Sunday, January 30, 2005

Greed + Ego = Needless Alteration

In a recent message board thread, someone mentioned a CGC 9.0 copy of Batman 1 that had penciled writing removed.

One thing that's never really touched on in all the restoration debates is the "ethics" of certain procedures. Does it bother anyone else that something like an arrival date is removed for purely financial reasons (e.g., to make the book more saleable?)

In my view, an arrival date (or even the original owner's name) is part of the history and charm of a book, and something is taken away from the book when the arrival date is removed. There is no legitimate "conservation" reason to remove penciled writing -- it will never harm the book.

To draw a comparison, in autograph collecting, it is unethical to "wash" the personalization off of a signed photo. (A photo that is signed, but not personalized to a recipient, is typically worth more on the secondary market... so some dealers have been known to remove the personalization "To Joe Blow" leaving only the autographed signature.) Of course, it would be unethical to alter a historical document to make it more appealing for sale.

It really makes me wonder how much the big-shot dealers and collectors really love comics. If they truly loved the history of the books -- and just weren't obsessed with having the best copy to inflate their egos -- they wouldn't tolerate needless cosmetic alteration of these treasures.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Preservation of Archival Materials Manual

The Northeast Document Conservation Center has a superb manual on the conservation of archival materials. This 514 page manual is of great value to collectors of all types of paper memorabilia -- from comic books to autographed photos and books.

Best of all, the manual is available free in .pdf format. I've already downloaded a copy, what are you waiting for?!?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Daredevil: The Streak is Over

In a streak that rivals the legendary Joe DiMaggio, Marvel has released a countless string of indistiguishable, and yawn-inducing, Daredevil covers.

I'm glad to report, the streak is over beginning with issue 71.

[Image of issue 71 lost]

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Enter: Steve Ditko

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of Steve Ditko.

But not on the Hulk.

Something about Ditko's square-headed, sunken-eyed Hulk just doesn't do it for me. That said, I think Hulk 6 is a great cover with a masterful color scheme.

The Incredible Hulk 6 was purchased over 10 years ago from Richard Muchin of Tomorrow's Treasures. This book had undisclosed restoration (that I discovered years after the purchase.) For those familiar with Mr. Muchin's reputation, this should not surprise you. Had I known then what I know now, I would have never entered his booth.

Like the Hulk 3, this book had 2 or 3 razor thin bleedthroughs along the spine that were very difficult to see unless the spine was spread wide open. Worst of all, there was a glue tear seal to a small bindery chip on the top edge. Over the years, the glue started to shrivel, and the chip that it was meant to fix was turning black! Obviously, archival glue was not used.

Given that a small chip was turning black and ready to fall off like an overripe raisin -- and the book was already restored -- I sent the book to Matt Nelson to get it fixed. Matt fixed the chip and did a clean and press. The result, in my opinion, is great. Now, it's a 7.0 with super eye appeal.

I hope you enjoyed Hulk Week as much as I did. I like hearing other collectors' collecting stories, so let me know if you have a collecting blog.

Perhaps when I get that one more issue to complete my Fantastic Four run, I'll have a Fantastic Four year and a half!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Tyrannus, The Mighty

I bought Hulk 5 from mail order dealer Robert Crestohl in 1991 or 1992. I forgot what the advertised grade was, but I do recall it being overgraded, thus overpriced. While the color is nice, the grease pencil date bothers me. I typically don't mind date stamps -- I even like neat, unobtrusive date stamps -- but this is a bit much. I'd say this is a decent VG, maybe a VG+.

I love the image of the Hulk bursting through the wall with Rick Jones and Betty Ross in peril. This book is a candidate for an upgrade... I'd eventually like to have a solid Fine.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Meet Mongu!

Here's another book I bought from Long Island Comics in 1992 or 1993. It suffers from a bit of surface and spine wear, so I grade it at VG/FN (5.0). But, it really has pretty nice eye appeal for the grade.

Of course I would like to have a collection of high grade gems, but I don't have thousands of dollars a month to spend on funnybooks, so I go for eye appeal when high label grades are out of my range. This is a good example of a book that, due to an accumulation of moderate wear and small flaws, doesn't have a high label grade, but because it doesn't have any creases or pieces missing, it has nice eye appeal.

