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THE PEDIGREE: AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS (printed in CBM #31)
by Matt Nelson
When I first started collecting comic books at age 12, my collecting tastes differed considerably from that of my friends. From the beginning, I held a fascination for Golden and Silver Age comics, while my friends bought and read the latest from Marvel and DC. I would tirelessly scan the walls of my local shop every week, admiring the owner's early Fantastic Fours and Spider-mans, thinking that one day I would possess those seemingly untouchable treasures. My best friend couldn't comprehend my spending $25 on a Strange Tales #101...and it was beat up, to boot!
I studied my Overstreet Price Guide tirelessly, hungry for more knowledge in a vast universe whose doors had just opened up to me. Things that wouldn't normally interest a kid, such as how many copies of Action #1 existed in high grade, interested me.
Inevitably I stumbled across my first taste of what a pedigree was in the #12 price guide. That year a brief history on Mile Highs was included in the annual market report. In a trance I read the paragraph...every Golden Age key present...snow white pages... My mind soared, picturing mounds and mounds of Near Mint Actions and Caps and Whiz as far as the eye could see--a collector's dream! As time passed and my venues of information broadened, I hungered for more knowledge on this legendary "Mile High" collection. How was it bought? How many books did it total? Who owns them now? Slowly, bits and pieces came together. I obtained the original list; I talked with people who knew the location of the prime material; I read articles which researched the collection in depth. Finally, I felt I knew the whole story!
But wait, what's this? The Lamont Larson collection? Intrigued, I delved into that pedigree as well, learning all I could about it. Now what? The San Francisco collection? Okay. The Denver collection? The Cosmic Aeroplane collection? Now hold on..The Allentown? The Pennsylvania? The Recil Macon? Waitaminute here...Chicago? White Mountain? Hawkeye? STOP! What was going on here? Everywhere I turned there suddenly was a name attached onto every comic book! Talk about confusing! And yet, I couldn't help being utterly fascinated with it all. Slowly, I dissected every pedigree, learning its roots, and what each collection contained.
This task proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated, because my venues of information regarding different pedigrees were very small. I realized that, other than the Mile High collection, very little had been written on significant collections in our market. In order to track down the origin of some collections I had to go directly to the purchaser himself! And now, having compiled all of this information I feel that you, the reader, should have access to it. Not only is it interesting, but should prove very useful if and when the need to identify a pedigreed book ever arises.
What follows is an in-depth origin of 16 of the most famous and popular collections in the market today, their desirability among collectors, and most importantly, how to identify each pedigree. I will naturally start with the largest, most famous pedigreed collection of them all...
MILE HIGH- In 1977 a small-time dealer named Chuck Rosanski received a phone call from a man asking if he bought old comics. He had a large accumulation his father-in-law saved and wanted to sell it. Rosanski's store was not his first attempt to sell the collection, but unlike the previous dealers Rosanski agreed to travel the long distance and check it out.
Upon arriving at the small house, Chuck was led to a closet where some old pulps were stored. Unfortunately water had leaked from the ceiling and soaked the pulps. Not discouraged, the man asked Rosanski if he would like to see the comics for sale. He was then led down into the cellar, where a small pantry stored the comics for sale. Upon opening the pantry doors Chuck was astounded by the sight of mounds of comics everywhere, stacked eight feet high in the middle and carefully piled on the surrounding shelves. Examining the comics closer, he realized the collection consisted of full runs of Golden Age comics--and the condition of the books was incredible, better than he had ever seen. Trying to hide his excitement Chuck accepted the man's asking price, $2,000 for roughly 22,000 comics (9 cents a comic) and left, determined to raise the funds immediately. A phone call was placed to Burrell Rowe, owner of Houston's Camelot and one of the biggest dealers in the nation at that time. Rowe granted Chuck the $2,000 to buy the collection, but stipulated that in return he was to receive $10,000 in comics (priced at guide) from the collection.
Once the deal was consummated Rosanski filled his van to the teeth and traveled back to his house, his mind spinning.
After storing the collection in various cedar boxes in his basement Chuck called Burrell in to choose his comics. Flabbergasted by the sight of the books, Burrell proceeded to pick practically all of the Fiction House, EC, Fox, Detective #28-40, Special Edition #1, Captain Marvel Jr. #1, Stuntman #1, some various pre-hero DC, and other miscellaneous comics.
Soon after, Bruce Hamilton was alerted to Chuck's find, and purchased $10,000 of mainly DC from the collection. Bruce then called Gary Carter about the collection, and, "for the first and possibly only time in his life, was speechless." Carter, a DC aficionado, scheduled a trip to Denver immediately. Once there, he and his brother Lane purchased a sizable chunk of the DC's, including most of the pre-hero's. Carter also purchased Hamilton's DC from the collection as well.
Following the Carter visit Rosanski released a catalog of the collection to the public. In addition to the comics bought by Rowe, Hamilton, Carter, and a few others, Rosanski did not list Action #1-10, Marvel Mystery #1-10, or Daring Mystery #1-8. He held these back for various reasons, but would later sell them privately. For the books in the catalog Rosanski used the following grades: NM+, NM, F, VG, G, and, yes, an occasional fair. He graded fairly strict, dropping a book to fine if there was a small defect. Otherwise, all books from Very Fine to Mint by today's standards were rated either a NM or NM+. He priced the collection using the 1977 Overstreet Price Guide and his multiple of guide varied, depending on the title. High demand titles, such as Marvel Mystery and Action, were 2x guide in NM and 2.5x guide in NM+. Regular titles, such as Captain Marvel, were 1.5x guide in NM and 2x guide in NM+. The low demand titles, such as Big Shot, were priced almost at guide, even in NM+. A few books were priced quite high, such as Sensation #1 (3.33x guide) and Mask #1 (3.33x guide).
At the time "multiples of guide" was a relatively incomprehensible concept, so when Rosanski's catalog came out the industry did not respond well. As a result the collection sold very slowly; years later full runs were still unbroken and available for sale. The Mile High collection was one of the best kept secrets in the hobby for a long time.
