Friday, December 29, 2006

What I Learned In 2006

I learned a lot this year, but in terms of collecting, it can be summed up by these bullet points.

  • The difference between collecting and accumulating
  • Quality always trumps quantity
  • You have to pay for quality. Very rarely will you get a "steal" on a true quality item.
  • There is a great sense of satisfaction in selling a dozen items you won't miss and buying one item you really love
  • There is a very fuzzy and subjective line between 9.6 and 9.8, and it's not worth paying a huge premium for a subjective .2 difference that could change on any given day

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of my readers. This blog has been a lot of fun, and I enjoy all the comments people send.

Here's a little something that I've wanted for quite a while... a gorgeous Alex Schomburg cover and it's notoriously tough to find in high grade. Perhaps the best Marvel cover of the Bronze Age.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leo's Pop Culture Palace

My buddy Leo "The Listmaker" has a great new blog, Pop Culture Palace.

You see, Leo is one of those people obsessed with making Top 10, Top 20, Top-whatever type lists and he's channeled his obsession into a fun blog chock-full of videos, music and more. Definitely worth a bookmark...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fantastic Four 12 13 14 15 VF 8.0 Glossy High Grade Run

This auction will be fun to watch.

I don't think the 12 or 14 grade as high as 8.0, but they are still great copies of tough books. The 13, however, is the pick of the litter... that is a real nice copy of an extremely tough book in high grade.

That said, these books would command so much more if they were slabbed. I'm not implying these books are restored in any way, but how could anyone drop major coin on raw books after all we know about trimming scandals?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Merry Christmas To Me

Thanks to Ted at Superworld for a good deal on a nice book. One more Action Comics war cover off the want list.

One of my favorite early Action covers. From April 1941 with Wayne Boring cover art...

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Collectibles Trainwreck

I'm coming to the frightening realization that the collectibles market is a sad, sad joke.

I've been trying to sell a number of items on eBay and it has been an eye-opening nightmare.

I've listed Diamond Select Medium Fantastic Four statues numerous times and I can't get rid of them at HALF of what I paid. The "retail" on these is $85 and I'm lucky to get a bite at $30. Between the numerous relisting fees and the Paypal fees, I'm lucky to net $10 on something for which I paid $62. It seems as though the only statues that appreciate in value are the old Bowens. Everything else is disposable and worthless the second you click the "pay" button.

A Babe Ruth Salvino figurine cost me $25 ten years ago, and it went unsold after numerous listings at $9.95.

Midgrade comics have less value than toilet paper... midgrade Bronze books gather dust at less than 50 cents a book. I'd get more value by throwing them in the wood burning stove and heating my home.

A Michael Collins (Apollo 11) signed NASA Litho was selling for $400 years ago, but he has since started doing private signing with a memorabilia dealer ($300 a signature) and I can't get a bid over $50 because mine is personalized. No joke... 4 years ago I could have sold this for $400 in a minute, now I can't break $50. I'd rather let it rot in my closet than give it away for less than $200.

I have binders of authentic quality entertainment autographs that I paid $20 - $50 each that I can't get a bid at $9.99. So many forgeries have flooded eBay that you have to dump the real stuff at pennies on the dollar. It's truly a nightmare that makes me want to pack it all up and ship it off to an auction house.

Good God... I'm depressing myself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wonderful 70s Cheese

One of my guilty pleasures is Machine Man. I loved this series as a kid and still have a soft spot for it. Kirby and Ditko art... what's not to love?

So, Machine Man is a series that I'm looking to collect in 9.6/9.8 condition. Here's the first book off the checklist:

I also picked up a copy of Machine Man 12 CGC 9.6 for $10! Gotta love getting books for less than the slabbing fee!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Grail Obtained

Once in a while, you have to throw caution to the wind and go after a once-in-a-lifetime type item when it becomes available. So, when my buddy Kevin decided to sell his copy of Superman 11 signed by Joe Shuster, I knew I had to make a play for it.

