The man who made millions on old basement comics
The story of how a life-changing collection almost ended up in the trash bin Among collectors of a certain age, lamentations are very common, like “My mother threw away all my comics, and now they would cost a fortune.” (There is still a variation of this complaint when people moan over lost baseball cards.) In many cases, even in most of them, such statements are nothing more than a haze of youthful nostalgia clouded by clouds of greed. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that in the last ten years we have become witnesses to a real increase in the value of some comics and a rethinking of this value. For example, “Action Comics” # 1 (the first comic strip where Superman appeared), which once sold for 10 cents, can now bring its owner a seven-figure sum, provided that he is in perfect condition. The price of the story of Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics # 27 in recent years has exceeded $ 1 million, while Amazing Fantasy # 15 (Spider-Man’s debut), Flash Comics # 1, Marvel Comics ”# 1 and“ All-American Comics ”# 16, in which Green Lantern first appeared, are valued at a solid six-figure sum. It is difficult to say why this market has suddenly risen to such an extent, and rare book dealers are often amazed at such prices. Most likely, several factors play a role here at once: excitement, skillfully implicated in nostalgia; the desire of young collectors to acquire a “cool” cultural artifact; reassessing and recognizing the talents of older screenwriters and illustrators (such as Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby); the extreme popularity of events like Comic-Con, which gather fans from around the world; finally, promoting comic book collecting through the creation of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) and the Cartoon Museum in San Francisco (Cartoon Art Museum). In addition, one of the main conditions for collecting comic books, as in collecting coins, is the value of the collection, which is determined by certain indicators. Unopened comics sealed in plastic bags are much more valued. They are carefully stored and protected from damage, because this is a serious investment. The situation began to really heat up in 2010, when “Caped Crusader” was bought for $ 1 million, but this record was quickly broken by the first “Superman” sold for 1.5 million. Then in 2011 a famous actor and collector of comics Nicolas Cage sold his “Action Comics # 1” for $ 2.1 million, and this event blew up news feeds in Hollywood and beyond. In August 2014, a copy of the same comic book, from the initial circulation of 200,000 copies of which only about 50 remained in the world, broke the world record and sold for $ 3.2 million. This is what the copy sold by Nicolas Cage looked like. In 2012, the Heritage Auctions auction house in Dallas turned out to be in the very center of this buzzing beehive, which made a startling statement: it puts up for sale more than 300 comics from a previously unknown collection of a Virginia resident named Billy Wright. Whether the owner had an idea that kept such a value in himself remained a mystery. His grand-nephew Michael Rorrer put up for auction books. Wright himself died in 1994 at the age of 66, and since then his comics were neatly packaged in a box in the basement of the house. It was there that Rohrer accidentally found them in 2011, when he and his mother Lisa Hernandez traveled to the city of Martinsville, Virginia, to help make out things in the house of his cousin, Wright’s wife, who had recently died. They were going to pick up everything they needed and put the rest up for sale. The truck transferred this inheritance to Texas, where Hernandez lives, and from there to California, where Rohrer lived then. Rohrer remembers the Wright couple as nice people. He recalls that Billy Wright had a well-paid job as a chemical engineer, although the family never lived richly. He calls them, though not quite seriously, “drives,” because of all the things that they have gathered in their home. Hernandez explained that this was because Wright was the only child in the family, and his mother kept all his children’s toys and books. (A point in favor of moms!) Comics most likely fell into this category, along with his groovy Sailor Pop. When the thirty-year-old Rohrer was a child, his cousin grandmother once mentioned these comics, but then they did not interest him at all. He remembered this only when he opened the closet in the basement of her house and saw a stack of comics and old children’s toys. He took several comics, leafed through them and put them in two boxes, one for himself and one for his brother, to transport them home. Having finished with the analysis of things, Rohrer returned to California. Several months have passed. A truck full of things arrived very soon from Virginia to California via Texas, carrying boxes full of furniture and memories. Even after they unloaded some of Rohrer’s belongings.