Once the public realized the sheer magnitude of the Mile High collection all remaining comics were snatched up, some never to be seen again. Since then, movement of large accumulations at one time have been rare, with only a few loose books here and there popping up in the market from time to time. Currently a handful of collectors control significant portions of the collection: most of the early DC runs and keys belong to one collector on the east coast. Another collector from Chicago owns the Fawcetts. A dealer out of California has practically all of the Timely, as well as a large portion of miscellaneous titles. A dealer on the east coast also holds a large portion of miscellaneous Mile Highs, rumored to be as much as one-fourth of the collection.
Movement of the prime Mile High material since the early 1980's has been minimal. Three periods are of significance, the first being in 1984 when Sparkle City offered a large number of DC Mile Highs for sale. The second was in the late 1980's when Ernie Gerber began selling his Mile Highs that were accumulated during his creation of the Photo-Journal. The third was in 1994 and 1995, during which many of the prime DC keys, such as Detective #27 and Whiz #1, changed hands at many multiples of guide.
The history behind the amassing of this famous collection began in 1937 when a thriving commercial artist named Edgar Church decided to hone his skills at drawing the human figure. Traveling to a nearby newsstand he purchased nearly every comic, a ritual that would be practiced for the next fifteen years. Church also wanted back issues of the comics he had missed, so he bought many of his mid-1930's comics from a second-hand store called the "Reader's Guild" where his "used" comics cost him only eight or nine cents.
Each month Church bought every comic on the stands and brought them home, carefully stacking them in his cellar inside the pantry. This went on until 1953, when the buying became less frequent. The last authentic copies were dated 1956, around when Church stopped buying periodicals altogether. They were left in the pantry for twenty more years until Church was placed in a home, and the decision was made to sell his accumulation.
In addition to the comics Rosanski purchased there was some samples of Church's original art. As an interesting aside, the front of Rosanski's catalog of the Mile High collection features one of Church's art pieces.
Volumes of information and stories could be written on the Mile High collection. Luckily good documentation has been kept over the years, and as a result there are relatively few unknowns about Mile Highs.
IDENTIFICATION-Because the Mile High collection is so famous, and because there has been minimal separation of many of the titles, tracking, identification, and authentication is usually not a problem. On the other hand, because of the enormous size of the collection many of the books have become "lost", and authentication is not foolproof in every case, as I will discuss.
The main method of identification involves the codes penciled on the majority of Mile High covers, mostly during the 1940-1945 period. Although there are codes on many books after 1945 and a few prior to 1939, it is mainly regarded that authentication of Mile Highs from these two periods relies on methods other than code identification. If space had allowed, I would have discussed in detail the different types and styles of coding present on Mile High comics. Instead, I highly recommend Pat Kochanek's series of articles on the Mile High collection in CBM #2-5, which cover the coding in great detail.
In summary, there are three different letters present in a Mile High code: C, D, and M. "D" is the most represented letter on Mile Highs, particularly on DC, Timely, Fawcett, Quality, Fox, and Centaur comics. The letter "C" is present on mainly Fiction House, Nedor, and Dell. "M" is present on mid-1950's comics. It is believed that these letters represent different distributors from which each title was sold.
In addition to these letters two numbers usually follow, representing the month and day that particular comic book hit the newsstand. These numbers are sometimes absent, most commonly on pre-1940 or post-1945 comics.
The code is usually written in the top left corner of the cover, sometimes above the logo, or in the logo itself. In the top right corner there is usually a number written, which represents the number of copies of that particular book on that particular newsstand. This number can show when the peak of superhero comics occurred, around 1943.
The Mile Highs Church bought secondhand can be identified by two slash marks in the upper left-hand corner, usually followed by a discount price of six to nine cents. The Detective #27 was bought second hand, and is understandably not the highest grade copy in existence.
Coding of pre-1940 and post-1945 Mile Highs is sporadic at best, with writing styles varying from a more cursive "D" (with no month and date, late 1930's) to an actual stamp taking the place of handwritten codes (early 1950's).
Identifying these two periods of the Mile High collection require methods other than the coding prevalent on the 1940-1945 period. Other common methods include: comparing the comic in question with Rosanski's original list; checking for characteristic dust shadows on front and back covers; relying on the previous owners of the book in question; or have one of many Mile High experts "check" the comic, during which they will probably smell the pages, a method of which is almost impossible for the average person, but common practice for an experienced collector in identifying a Mile High.
Despite all of these methods of identification some Mile Highs still cannot be 100% authenticated, and their questionable status usually causes a hesitancy with potential buyers. If you are uncertain about the authenticity of a particular book do not try to tote it as a true Mile High. If you are mistaken you could cheat yourself or others. It is always best to be sure. If in doubt, check with an expert.
DESIRABILITY-The one Famous aspect of the Mile High collection is its overall quality. Structurally, Mile Highs are beautiful NM to Mint copies, but what sets a Mile High apart from everything else is its aesthetic qualities. From a standpoint of page quality, gloss, colors, and suppleness, Mile Highs are unsurpassed. It's amazing that in nearly twenty years since the Mile High collection's discovery, no other collection has surfaced that was anywhere near comparable.
Let's look closer at what makes the Mile High collection so famous. 1)STRUCTURE-When Edgar Church bought his comics every week from the newsstand it is rumored he bought only the best copies. Whether or not this is true, the vast majority of Mile Highs are structurally in the VF-NM range. The most common defects found on Mile Highs are bindery tears due to the printing process, usually on the earlier books due to their size. Also, small stress marks on the spine are fairly common, probably from moving and sorting the collection early on.
The best examples of Mile High comics are in the middle of the collection, from 1940 to 1945. Many of the comics prior to 1939 were bought second-hand by Church and usually exhibit wear. Many Centaurs and some early pre-hero DC fall into this category. Comics after 1945, and more so after 1950 exhibit wear as well, possibly due to the fact that Church's collecting years were nearing end, and these books were on the top of stacks, prone to damage and lacking the necessary compression to keep out oxygen.
Staples of Mile Highs are perfectly silver with no signs of discoloration whatsoever.
2)PAGE QUALITY-Page quality of Mile Highs is unsurpassed, not only from the whiteness of pages, but also from a suppleness standpoint as well. In a book by book comparison other pedigrees may have pages just as white as Mile Highs, but Mile High pages have a more light, bouncy texture. They feel like brand new books right off of the newsstand. This is very impressive, especially when beholding a full run of Mile Highs all at once.