Happily, we were able to come to terms. I scrambled to sell a bunch of stuff that didn't mean much to me... so, in effect, it was a great "trade." I am happy to say that this is now in my collection and will be for a long time.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Tale of Two 9.2s

I've been in the market for a 9.0 or better copy of Amazing Spider-man 151 for some time. I recall having this book as a kid -- in fact I still have my beater original copy. It's a pricey book in high grade due to the fact that the dark cover is notorious for showing the slightest spine stress. A CGC 9.8 copy recently sold on ebay for around $1,000. Obviously, that is way out of what I want to spend on this book, but one can occasionally find a 9.2ish copy for a small fraction of the 9.8 price.

So, I ordered a copy advertised as 9.2 from a major metropolitan dealer. At first glance, it looked great.

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But then my eye caught this on the right edge:
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Obviously, a 9.2 NM- can't have a 2 inch thumb crease and a tear. So, I sent it back.

Next, I found a 9.2 copy being advertised by SoCal Comics. A gorgeous true 9.2... I'm not crazy about miswraps, but I can live with this one:
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

High Grade Bronze

I've been thinking about my collecting goals and, more and more, it seems like Silver Age comics are not the way to go. High grade Silver Age is prohibitively expensive to anyone making less than 6 figures a year, and the midgrade stuff just doesn't have much of a future in my opinion. I have boxes and boxes of nice midgrade Silver Age books I bought in the 80s and 90s and I'd be lucky to recoup my original price paid today.

These are not new thoughts to me and this is why I started collecting low/midgrade Golden Age Action/Superman comics a few years ago. There appears to be great demand for these books and one doesn't have to be so grade conscious... a 5.0 is a very respectable grade for these books and my thinking is there will be long term demand for them, unlike midgrade Silver which is just too common.

Another area I've begun focusing on is high grade Bronze books -- specifically the series that I first read as a kid getting into comics. Stuff like 2001, Super Villain Team-Up, Machine Man, and Spider Woman. These books can be obtained in high grade for prices that us mere mortals can afford.

So, the next question is, 9.8 only or 9.4 and 9.6 as well? What is "high grade" in the Bronze Age? I'm going to try for 9.8s, but when nice 9.6 presents themselves for a fraction of the 9.8 price, I can live with a 9.6. Frankly, I believe that 9.6s and 9.8s are very close to being interchangeable and the difference is so minimal that I don't have a lot of confidence anyone could consistently differentiate between the two anyway.

So, let's start off with the latest acquisition: Super-Villain Team-Up #8...

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Have You Seen the Fantastic Four #1 That Was Stolen From Me?

I know this is a long shot and it happened years ago, but I just found some images on a disc... so here goes.

This copy of Fantastic Four #1 was stolen from me in an ebay transaction that occured on May 12, 2003. Supposedly, hijacked ebay and Paypal user IDs were used and the transaction was charged back to me well over a month after I shipped the book.

The book was shipped to the verified Paypal address which was:
Trey McDaniel
26849 172nd pl SE
Covington, WA 98042
User ID: trey-autumn
Name: The Silver Age

McDaniel later claimed that it wasn't him, he never received the book and someone else was using his accounts.

So, on the off chance anyone ever runs across this copy of FF #1, please let me know. I originally purchased it from Stephen Ritter and it grades about GOOD+ in my opinion. It has very distinctive water damage/chipping on the bottom edge of the back cover.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rose 'Sorry' Baseballs Will Be Auctioned

According to the AP story below, Pete Rose signed the "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" baseballs for free and gave a number of them to a collector. He had no idea they'd come up for auction.

If anyone believes this, please send me an email... I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

I've met Pete Rose a few times and he is very particular about what he will sign. For instance, he won't inscribe "Charlie Hustle." Pete Rose is very memorabilia savvy and wouldn't sign anything like this for free... for anyone.


Rose "Sorry" Baseballs Will Be Auctioned
By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer, Tue Sep 19, 11:20 AM ET

Pete Rose never expected baseballs bearing his autograph and a printed apology for betting on baseball to be sold publicly, his business agent said Monday.