No drama with this book, what you see is what you get. Again, a cover I love. I have a weak spot for the split screen type covers. The spilt screen covers were more common in the 50s and early 60s, and eventually died out after Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hulk 3: The "R" Word

Hulk 3 boasts one of my all-time favorite covers. The dynamic leaping Hulk, the soldier in the corner yelling out to the reader and the vivid colors makes it a classic.

This copy is in beautiful condition. Vibrant, deep color strike, super glossy and white pages make it a winner. Other than some very light edgewear, this book looks like it came off the rack yesterday. I'd say it's a VF+. For years, this was the pride and joy of my collection.

About 10 years after I bought it, I took it out to give it a look... something I do with my favorite books on rare occasion. This time, my heart sunk. For the first time, I noticed a very faint orange bleedthrough on the inside front cover. Oh no, it was "restored." I examined the book in microscopic detail and found 2 very small color touches on the slight spine bends (to the left of Rick Jones.) The color matching is so good, it's almost impossible to see the touches from the front -- the razor thin bleedthrough is the only thing that gives the touches away.

I can't recall with 100% certainty who I bought this from, so the dealer I suspect will go unnamed.

I try not to get to crazy about the restoration as it is a gorgeous book and the restoration is so slight. But, it's hard to fight the current stigma attached to restoration and it does take a little away from the book. What's so maddening is that there was NO need to touch up the fine spider creases on the spine. Even with the tiny creases, it still would have been a solid VF. This is the unfortunate reality of much amateur restoration: it is completely unnecessary in the first place.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Terror of the Toad Men!

I also bought Hulk #2 from Long Island Comics, although not at the same time as I bought #1.

I forget what condition this was sold to me as, but I don't have the sinking feeling I do when I look back at some of my old purchases, so I'll presume it was graded accurately at the time. I'd say this is a solid VG with decent eye appeal.

This book has an odd characteristic that Hulk #4 has as well (I bought them both at the same time and I suspect they came from the same original collection.) Both this book and Hulk #4 have wear on the center of the spine... the paper is rough and abraded almost like someone rubbed it along a portion of the spine with sandpaper. I suspect that these books were bundled with a string, and over time the string rubbing the books along the center of the spine caused the surface of the paper to wear away in that spot. In any case, the spine wear doesn't affect the eye appeal or soundness of the book, and I presume it's an allowable flaw in a VG book.

I love the Toad Men helmets.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Hulk Week!

The first Silver Age run that I ever completed was Hulk 1 - 6 in the early 90s. Thinking back, collecting was a lot tougher then. There was no eBay or Internet to seek out issues. Basically, all you had was the local shops, conventions and print ads in Comic Buyer's Guide. So, if one of these sources didn't have a book you wanted, you had to wait. It's not like today where almost any issue can be immediately had with the click of a mouse or a phone call -- as long as you are willing to pay the price. Prices are higher today, but collecting itself is easier.

I will show my Hulk 1 - 6 run -- warts and all -- over the coming week.

About twelve years ago, I was a lot less conscious about condition than I am today. Looking at some of these books now, I wish they were in better shape. But, the fact of the matter is, I can't afford to upgrade them at today's prices... especially the #1. I also wish I had known more about restoration back then... we'll get to that unpleasant topic in a few days.

So, here is my Hulk #1. I bought it in 1992 from Long Island Comic's Frank Verzyl, the brother of well-known dealer John Verzyl. It was sold to me as a VG. That grade looks optimistic now. It suffers from a multitude of small flaws, but is solid and complete. Page quality is actually very nice. It does compare favorably with some VGs from the old Overstreet Grading Guide, but now I'd say it's a G/VG (3.0).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Hail, Prince Namor!

I picked up the Fantastic Four Annual #1 on eBay a few months ago. It was listed as Fine + condition -- 6.5 to CGC people -- and I think that grade was pretty close. Maybe it's a Fine, but no lower in my view. In all, it has Very Fine-type eye appeal and only suffers from mild edge wear and a very light reading crease. Interestingly, the worst flaw is very slim sliver of waviness along the right edge of the cover. I don't know what causes this, but I have visions of someone with a sweaty thumb reading it over and over...