This page quality came about by three factors present in their original storage environment: low temperature, low humidity, and considerable absence of oxygen. The first two relate to the climate of Denver, and the fact that the collection was stored in a basement. The third is from significant compression of books on the bottom of the eight-foot stacks. Coincidentally, these books are the oldest, and thus, exhibit the whitest pages of the whole collection.
There is a characteristic smell associated with Mile Highs as well. At one time, it was mistaken to be a cedar smell due to the cedar pantry in which the comics were stored. The smell actually represents the freshness of the pages, having aged very little. One collector associated the smell with baby powder.
The smell is one of many factors used in identifying a Mile High comic. Not many people can attain identification this way because mastering the skill requires, "thousands of sniffs", a chance few will ever get. The one loophole to this identification method occurs when storage conditions change for a Mile High. Once the collection was broken up in the late 1970's the comics began a new aging process under different owners who used various storage methods. No doubt, if the collection was pieced back together many of the books would not resemble one another. This is the one crime of dispersing such a beautiful, homologues collection.
3)GLOSS & COLORS-Just like their page quality the gloss and colors of a Mile High cover are like new. Because of compression from the eight-foot stacks and almost no exposure to light, Mile Highs exhibit perfect gloss and the deepest, richest cover colors possible.
These aspects are what set a Mile High apart from a normal NM book. The superior quality of a Mile High's colors became apparent once they were compared to other books in the late 1970's. On some books, people realized that the orange colors on their comics' covers were actually red! This was true of a few other colors prone to fading.
As mentioned previously, the beginning and end of the Mile High collection lacks the same superior quality as the 1940-1945 period. The comics from 1935-1939 exhibit more wear because they were second-hand copies, but at the same time have the whitest pages from significant compression. On the other hand, many of the later Mile Highs are structurally perfect, but because of their position on tops of the stacks, and thus lack of compression, the page quality and suppleness is not as impressive as earlier copies.
Mile Highs bring the highest multiple of all of the pedigrees, usually around 3x guide for average titles and 5x guide for the more popular comics, such as DC and Timely. There are many particular comics that vary from these multiples, depending on what they are. Some have gone for as much as 10x guide and more! These high multiples are due to the fact that a Mile High usually represents the best existing copy of a particular book. With this in mind, the high multiple paid for Mile Highs can be understood.
SAN FRANCISCO/TOM REILLY - The San Francisco collection walked into Berkeley Con '73, the first underground comic convention Easter Weekend, 1973. The show was held at the UC Berkeley in California that weekend. Sunday afternoon, toward the end of the show, and elderly couple walked into the front area with a large palette of comics. Nick Marcus and Mike Manyak, two dealers participating in the show, spotted the comics first. As they went through the boxes, Manyak and Marcus couldn't believe their eyes. In the boxes were deep runs of DC, Quality, Timely, and others in stunning grade. Because Manyak and Marcus were Timely purists, they pulled out every Timely and purchased them: Sub-Mariner #1-13, Human Torch #1,2,4-9,11-15, Captain America #1,18,19,21-24, Mystic #5,6 and Young Allies #1-5. Strangely, no Marvel Mysterys were present in the boxes.
Shortly thereafter, the dealers room was alerted of this cache, and Robert Beerbohm, Dave Belmont, and Robert Selvig approached the couple. After pulling them into a side room and pouring over the full runs of early superhero golden age in Near Mint condition, the three dealers proceeded to feverishly bid on the collection. Apparently overwhelmed by the fervor the couple left with the books, but did leave their phone number and address. Soon after, the dealers traveled to the couple's home and gave them a 1972 price guide to value their books.
After a couple of days the couple called Comics and Comix (a shop in Berkeley owned by Beerbohm, Bud Plant, and John Barrett) and informed the dealers they were willing to part with their accumulation for 40% of the 1972 guide. The deal was consummated and the collection was divided between Beerbohm, Selvig, and Belmont. The collection contained many keys, as well as deep runs (including Marvel Mysterys, which were mistakenly given to the neighbor's kids), but many large gaps existed; Beerbohm felt there was more to come.
Sure enough, a second call came about two weeks later. Apparently, the younger sister of the elderly couple had another accumulation of Golden Age comics. A deal was made, this time for 60% of guide, and purchased by Beerbohm. The second batch filled in many gaps from the first, but still more gaps existed. Inevitably, a third call was received from a woman on the east coast who had the final batch. By this time the 1973 guide had come out; 60% of it was paid for the third accumulation. Finally, the collection was complete.
The original owner's name was Tom Reilly. As the story goes, Reilly began reading comics in the summer of 1939, and by 1940 was faithfully buying every major company on the newsstands. Because of this, runs from 1940 and on were virtually complete. In 1942 Reilly was drafted into the service and asked his parents to buy comics for him while he was away. In order to achieve this the owner of a local store stamped all of Reilly's books on the back cover with a rubber stamp, ready for Mr. or Mrs. Reilly to pick up when necessary. Tragically, Tom Reilly was killed toward the end of the war during a Kamikaze attack. As a result, all titles in the collection ceased once his parents found out about his death, sometime in 1945. Stricken with grief, Reilly's parents sealed up his room and left it untouched for the next thirty years. The collection was saved in this room until his father died in December 1972, at which time the comics were split up between relatives.
Robert Beerbohm was responsible for most of the initial sales of the San Francisco collection. They were all sold within a year of the original purchase. No large chunks were purchased directly by any collector, and as a result, San Francisco books are spread out everywhere.
On an interesting note, the name "San Francisco" is misleading. At no time were the books of this pedigreed collection in San Francisco. One source feels the proper name should be the "Tom Reilly" collection, named after the original owner.
IDENTIFICATION-There are two ways to identify a San Francisco book: 1)the rubber stamp of the name "Tom Reilly" or 2)the penciled arrival date. Unfortunately, many of the books were not stamped until 1942 when Reilly left for war. Many of the keys lack the stamp and are sitting unknown in collections. Those that do have the stamp exhibit it on the back cover, usually in the lower left corner. The other method to identify a San Francisco book is by the consistent arrival date present on the front cover. A "G" followed by a date can be found on most of the San Francisco books. The "G" stands for GILBOY, the name of the distributor for the particular store from which the Reilly books were purchased.