A New Jersey auction house plans to put 30 such balls up for bid in April, unsure how much they'll fetch. The baseballs belonged to a memorabilia collector who died last December.

Baseball's banished hits king signed the baseballs for some of his friends about a year ago, but didn't want them put up for sale, according to business agent Warren Greene.

"These guys are collectors. Pete signed for them," Greene said, in a phone interview. "Pete made zero dollars for signing them." The baseballs say "I'm sorry I bet on baseball" in block letters, with Rose's autograph directly below. Greene didn't know who suggested the inscription.

The New York Daily News first reported the story in Monday's editions.

Rose accepted a lifetime ban for gambling in 1989, but denied for nearly 15 years that he bet on baseball. He finally acknowledged in his latest autobiography, published in January 2004, that he made baseball wagers while he managed the Cincinnati Reds.

During his exile from baseball, Rose has made a living in part off his memorabilia signings. During an appearance years ago, he agreed to sign a fan's copy of baseball's Dowd Report, which contained the evidence that he bet on baseball.

Greene said a collector who got some of the "I'm sorry" baseballs gave 30 of them to Barry Halper, a limited partner in the New York Yankees who died last December. The family contacted Robert Edward Auctions to sell his sports memorabilia.

"There was a box of these baseballs," auction house president Robert Lifson said. "When I saw them, I couldn't help but thinking, 'Wow.'"

Lifson couldn't guess how much fans will bid for the apology baseballs. Rose's Web site features autographed balls for $86.99. Other balls with inscriptions such as "Hit King" are offered for $104.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A NOD to the Network of Disclosure

Regular readers know that I have devoted a great deal of effort in fighting fraud in the collectibles hobbies. I am an investigator for the UACC Ethics Board, I've published articles on fraud and forgery, and I've done my best to educate autograph and comic collectors about the various scams and pitfalls that are all too common.

I have recently joined the Network of Disclosure (NOD.)

NOD's pledge is simple: To promote Integrity, Security and Education between the Seller and the Buyer of any comic book.

It's a good organization with honorable goals... you can learn more at the Network of Disclosure website.

I also recommend that you support NOD dealers whenever possible.

Monday, September 18, 2006

CGC Grading and the State of the Hobby

A few weeks ago, Skybolt (Ed) made a great post on the CGC Message Boards. With his permission, here it is:

...we as collectors need to evolve beyond this current state of the hobby. If a CGC graded book can double in value from $10,000 to $20,000 by erasing a small smudge of dirt and raising the grade by a couple of notches, then something is wrong. I truly believe that eventually reality will catch up with perception, and people will wake up to the fact that they're shelling out thousands of hard earned dollars for a minor press job or dry cleaning, to raise a book's value 2-fold. This realization will ultimately have a huge impact on the state of the hobby once collectors are informed about what an 8.5 vs. 9.2 CGC graded copy really entails.

I mean it's like basically taking an authentic vase, that's in great condition, and rubbing off the dirt to increase its price from $100,000 to $200,000! For instance, if I asked a bunch of high end collectors to step into a room and handed them a nice looking CGC graded 8.0 copy of ASM #1, and said this will cost you $10,000. As they reached for their wallet, I tell them to hold on a second. I grab the book, erase a few dirt smudges and apply some minor pressing in front of everyone. I then grab the book and hand it over to a CGC grader. Since they have to go through the proper protocol and grade the book in front of them, they hand the book back to me with a 9.0 grade. I then turn around to the same potential buyer and say the book will now cost you $30,000. How many buyers would jump at the chance to pay that amount when they saw the procedure being performed first hand?!

I'm sick and tired of blaming CGC, dealers, etc. for what they perceive to be a legitimate cause, instead of bringing the truth to the masses. It's just too hard to investigate every little hole or crack. I'm not talking about putting down the main players for using this system to their advantage, but basically revealing what's behind the curtain so everyone can see. I can understand that CGC only grades the book in front of them, and I can even understand certain dealers using the current system to their benefit. I'm not even questioning how the book can go up in grade with this manipulation. But my point is that what does the CGC grade really mean, and should it have as much emphasis as whether or not a book has great QP, centered pages, great gloss, etc. There's no reason why an ugly looking 7.0 Fiction House copy with extremely faded colors should sell for more than a nice looking 5.0 copy that has great gloss, excellent presentation, but with a few non-color breaking creases, and a 1/4" tear. That's not CGC's fault, but ours for blindly following the grades given.