This guides for $198 in 6.0, and I paid $70. Either I got a great deal, or this does not bode well for midgrade books.

Ok, enough chit chat... let's all admire Prince Namor's gold crown. Just for laughs, I'd love to walk through the mall with something like that on my head.

Monday, January 10, 2005

What's Old is New Again

You may have noticed that the Archives have suddenly rocketed back to 1999.

I am taking my Collector's Journal entries from my original website and converting them over to blog entries under the date of the original posting.

I am preserving the entries as they were originally written... kinda like a collecting time capsule for me.

Obviously, some of the information is outdated, but there are still entries of interest and value. Amazing how much a hobby can change in 5 or 6 years.

'Nuff Said

Check out Chromium's Comic (and other stuff) Blog, 'Nuff Said.

I'd love to see more comics related blogs like this, that is, blogs with real content. I always like to hear about other collector's experiences. The nice thing about Chromium's blog is that you can tell he collects for the love of the medium... and he's not hung up on high grade label lust.

Housecleaning, Part 2

I've continued to gets the dust bunnies out of the original Zipper's Autograph Gallery.

First, I wiped out the Celebrity Homepage directory. It was impossible to keep current, and frankly, almost every celebrity in the world has a homepage now, so if you are looking for one, just Google the celeb's name. You don't need me for that.

Secondly, I cleaned up the Collector's Web pages. These were links to other collectors' sites. Many were dead or haven't been updated in years. Gone. The remaining links are good. If you have an autograph collecting site with content, let me know and I will add it.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Luna Memorabilia

Here's a neat piece of memorabilia I recently picked up on eBay for a $8 Buy-It-Now. It's a hand-written setlist from one of my favorite bands, Luna. It's from a 2/14/98 performance in Philadelphia. The band's bassist, Britta Phillips, confirmed to me in an email that this does appear to be authentic, so no worries there.

I've tried to get setlists from the stage several times, but they were always snatched up before I could get my hands on it. Some days I am amazing at the kind of stuff you can find on eBay...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Housecleaning, Part 1

Since moving to this blog for the journal portion of my online presence, I've let my original collecting site -- Zipper's Autograph Gallery -- get a bit dusty.

So, I've totally cleaned up the Links Page on my Autograph Website. Most notable is that Slanted Fedora -- a Star Trek Convention promoter -- has gone belly up. I've also added some new and better resources in the Archival Storage Supply / Display Cases section.

While most of the frequent updating will go on here in the blog portion, I will maintain Zipper's Autograph Gallery as best I can. I've toyed with the thought of shutting it down, but everytime I do, lots of people ask that I keep it going. I does get a decent amount of hits, so hopefully people still use it regularly as a resource. I have added Google ads to the site in hopes that it will help subsidize the monthly Yahoo/Geocities cost.

So do me a favor, and click a few ads, huh?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Be sure to add Greg Holland's superb to your list of bookmarks. Even if you are not a big Valiant fan, you may be after spending some time at his site!

To me, Valiant is a double edged-sword -- they represented the best and worst of comic book collecting. At their height in the early 90s, Valiant produced great comics with engaging stories and solid artwork that awakened the excitement that we remember as young comic collectors who couldn't wait for the next issue.

Sadly, when the honeymoon was over circa 1995, things got ugly fast. Valiant released some of the most unreadable tripe ever printed. Recently I picked up a complete run of Ninjak and thought it would be fun to read it beginning to end. Let's just say I didn't get any further than issue #2. Too bad they aren't worth more because they would be perfect slabbing candidates -- gorgeous covers with horrible contents. Thankfully, I didn't pay more than 50 cents an issue for the Ninjak run.

For some good Valiant reading, check out the early issues of X-O ManoWar, Solar, Harbinger, Eternal Warrior and Magnus. While super high grade slabbed copies may cost a few bucks, reading copies can be had cheaply and most early runs were reprinted in trade paperbacks.