Due to the early discovery of this collection no original list was made. One must rely solely on either the rubber stamp or arrival date to identify a San Francisco book.
DESIRABILITY-Many would rate the San Francisco collection as second best, due to the quantity (near-full runs of all titles from 1940-1945) and quality of books in it. San Franciscos have supple, white pages and exhibit beautiful colors and very rich gloss. The San Franciscos from 1942 to 1945 represent the best of the collection, due to the fact that Reilly never got a chance to read them, and thus damage them. Most of these copies are Near Mint to Mint.
Although many San Francisco copies are technically better in grade than some Mile Highs, the colors and overall appearance is not as fresh. Still, the quality of a San Francisco copy is relatively unsurpassed, and copies fetch on average 3x to 4x guide in the market.
LAMONT LARSON - Considered by many to be the third best pedigreed collection. The history of the Larson collection had been a mystery until 1994 when Jon Berk located Larson himself and found out how the collection was amassed. Larson began reading comics around the age of 9. He grew up in a small farming town in Northeast Nebraska near Omaha. He purchased his comics from a place called Cruetz Drug Store. After some time had passed, Larson realized he was unable to get copies of all of the comics he wanted in time, so the owner suggested the he put aside copies for Larson every week. To identify them the owner had Larson's name written on them. As a result, most of the Larson books from 1939 on have that unmistakable signature on them.
When Larson finished reading his comics, he would put them away in storage. Because of his attention to carefulness, his collection is one of the finest existing today. When the family moved in 1940 the comics were stored out in a barn.
Larson eventually stopped reading comics some time in late 1941. Years later, Larson's mother sold the comics to a local antique dealer, Dwain Nelson. After holding on the them for about 18 months he sold them off, and they eventually found their way into Joe Tricarichy's possession in the mid 1970's.
Because the collection spanned the prime years of the Golden Age, almost all of the major keys were present in high grade: Action #1, All-American #16, Batman #1, Captain America #1, Human Torch #1, Marvel #1, More Fun #52,53, Sub-mariner #1, Superman #1, and Whiz #1. Of note, some missing keys included: All-Star #3, Adventure #40, Detective #27, Flash #1, and Detective #1. Amazingly, the runs were fairly complete, with minimal break. For example, the Action run of #1-39 was missing only nine various issues. The average grade overall was VF/NM on the later books and Fine on the earlier ones (1935-1938).
Common characteristics of a Larson include foxing (brown speckles on edges of pages or cover) and occasional water stains, due to their storage in a barn for many years. The exposure to moisture caused the foxing and water stains. The pages are white to off-white and are very bouncy in texture. The covers are very glossy with deep colors. Very few display technical defects. IDENTIFICATION-Identifying a Larson is quite easy, because practically every known copy has some kind of identifying mark on the front cover. In all, five identifiable markings can exist on a Larson: "ON", "PN", "Lamont", "Larson", or a number. Any combination of these five markings can exist on a cover. The "ON" stands for Omaha News and the "PN" stands for Publisher News, both distributors. The name identifies the collector himself and can be written as "Lamont Larson" or "L Larson". Finally , a call-back number, usually two digits, but can be three, is occasionally written on the cover as well. Interestingly, the same number was used for every issue in a particular title; for instance, "88" represents the run of Marvel Mystery, "89" for Sub-mariner, "112" for Red Raven, and so forth. These markings are written either in a flowing cursive handwriting style, or in a more sharp cursive style.
The markings, along with the characteristic foxing and occasional water stains make identifying Larsons fairly easy. If a question arises, one should consult with Jon Berk or check the master list to compare grades. DESIRABILITY-Larsons cross the fine line that exists for the collector who loves pedigrees but hates writing and small defects, such as foxing (both of which are prevalent of Larsons). If one is looking for perfect specimens unread and untouched then a Larson is not for them. But for the collector who is looking for a very nice, high grade, white paged comic that might have some writing and foxing, Larsons are perfect. Keep in mind though, that some Larsons are the best existing copy--even better than the Mile High or San Francisco copy (such as the More Fun #54).
Larsons presently sell for around 2x guide, but this varies for low-grade copies (2x grade guide) and for keys (3x to 5x guide).
COSMIC AEROPLANE - This collection surfaced for sale around early 1972, and was the first to become a pedigree. It was purchased by David Faggiola, and originated out of Salt Lake City, Utah. The collection was amassed by an art teacher who used the comics as demonstrations to students during the 1940's and 1950's. This is evident upon examination of most copies from the collection, as they have check marks and occasional notes next to the panels of art inside.
After few early raids on the collection by Bruce Hamilton, Gary Carter, and Dale Broadhurst the remaining books were sold to a local store in Salt Lake City called Cosmic Aeroplane Books, hence the pedigree name.
The overall grade of the Cosmic Aeroplane comics varied between a low of Very Good to a high of Very Fine, with many falling in the Fine grade. A few copies exhibit water damage and the overall page quality is a yellow to cream color. Despite this, the supple and clean nature of a Cosmic Aeroplane comic more than make up for the lower technical grade.
The collection numbered between 2,000 and 3,000. Many keys, such as Flash #1 and Marvel #1, were present in the collection. Even though the runs were spotty in some areas, they were consistent. The earliest books were from the 1930's, but the main period of accumulation was from 1945 into the early 1950's. There was reportedly only one Silver Age comic present in the collection: a Mint 99 Showcase #4, which lacked the characteristic check marks. This particular copy is featured on the cover of the Overstreet Grading Guide.
IDENTIFICATION-Cosmic Aeroplane copies are the easiest to identify. As mentioned before, multiple check marks are usually present throughout the books, as well as on the cover. On occasion, people have tried to erase the obtrusive pencil marks, as they can be unattractive to some collectors.
DESIRABILITY-Depending on grade, Cosmic Aeroplane copies usually bring 1.5x to 2x guide, but higher grades can bring as much as 3x guide.
DENVER - One of three pedigreed collections containing all #1 issues. In 1938 a woman residing in Denver, Colorado began buying various #1 issues and storing them, possibly for investment purposes. When she passed away her estate was auctioned off in Pennsylvania and a family named the Leis won the comics for $9,000. They subsequently called some national dealers to sell the collection. After flying out to inspect it, Jim Payette and Joe Verenault bought the collection, which totaled 151 #1 issues. Some of the big keys present included Marvel #1, Batman #1, and Captain America #1, and the overall grade was Near Mint. The collection was broken up and quickly sold at 2x guide.