People should utilize CGC's grading to their own benefit and not the other way around. I truly believe that in time the CGC grade would matter to the potential buyer, but its significance would drop to maybe 25% to 50% of what the they're really looking for. When all is said and done, what makes the most sense is usually accepted by the collecting community. Hopefully, that day could be reached soon and people start educating themselves so they are aware of their surroundings.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Forever In My Heart

Yes, it's hard to believe that it's been 5 years. In so many ways it seems like yesterday... the day is so crystalized in my mind.

Yet in other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago and it has been a very long 5 years.

Time passes so quickly.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The ComicWiz Blog

Joseph "ComicWiz" -- one of the most insightful posters on the CGC Message Boards -- has started his own blog. Check it out as he always has tasty collectibles and something interesting to say.

The ComicWiz Blog

Monday, August 07, 2006

BidPay is back!

BidPay is back. It's no longer a Western Union money order service, now BidPay is closer to the Paypal payment model.

BidPay is now owned by Cybersource.

It's good to see an alternative to Paypal once again, but obviously the jury is still out on the new BidPay. Supposedly it is supposed to be safe from chargebacks -- the dirty secret that haunts Paypal -- but only time will tell if BidPay can avoid the scammers.

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Auction House Hi-Jinx

Are there any honest collectibles auction houses? Is anyone surprised by these stories anymore?

A powerful Ohio politician gets busted using public money to purchase mountains of sports memorabilia from Mastro Auctions.

What happens when the investigators turn their gaze toward Mastro Auctions?

"Investigators grew increasingly suspicious as they examined scores of transactions between Noe and the Illinois memorabilia company [Mastro Auctions], according to Lucas County, Ohio, prosecutor John Weglian, and William Brandt, president of Development Specialists, Inc., the company hired by Ohio to liquidate the coin investment. Mastro Auctions, Weglian and Brandt say, may have engaged in shill bidding and other questionable practices that resulted in inflated prices and auction house commissions."

The whole story is below. From the New York Daily News, June 17, 2006.

It's a flip of 'coin' probe

Investigators have eye on sports auction giant in Ohio collector scandal

Ohio was the decisive battleground in the 2004 election, and President Bush might have been sent back to his Texas ranch if it hadn't been for coin dealer Tom Noe, the Bush-Cheney campaign chairman in northwest Ohio who raised more than $100,000 for the president's re-election bid.

Noe was a powerful political insider for many years, thanks to the mountains of money he raised for Republican candidates in Ohio and elsewhere. Noe's political connections eventually led to his downfall: He convinced Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation officials to give him $50 million to invest in two rare coin funds. Most publicly held funds shun investments like that as too risky, but Noe argued he could get a better return than traditional stocks and bonds. Instead, according to officials, he used some of the funds to further his political network and bankroll his lavish lifestyle.

Authorities launched an investigation after the Toledo Blade published a series of stories about Noe and the coin funds last year, and state auditor Betty Montgomery reported that more than $13 million is missing from the funds. Republican pols — including Bush, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — donated Noe's contributions to their campaigns to Ohio charities and rushed to distance themselves from their now-tainted ally.

Now the scandal has even spread to the world of sports memorabilia: Ohio investigators say Mastro Auctions, the world's largest sports auction house, may have played a role in what is being called "Coingate." Investigators who searched Noe's Vintage Coins and Collectibles in Maumee, Ohio, last year found a cache of collectibles — everything from Beanie Babies to 19th-century political banners to Bob Gibson-signed baseballs — worth an estimated $3.5 million. Investigators believe the GOP insider purchased most of the collectibles with state money; the largest source was Mastro Auctions, the Burr Ridge, Ill., company that until recently was known as Mastronet.

