and Western stars.
Is there a collector niche for Four-Color books? Alternatively, maybe buyers are willing to pay above the standard because they perceive VG 4.0 prices as cheap. I can glean more from the data if you want to read about it.
Wrap up on Jack Kirby Ruby-Spears Bound Comics
“S” found a lifetime treasure featuring Jack Kirby. Though collectors may not salivate over Jack Kirby Ruby-Spears art like a page from Fantastic Four, I see an opportunity for the shrewd Kirby collector. In 2021 I also talked about Kirby on a budget. Check out some of those pages to see if I got it right. In my next ComicLink preview, I want to look at opportunities related to Mark Bagley art.