IDENTIFICATION-No Denver books exhibit any markings upon which an identification can be made. But due to the rather small number of comics in the collection tracking the ownership of a Denver copy is, in most cases, quite easy. Any books in question can be compared with the original list.
DESIRABILITY-Because of possible investment purposes, most Denver copies are strong Near Mint, but the pages tend to be slightly yellowed due to the moist climate in which they were stored. Denver copies now sell for 2x to 3x guide.
ALLENTOWN - In 1987 a small collection of 135 books surfaced just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania. The books were found by a man cleaning out his mother's closet. An antique dealer informed him that the comics might be worth money and the man subsequently contacted six national dealers. Jim Payette emerged as the top bidder, paying $70,000 for it. Despite the small number of books in the collection, the Allentown pedigree made a big impact by containing the best known copy of Detective #27 and Captain America #1. Other books of interest included Detective #28,30,31,33,34,35, the best existing #29, and one of the best existing 38's. Also present was Batman #1-6, Mysterymen #1-16, Wonderworld #1-17, and a Marvel #1, all in Very Fine-Near Mint condition. The Allentown collection originally sold for 1.5x guide.
IDENTIFICATION-No markings of any kind exist on Allentown books, but similar to the Denver books, the small size of the collection and relatively late discovery allow an easy trace of ownership. Any books in question can be compared with the master list.
DESIRABILITY-Most of the books in the Allentown collection are Near Mint, relatively scarce and in very high demand. As a result, most of them bring 2.5x to 3.5x guide.
RECIL MACON - In Abilene, Texas, 1990, this pedigree, similar in characteristics to the Lamont Larson collection, surfaced. The collector, Recil Macon, read comics during the 1940's and had a habit of writing his name on the books. Despite this, his collection was somewhat properly stored, as the collection exhibits white pages and beautiful colors and gloss. Unfortunately, they were stacked haphazardly, and many books were bent and became warped. As a result, cleaned and pressed Recil Macon copies are not uncommon.
In 1990 the son of Recil Macon began selling the collection off to Darren Wilson, a part-time dealer in the area. The collection numbered in the thousands and consisted of many early Timely, Quality, and DC. A few keys present included All-American #16, Captain America #1, Marvel Mystery #2-30, and Human Torch #1. Once the books were acquired in 1990 a majority were sold to Greg Bulls.
IDENTIFICATION-The main method to identify a Recil Macon is to locate the name written on the book. The location varies; the name can appear on the front cover, back cover, first page, centerfold, inside front cover, or any combination and sometimes multiple times. The name is written either in Pencil or Pen. Also present on many copies is the distributor code Mid-C. Using these two distinct markings identifying a Recil Macon becomes relatively easy.
DESIRABILITY-The two main detractors of a Recil Macon copy can be either the name (especially when written several times or in pen) or the warping from improper storage. But because of the fresh appearance of the books, along with minimal technical flaws, Recil Macons are quite desirable and currently bring 2x to 3x guide.
HAWKEYE - The Hawkeye collection surfaced in Mason City, Iowa around 1984. There were two primary buyers during the original disbursement: Joe Smejkal and Mike Tekal, two collectors who did not know each other. Two middlemen were involved, and the collection was sold piecemeal very slowly. As a result, very little documentation exists on the Hawkeye collection. To compound problems there are no indicative markings or characteristics associated with a Hawkeye book. What little is known about this collection came from Smejkal and Tekal themselves.
In 1984 a person named Leroy sold Smejkal a small batch of high grade DC's. Seeing that the books were gorgeous, Near Mint, white paged copies, Smejkal called Leroy back and bought as much as he could afford. Over the next few months Smejkal purchased a small batch of ten to twenty books at a time. During this time Leroy was selling to other collectors as well, of whom Tekal was one. Tekal was purchasing books in a similar fashion as Smejkal, receiving about ten books a week, and paying only in cash. As it turned out, the original owner, completely unknown, had sold his collection to one person, who in turn sold it to Leroy. By estimate, there were around 1,000 comics in the collection, consisting predominantly of DC's and spanning the years 1939 to 1950. Some keys present included All-Star #3, Superboy #1, Adventure #72, More Fun #101, Mask #1, World's Best #1, and reportedly the best existing copy of Captain Marvel #1.
Six years later a second, smaller accumulation surfaced from the original owner, numbering about 100-150 books. Although exhibiting gloss and white pages typical of the first collection, the average grade was only about Fine. Smejkal purchased all of them and subsequently sold them to another collector.
IDENTIFICATION-Hawkeye copies exhibit no markings whatsoever. Because of this and a lack of a master list Hawkeyes can be tough to identify. Fortunately, because Smejkal has owned the majority of them, he can readily identify most any books in question.
Incidentally, Smejkal's Hawkeyes were stored in mothballs during the 1980's and have a very distinctive mothball smell. Although sketchy, this is one way to identify a Hawkeye previously owned by Smejkal.
DESIRABILITY-Hawkeyes are beautiful, Near Mint books with full gloss/colors and white pages. They are so comparable to Mile Highs, there is a report that one collector actually attempted to forge a Hawkeye into one. The forgery was discovered when someone matched the mothball smell of the pages with the Hawkeye collection.
Originally, Hawkeyes sold for 1.5x to 2.0 guide. This multiple now hovers around 3.0x guide.
WINDY CITY - The Windy City collection surfaced out of Chicago and was purchased by Gary Colobuono. The collection consisted of around 2000 #1 comics, and thousands of #1 magazines. Almost every single #1 comic that came out between 1937 and the Silver Age was in the Windy City collection.
In the early 1930's a mailman who made regular deliveries to a bus station newsstand told the owner he wanted to buy every new #1 magazine. After doing so for a couple of years the newsstand owner suggested he also try collecting #1 issues of comics as well. Following his suggestion, the mailman began purchasing the #1 comics each week. This went on for nearly 30 years until communication was lost between the two.