Investigators grew increasingly suspicious as they examined scores of transactions between Noe and the Illinois memorabilia company, according to Lucas County, Ohio, prosecutor John Weglian, and William Brandt, president of Development Specialists, Inc., the company hired by Ohio to liquidate the coin investment. Mastro Auctions, Weglian and Brandt say, may have engaged in shill bidding and other questionable practices that resulted in inflated prices and auction house commissions.

"It was something that makes your sense of 'something's not right here' stand up," Weglian says.

Shill bidding works when an auction house knows the maximum price a bidder will pay for an item; if the bidding falls short, the auction house enters dummy bids to drive up the price. Mastro Auctions president Doug Allen says Noe was a "good customer" but he denies the company did anything inappropriate. "There was no shill bidding that went on," Allen says.

Ohio Auditor Montgomery says Mastro Auctions sold at least $1.3 million worth of memorabilia to Noe's two funds. Most of the seized collectibles are political items, but Noe also won numerous sports lots, including Hall of Fame plaques purchased for $16,541, a Mickey Mantle bat ($14,014), a collection of 10,000 baseball cards ($8,603), 100 balls signed by Ted Williams ($29,078) and 12 Walter Payton-signed footballs ($4,016). The memorabilia is currently being held at an Ohio state police facility as evidence and will be sold after Noe's trial.

Authorities are looking into whether Noe paid inflated prices for the items he purchased through Mastro Auctions, but they don't know if the Republican fund-raiser profited from the deals. "What we do know," says Brandt, "is that there are a lot of transactions with unexplained costs, and the real victims are the injured workers and taxpayers of Ohio."

Weglian says his office will turn its focus on Mastro Auctions after Noe's state court trial in October. Lucas County prosecutors will present a complex case against Noe that will require at least four weeks and more than 100 witnesses. Until that case is resolved, Mastro Auctions will remain on a back burner.

Noe has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but last month he pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign and faces up to two years in prison.

The case took a weird twist a few months ago when Allen called Brandt to express interest in selling the seized collectibles for the state. Brandt says Allen's pitch boiled down to this: Mastro Auctions should be a natural choice to sell the sports and political memorabilia because we're familiar with it — after all, we've sold it once already.

"I told him, 'We have these problems we want to talk to you about,'" Brandt says. "Allen indicated he had a different point of view and he would get back to me. I haven't heard from him since."

Allen says Mastro Auctions is not ducking anybody. Ohio authorities have asked for documents and other information, and Mastro Auctions has complied with every request. "If they have concerns and they provide us with requests for information, we will comply," he says.

Brandt, hired by Ohio to recover and liquidate the assets of Noe's coin funds, says his firm will also start seeking more information from Mastro after Noe's criminal case is resolved.

Companies that are uncooperative could face stiff penalties, Brandt says. Authorities believe Noe used transactions with the Spectrum Fund, a rare coin fund he established with a Spanish-owned company called The Escala Group, as a way to cover up his alleged theft. In March, Escala agreed to pay Ohio $7.5 million to "neutralize" concerns about its relationship with Noe.

Several other memorabilia dealers and auction houses also sold pieces that were found in Noe's offices, including Heritage-Slater Americana, Early American History Auctions and Presidential Coin and Antique Co. Brandt says transactions between Noe and Heritage-Slater concern him, too, but Heritage-Slater director Tom Slater says his company never sold anything to Noe's coin funds.

"These were all routine purchases," Slater says. "He purchased things from us for his own collection."

A source subpoenaed by Ohio authorities says Noe had a secret account with Mastro Auctions, and the only person at Mastro Auctions allowed to conduct transactions with Noe was chief executive officer Bill Mastro. "Everything about it was very odd," says the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Allen, however, says it is not unusual for certain customers to deal solely with him or Bill Mastro.

"It is very common — I can think of 50 customers off the top of my head right now — who only deal with me or only deal with Bill. We work with them to build our accounts. I handle certain customers who either don't want to bid on the Internet or want some hand-holding when it comes to the auction process. That is not unusual in the auction business."