In the 1970's the newsstand owner's son, realizing the comics were worth money, attempted to locate the mailman by finding his name in an old yearbook.
Successful, the son soon found out that the mailman had passed away, but his sister had saved everything he possessed, including the comics. Unwilling to sell them, the sister instead settled on trading them bit by bit for common items, such as a new microwave. When the son obtained the first batch of comics he brought them to show a local dealer who had just opened his store that particular day in September 1978--Gary Colobuono. In that first batch was the following books: Superman #1, Batman #1, Captain America #1, Marvel #1, Detective #1, Silver Streak #1, All-Star #1, All-Winners #1, Wonder Woman #1, Daring Mystery #1, Mystic #1, Sub-Mariner #1 and a few others. As he looked over it Colobuono thought to himself "and this is only my first day...what can tomorrow bring?" The son wanted to wait until he had received all of the books from the woman before he sold the collection. This was not accomplished until 1986, eight years later! By this time a few other dealers had caught wind of the collection and were making offers. The son ended up taking bids and Colobuono won the collection for $85,000, to be paid in three installments. The first batch received by Colobuono included many of the most sought after #1's and made it's debut at the Chicago Con that year. The second batch yielded the key Fawcetts and was put up for sale at the San Diego con a month later. Finally, the lesser #1's were obtained a couple of weeks after that.
The sister eventually died years later, and about 1000 more #1 issues missing from Colobuono's purchase were present, but most were insignificant. The lot was auctioned off to an anonymous bidder.
There never was an Action #1 or New Fun #1 in the Windy City collection, although the Detective #1 is one of the best existing copies and one source claimed the Marvel #1 to be the third best existing copy.
IDENTIFICATION-Over half of the Windy City collection has the name "A. Wallace" written in pencil in the first letter of the title logo on the cover. There is speculation that the "A" stands for Anna, the name of the mailman's sister. For any copies that do not have the name written on the cover a master list exists for which comparisons can be made. As far as the extra 1000 or so comics found separately from Colobuono's purchase, very little is known, and no assumptions ca be made concerning grade or markings.
DESIRABILITY-The grades of Windy City copies range from Very Fine to Near Mint with an occasional Very Good or Fine. A few of them exhibit brown pages, although the majority are structurally perfect with full gloss and white pages. The initial distribution sold for around guide with high demand keys selling for 2x to 3x guide. As an interesting note, the Windy City Batman #1, graded a VF+, sold for a record price of $13,400 at the 1986 San Diego Con. Now Windy City copies fetch 1.5x to 2x guide and 3x to 5x guide for high demand keys.
PENNSYLVANIA - The Pennsylvania collection surfaced about 15 years ago and was bought by Steve Geppi. Pennsylvania copies are well-known in the market, but very few collectors are familiar with its origin. Unfortunately, Geppi does not recall many of the specifics surrounding the discovery of the collection due to the length of time that has passed. According to Geppi, a woman came to a convention in Philadelphia in the late 70's to sell some Golden Age comics. Word got back to Geppi, who tracked her down. He bought the collection, which consisted of several hundred comics from the early 1940's (1941-1945). Because the collection began after 1940 many of the prime Golden Age keys were not present, but the grade was extremely high. The books also had a characteristic smell to their pages. The collection was split up and sold later. Bob Overstreet purchased a rather sizable chunk of the collection, where it remained until recently when his comics were put up for sale.
IDENTIFICATION-Identifying a Pennsylvania involves simply locating a "P" written on the cover. The "P" sometimes looks more like an "R", probably from the quick handwriting of the distributor. Another way to identify Pennsylvanias is by their pages' characteristic smell. If ever in doubt of a Pennsylvania's authenticity, Steve Geppi is one collector who can probably identify it.
DESIRABILITY-Pennsylvanias are structurally NM to Mint copies with white pages. They originally fetched slightly above guide, but now can command prices as high as 3x to 5x guide.
CARSON CITY/COMSTOCK - This collection surfaced out of Carson City, Nevada and was sold as two separate accumulations to two different dealers, hence the two accepted names of the pedigree. The first purchase was made by Mark Wilson.
In 1992 an old woman contacted Wilson via his mail order business in Washington state and offered him a few various comics she had found. Her husband had owned a tobacco and candy store during the 1930's and 1940's and saved practically every periodical that passed through his store. He had stored them in various shacks on his property, where they stayed until the 1990's. His wife, deciding to clean the shacks out, threw all of the contents of one shack out, consisting of nothing but old newspapers. Upon cleaning out the second shack she noticed that inside each newspaper was another periodical, usually a magazine such as Life, or even a comic book. Upon discovering that some of the hidden periodicals held value she realized the fortune she threw away from the first shack.
Once contacted, Wilson quickly flew down to Nevada to purchase the comics from the second shack. The accumulation was small, about 50 books, but almost every comic was a #1 issue. In addition, the grade was immaculate and the page quality was beautiful.
As a gift Wilson gave the woman a new price guide and a set of Ernie Gerber's Photo-Journal. Upon inspection of the photo-journal the woman found Gerber's address and realized she was only about 30 miles away from him. She contacted Gerber and offered him the second batch of comics from the next shack she had since cleaned out after Wilson left. Gerber, unaware of Wilson's involvement at the time, gladly accepted. A deal was consummated, this time for about 200 comics, and Gerber left with the books. Wilson, expecting to purchase the second batch from the woman, tried to set up another visit, but she kept stalling. Ultimately, Wilson discovered she had sold the books to Gerber. In spite of the woman's questionable handling of the collection, neither Wilson nor Gerber harbored any ill will toward each other.
The earliest books were from 1939 and continued on into the 1940's with a few stretching into the 1950's. Some highlights of the collection included a Marvel #1, All-Star #1, Mysterymen #1, Science #1, All-Select #1, Boy Commandos #1, and reportedly the nicest existing copy of Big All-American #1 and New York World's Fair 1939. The average grade was VF-NM and the page quality ranged from slightly yellow to stark white. The occasional yellowing of pages was due to the various placement of comics in the six-foot stacks of newspapers in the shacks.
IDENTIFICATION-Because there are relatively few comics in this collection tracking the ownership of a copy in question is fairly easy. There are two other ways one can identify a Carson City/Comstock copy as well. 1)Most of the comics in the collection had "no.1" or "1" written on the cover, identifying it as the first issue in a series. 2)A date stamp can be found on a small number of authentic copies, usually on the back cover and in red or blue ink.