Mastro's brother, Randy, was a deputy mayor during the Rudy Giuliani administration and later represented Madison Square Garden in its successful fight to keep the Jets from building the West Side Stadium. But Mastro and Allen have not contributed significant sums of money to political campaigns, according to, the Web site run by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The source says that while Bill Mastro may be impressed with powerful people, he's not that interested in politics. "Money," the source says, "is the thing that motivates Bill."

Treasury Comics Checklist with Scans

Here's a neat site. You'll have to deal with the annoying Angelfire popups, but it's worth the hassle.

Treasury Comics: Oversized Comics Checklist with Scans

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Superman Returns... WOW!

It's kind of spooky hearing the voice of the late Marlon Brando speaking as Jor-El, Superman's dead father.

Here is the 2:33 international trailer...

Ghost Rider Trailer

Ghost Rider and the effects look pretty decent, but it is scheduled for February release.

Never a good sign.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

It's The Pocket Comics' Fault

Way back in the day long before Masterworks reprints, trade paperbacks and the like, there were few ways a 9 year old Zipper could read Amazing Fantasy 15 and the first six issues of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Enter, the paperback-sized Pocket Comics by Pocket Books.

Each $1.95 issue contained exact reprints of the six issues of the glorious beginnings of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Captain America and others.

I read these treasures over and over and over again until the spines cracked and the pages fell out. I practically memorized the first appearances of The FF, Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, Submariner and the Sandman to name a few.

The seeds of the obsession from which I suffer today were sown in 1977 when my eager hands clutched the first Pocket Comics.

At the time, the books reprinted in these volumes seemed like an impossibility... treasures that I would certainly never be able to afford. My God, at the time, the first issue of Fantastic Four probably would have cost more than $100. An incomprehensible sum to someone whose allowance was probably 50 cents a week.

Here we are, almost 30 years later, and I have every issue ever printed of the Fantastic Four. I liked Spider-Man, but for whatever reason, the FF resonated more with me and that's the series I slowly collected, issue by issue.

By the time I finished my Fantastic Four run, Spider-Man was the most popular comic on the planet and collecting the run -- in any sort of decent condition -- wasn't financially realistic.

(Of course, with my completionist nature, the notion of collecting only **some** issues never entered my mind.)

But, I have adapted my collecting and decided that if I couldn't have every issue of Spider-Man, I could get a few that I really wanted.

Of issues 1- 6, issue number 6 was always my favorite read... and I've always had an itch to have a decent copy of this issue.

The cover trumpets, Half-Man, Half-Reptile... The Lizard Will Take Over All Of The Earth Unless Spider-Man Alone Can Stop Him! And, The Marvel Age Of Comics Is Here!

How exciting it must have been to pick up one of these fresh off a news stand in 1963!

Well, recently I finally picked up my copy. Forty three years after it was on a newsstand and 29 years after I first read my Pocket Comic which contained every wonderful page of Face-To-Face With The Lizard!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Showing Off, Again.

Ok, I've shared pics of this this book before, but they were digital pics taken at an angle. So, I finally got a scan of it on a legal sized scanner (Shhh... don't tell my employer what I was doing back in the graphic design department at lunch.)

The scan isn't as crisp and bright as the book actually appears... I sense the scanner is on its last leg.

As you've probably surmised, this is one of my favorites.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

My First Nedor

I've been drooling over all the juicy Nedors on the CGC Message Boards Gold Comics Section for a long time. The Schomburg war covers featured on many Nedor titles dovetail in nicely with my interest in the Action Comics war covers.

So, I finally picked up my first Nedor with a Schomburg cover. It's not a war cover, but it's a doozy anyway. Bondage, Headlights, Human Sacrifice, Satanic Half-Human, Half-Animal priests, KKK type robes and Schomburg... what more could a comic geek want?

Fighting Yank #11, March 1945

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

PSA/DNA Steps In It Again

Here's a Admiral Nimitz signed surrender document (replica) authenticated by PSA/DNA.

The only problem is that the document is signed by the German Fuhrer Karl Doenitz.

ADMIRAL CHESTER W. NIMITZ Autographed Signed Letter (item 6589943097)

Well hey... both names end in "itz." Isn't that close enough for the "world's leading authentication experts?"

Monday, May 22, 2006

Next Blog >> Roulette

I often like to click the Next Blog button at the top right of Blogger blogs. I've found some interesting stuff I'd never have stumbled across otherwise.

That said, has anyone else noticed that there are an increasing number of porn and pyramid scheme type blogs? I guess that's to be expected on a free service such as this, but it used to be the worst offense you'd run across was the Oh-so-deep-and-wise 17 year old drama queen sharing every inane thought genre.

Further, almost 50% of the blogger Next Blog hits are now blogs in a foreign language. Not a problem per se, but it would be nice to be able to filter English Only or have a built-in blog translator. I would like to see what folks in other countries are writing about, but I will never know how to read any Asian or Arabic language. On a good day, I can get the gist of something written in Spanish or Italian. That's almost 3 languages... what more can be expected of me?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Other Than ESPN, Topps and Barry Bonds, Does Anyone Care About Barry Bonds?

Sadly, Barry Bonds will surpass Babe Ruth's home run total any day now. Only Bonds has a personality so repulsive that it could dampen what would otherwise be a huge sports achievement.

Other than ESPN's shameless shilling, is anyone excited about Bond's passing the Babe's total?

Well, maybe Topps Cards is excited too. Another corporate shill job.

From eSCD...

As Barry Bonds closes in on Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, Topps is offering various promotions to highlight the occasion. The company is offering a special card picturing each home run through No. 715 on its website. Each card is $4.95. New cards will appear within 24 hours of the home run and will be available until Bonds hits his next home run or a minimum of 72 hours. The cards are also being sold on Bonds’ site.

My only hope is that within 5 to 7 years, Alex Rodriguez will surpass Bond's record and the "Home Run King" title will be back in the hands of a decent guy and hopefully a New York Yankee.

Superman Punches Out Japanese Zero Pilot

Mixing my interest in WWII Action Comics covers with original art, I recently won this Action Comics 63 cover recreation on eBay. Scott Kress of Catskill Comics and Art is the artist.

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The logo is a paste up, but it's not accurate for this actual issue. So, I have obtained a high res image of the logo and price block from this issue and I plan on adding the more accurate reproduction to the piece.

Amazingly, I placed a lowball bid of $36 on this cover reproduction and won. Not a bad deal. If the original exists, it would certainly fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another Winning WWII Cover

Here's another Action war cover going into the collection.

On a message board, someone wrote that this seems like an inefficient way for Superman to fight the Japanese. Bear in mind, at this time, Superman only had super strength (and he was bullet proof.) He could also leap great distances, but that was about it.

It was later that writers endowed him with powers like heat vision... which of course, would have allowed him to wipe out the entire Japanese army fairly quickly.

From September 1944...

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another Action Off The Wantlist

The past several weeks have seen some nice -- and typically uncommon -- books surface. With these Action War covers, it seems like feast or famine. You won't see an issue for months, then you'll see several appear at once. It may strain the budget, but you have to strike quickly when they appear.

Check this one off my wantlist. Typically, I define the WWII covers as books depicting Superman fighting Nazis or Japanese soldiers or war machines. That said, many collectors consider Action 56 a war cover. I guess one could presume these are Nazi or Japanese missles he's punching out. From January 1943...

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I've been on somewhat of a buying spree lately, but I've been funding most of it with proceeds from items that I've been selling on and off eBay. The problem is that it takes a lot longer to sell than it does to buy. There just aren't enough hours in the day for the gathering, scanning, uploading, etc. One of these days I'll get a few hours to myself and get some more items on eBay.

As I may have noted around the first of the year, my goal this year was to begin trimming the fat and building lean, mean collecting mass. That is, I'd rather have one $400 item than twenty $20 items. I think it's all part of the maturation as a collector to want to focus on quality rather than quantity. It takes great discipline to avoid the quick collecting fixes and impulse buys... I've been fairly successful, but not perfect.

In keeping with the Conan original art theme, here is a Conan sketch by Cary Nord.