DESIRABILITY-Even though the Carson City/Comstock collection is relatively small in size the magnitude of books in it are substantial enough to warrant a pedigree in many collectors' eyes. This, coupled with the high grade and beautiful page quality, allows copies from the collection to fetch multiples of guide when sold.
When the collection was first sold by Wilson the asking price for the books was 1.2x to 1.3x guide, which was unheard of at the time. This was partially due to the slump in Golden Age comics during that period; the Marvel #1 was actually sold for under guide. Since then, movement of copies from this pedigree usually results in multiples as high as 3x to 4x guide, depending on the comic for sale.
"D" - In 1991 Steve Fishler began to buy piecemeal what would eventually become known as the "D" collection. A person had located many boxes of old comics in Nyack, New York and was bringing Fishler one box every two weeks. No one knows where the collection originated from, but 99% of the books have a code written (possibly by a child) at the top of the first page. The collection ultimately numbered 1000, but there is reason to believe more comics were previously sold to other dealers. The range of the collection spanned from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. Some major keys present in the "D" collection included Sensation #1, All-Flash #1, Captain America #1, Batman #1, and Detective #28 and #29. The collection was initially distributed as a non pedigree and has just recently been dubbed the "D" collection because of the frequent "D" written on the cover and on the splash page.
IDENTIFICATION-As mentioned above, practically all of the "D" books contain a code written on the top margin of the first page. On occasion a "D" is written on the cover as well. Although most of the books exhibit foxing and a few have slightly tanned pages the books appear to have been unread.
DESIRABILITY-Because of the relatively new identification in the market "D" collection books still sell fairly close to guide.
BLANKIS-SALIDA - This is a relatively new pedigreed collection that was purchased by Bruce Ellsworth in 1994. The collection originated from Salida, Colorado and was amassed by an individual named Frank Blankis. Because Blankis was handicapped he was unable to join the service, but read war books faithfully. He also loved Disney books. This was evident from his collection, which consisted of a complete run of DC and Atlas war books from 1950-1969 (with the exception of 10 issues total, all from the same month/year), most of the other various war titles from other companies, and Walt Disney Comics and Stories #50-210. The average grade was Very Fine to Near Mint. What is incredible about this collection is the page quality. I have to admit my skepticism upon hearing about this new pedigree, but when I saw my first Blankis-Salida book, I couldn't believe my eyes. To this day I have never seen whiter pages.
Ellsworth kept most of the collection, selling the bulk of the Atlas to one collector, and very little publicly. Included in the Blankis-Salida collection are the finest known copies of Our Army at War #1,81,83 and Our Fighting Forces #1.
IDENTIFICATION-Most of the Blankis-Salida books have stamps on the back or front cover. Variations of the stamp exist, such as: "Fred's News Stand", "Nor-Colo.", and the actual subscription stamp of Frank Blankis. Because the collection is relatively new and very little has been sold from it Blankis Salida books are easily identifiable.
DESIRABILITY-Despite the specified nature of the collection, the completeness of the war genre and Disney comics are impressive and the page quality is unsurpassed. Most books are technical NM and are the finest known copies to exist. Common Blankis-Salida books sell between 1x and 2.5x guide.
CRESCENT CITY - One of the newest pedigrees in today's market, the Crescent City collection surfaced in early 1995 from an individual residing in New Orleans. Growing up in California his main focus of reading was Disney comics, although he dabbled in various superhero titles as well. The collection numbered approximately 175 comics and is one of the few Disney pedigree collections. It contained the finest existing copies of Walt Disney Comics and Stories #1-3, and March of Comics #20 and #41, along with a VF/NM copy of Four Color #9, all of the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck one-shots in Near Mint, and one of the best existing copies of Batman #11 and Superman #14.
The collection was purchased by Bill Ponseti, Harley Yee, John Fairless, and Rob Hughes and was subsequently sold complete to a collector/dealer for an undisclosed amount of money.
IDENTIFICATION-No markings are present on any copies from the Crescent City collection. Almost all books are strong VF/NM copies with white pages. Because practically none of the books have been sold separately identification is fairly easy. Any book whose authenticity raises questions can be compared with the original list.
DESIRABILITY-What few have sold from the Crescent City collection have fetched 3x to 5x guide.
WHITE MOUNTAIN - In 1984 a man walked into a comic book store named The Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had with him twelve comics he was looking to sell. Upon inspecting the comics Jerry Weist, one owner of The Million Year Picnic, found the comics to be of superior quality, with extraordinarily white pages and colors. The man claimed to have many more just like them, and wanted to sell them off piecemeal. A while later the first portion of the man's collection was purchased, and consisted of a complete run of New-Trend and Post-Trend EC's, including the key Pre-Trend's as well. Steve Geppi, overwhelmed by the incredible grade and page quality of the collection, promptly bought the whole batch from Weist for 2.25x guide.
A couple of years later, the second portion of the man's collection was sold to Weist, this time consisting of a near-full run of Atlas, Mystery in Space, and Strange Adventures. Upon bringing them to San Diego that year, Weist met with Gary Carter, Bob Overstreet, and Mark Wilson. The three quickly gobbled up every single White Mountain Weist brought, with Overstreet buying a few select comics, Carter purchasing both DC sci-fi runs, and Wilson taking the rest. The collection had yet to reveal itself publicly.
The next year Weist was sold another batch, which contained the Marvel pre-hero runs. These were subsequently sold to Overstreet at a multiple of guide.
Around 1988 the superhero Marvels became available. The Amazing Fantasy #15 and The Fantastic Four run, among others, were sold to a collector named Rich Hauser for 2.5x guide. Another collector bought the Journey into Mystery/Thor run, and so on as the Marvels were split up. At this time Overstreet, Carter, and Bruce Hamilton felt the selling of the collection was a year too early. They thought the Silver Age market was not quite ripe yet.
Sure enough, the market began it's surge upward in 1989, culminating at the 1993 Sotheby's auction, where the Amazing Fantasy #15 brought $40,000 and the Fantastic Four #1 brought $28,000! In fact, Sotheby's was where the White Mountain collection was showcased to the public for the first time. Following strong sales of White Mountain books in their 1991 and 1993 auctions it became apparent that the collection was fast becoming a nationally recognized pedigreed collection.
Strangely enough, there are still more books the man has yet to sell. In the 1996 Sotheby's auction he will be directly consigning another portion of the White Mountain collection he has held on to. No one knows exactly what he still has left, although some expected titles have yet to surface, including the superhero Atlas. Only time will tell.
But how and why did this man amass his amazing collection of comic books? According to Weist, he loved to read comics, as well as science fiction material. His collecting years spanned from 1948 into the 1970's. His love of science fiction becomes apparent when one observes the presence of the DC sci-fi titles en masse, yet all other DC titles were absent. He did not care for the Marvel superhero titles either, and did not even read them. As a result, when Weist received the Amazing Fantasy #15 and opened it, it made a small "pop". Apparently Weist was the first to have ever opened the comic book up. This was true of many of the Marvels, and to this day many still have never been opened.
Once he bought his comics the man would carefully record the date on the first page of each comic, and would store them in large metal military boxes. The environment of storage was cool and dry, which resulted in extraordinary gloss, colors, and page quality.
All together, the White Mountain collection has so far consisted of near-full runs of EC, Atlas, Avon, Ziff-Davis, and Marvel. About 50% of the Harveys and Fawcetts were also present, along with a nice run of Planets and most of the DC sci-fi titles. Gaps in these companies may turn up in the future as the collector is still selling portions of his collection.
IDENTIFICATION-Identifying a White Mountain comic book is quite simple, as practically every one is marked with a date of purchase on the top of the first page. Up into the 1960's a stamp was used, although on occasion the date was hand written in ink. During the 1960's the date was more frequently hand written on the cover. This is most prevalent on superhero Marvels.
White Mountains are also easily identifiable because of good sales records. Most copies can be traced back through Sotheby's auctions and Jerry Weist. White Mountains also carry a distinct smell in their pages, one of fresh ink and paper, due to their superb storage conditions.
DESIRABILITY-The beautiful page quality and average grade of VF-NM is what makes White Mountain comics so famous. Also, because of the all-encompassing nature of the collection many rare comics from the 50's were present in very high grade. Currently, common books from the collection bring 3x guide, while high demand comics bring 5x guide or more.
BETHLEHEM - A very large, predominantly Silver Age collection which surfaced from an individual's estate in 1990. A gentleman by the name of Stanley Pachon had saved practically every periodical during the 1950's and 1960's; novels, magazines, journals, children's books, and comic books were stacked throughout his house without ever being read. Pachon died of a heart attack and his estate was subsequently divided up. Joe Rainone, a dealer out of New York was approached by the lawyer of the estate and was offered the collection. After a short period of time Rainone and his partner Phil Weiss were able to view a portion of the collection, which contained many Atlas, EC, and other 50's companies, all in beautiful, high grade. Very little DC or Marvel was present, but a price of roughly $11,000 was paid for the first batch. A short time later, the rest of the collection became available, in which full runs of Near Mint DC and Marvel Silver Age was present. A price of roughly $20,000 was paid.
In all, there were 18,000 comics, mostly dating from 1950-1967. Included were full runs of EC, Avon, Atlas, ACG, Charlton, DC and Marvel. There were very few books missing from runs, and only eight of the key Silver Age books were absent: Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #1, and Flash #105, among others. There is some speculation that the missing keys were taken by the lawyer to make some money on the side. A few miscellaneous Golden Age comics were present as well, including Fantastic #1 and #3, Planet #1, a couple of All-Stars and a few Buck Rogers.
Most of the horror and Sci-Fi comics went to one collector. Many of the DC went to another. Aside from that, very little was sold or publicly advertised for the next couple of years. Rainone and Weiss divided most of the keys and high demand books between themselves. Over the years Rainone has sold many of his Bethlehems, while Weiss has kept most of his.
Books from the Bethlehem collection are overall Near Mint with yellow to white pages and occasional tanning on inside covers. Because the books were placed rather haphazardly in various stacks around the house, page quality varied from stack to stack, and dust shadows were prevalent.
IDENTIFICATION-Because very little of the Bethlehem collection was split up, tracking and identifying authentic copies is not very difficult. To further ease the task most of the 1950's comics are stamped on the back or front cover with place of origin: "E.J. Korry, Kodak-Film-Magazine-Shop". In addition, arrival dates were stamped on the comics, generally black during the 1950's and red during the 1960's.
DESIRABILITY-What little of the collection has been sold has gone for 2x to 3x guide. High demand keys have fetched multiples of up to 6x guide. Of note, the Jimmy Olsen #1 and Showcase #9 both sold for $10,000 each a couple of years ago through the Christie's Auction.
This compilation of pedigree histories and information on identification and demand has been the most comprehensive to date. Unfortunately, due to space limitations not all of the pedigrees in today's market could be discussed. Most of these include: Chicago, Gaines, Indian Reservation, Ohio, New Hampshire, Busstop, Magic Lightening, Nova Scotia, Circle 8, Poughkeepsie, Green River, Mohawk Valley, Cooksville, More Fun, IRS, Chinatown, Oleshefsky, Bill Joe White, Hap Langly, Twilight, Denver II, Mile High II, and others. Also, information listed here is objective and as accurate as possible. In some cases there were conflicting accounts of what happened, and so a happy medium had to be reached, usually by ejecting important, yet questionable material from the article. Even though I have tried to cover all of the bases in the shortest amount of time, I'm sure there were a number of things I missed involving some of these collections. If anyone has any additional information or would just like to chat about pedigrees I would love to hear from you!
I also have a long list of people I would like to thank for helping me gather the information necessary in putting this monster of an article together. Robert Beerbohm, Dan Bennett, Jon Berk, Gary Carter, Gary Colobuono, Stuart Degraff, Bruce Ellsworth, Richard Evans, Steve Fishler, Steve Geppi, Ernie Gerber, Pat Kochanek, Mike Manyak, Nick Marcus, Jim Payette, Bill Ponseti, Joe Smejkal, John Snyder, Mike Tekal, Joe Verenault, Phil Weiss, Jerry Weist, and Mark Wilson. Thanks a bunch, guys.