I'd love to have a published page, but to the best of my knowledge, he has not released any of his Conan pages.

Monday, April 24, 2006

PSA/DNA Authenticator Was Also The Consignor

From The NY Daily News, 4/23/06


Memorabilia Mayhem

The sports memorabilia biz is most definitely not for the faint of heart. Collectors have long complained about deceptive advertising by auction houses; even more infuriating are the authenticators who claim to be independent but actually consigned the very items they claim they objectively appraised.

Those complaints, usually posted anonymously on Internet sites, are about to get a very public hearing in open court. A lawsuit filed in Boone County (Ind.) Superior Court by sports memorabilia dealer Bill Daniels accuses industry giants Mastro Auctions and PSA/DNA Authentication Services of fraud and questions the business practices and integrity of sports memorabilia's most important companies.

"I'm trying to fight this battle for every collector who has said, 'I got screwed but I have to take it,'" Daniels tells The Score.

The suit, scheduled for trial in June, says Daniels spent almost $20,000 to buy more than 2,000 autographed 8x10 photographs - including pictures of Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali - during Mastro's December 2004 auction.

The signatures, according to Mastro's catalogue, were authenticated by PSA/DNA. "The mother lode of autographed 8x10 color photos," the catalogue said. "The photos average NM/MT (near mint to mint) condition with '9-10' (on a scale of 1-10) signatures."

But Daniels says he got "sick to my stomach" when he received the photos. Sixty-five percent were damaged, with bent corners, creases and smeared signatures. Another 48 were in poor condition because the signatures were illegible. He also suspects some of the autographs may have been signed by players' secretaries - or may be forgeries.

Daniels contacted Mastro to get a refund, but when the company refused to exchange the lot or compensate him, he filed suit.

Mastro president Doug Allen says that's not accurate. "We offered Mr. Daniels the opportunity to return any photos he claims are undersized or have smeared autographs for a full refund on that portion of his purchase," he said in an E-mail. "Mr. Daniels refused the offer.

"I do not believe Mr. Daniels has ever identified an autograph he purchased that is not authentic," he adds.

Officials at Collectors Universe, PSA/DNA's parent company, did not return requests for comment.

Daniels and his attorney S. Andrew Burns later learned that PSA/DNA authenticator Zach Rullo, whose signature was on the letter of authenticity that accompanied the photos, was one of the consigners.

"That's a conflict of interest, absolutely," Burns says. "The biggest problem is that although they tell you how PSA is the leader in authentication and that they authenticated the lot, they never tell you that Zach owned it."

The quality of that authentication is also an issue; Burns says records indicate a three-man team that included Rullo spent 16 hours over two days poring through the 56,000 items offered in the 2004 auction. That's just a few seconds per item, the attorney says.

"That's not enough time to move the photos from one stack to another, never mind compare the signatures to exemplars or review the quality of the photos," he says.

Daniels, who says he spent $100,000 on Mastro auctions the year before he purchased the photo collection, says sports memorabilia's biggest auction house has lost a valuable customer. "They hold themselves out as the industry leader, but I'd like some checks and balances" Burns says about PSA/DNA. "If an auction house says something comes with a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity, I don't want to hear that PSA/DNA merely rubber stamped it."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Am I Missing Something Here?

eBay: Big Valley Lee Majors Linda Evans Peter Breck video

Here is a videotape of a 1987 local Bay Area TV special hosted by Peter Breck. The special celebrates the 22nd anniversary of The Big Valley that ran on ABC from 1965-1969.

Opening Bid: $9.99
Final Price: $222.50

Are you kidding me?

God Speed, Scott Crossfield

Legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield died yesterday in a small plane crash in Georgia. At age 84, he was still regularly flying.

Scott Crossfield was the first to fly twice the speed of sound and the first to fly the X-15... the supersonic plane that paved the way to the space race. This just scratches the surface of his long and distinguished career. He served his country with great distinction and to his last day, he was active in aviation.

Mr. Crossfield was one of those rare breed of men who was a hero as well as a down to earth, nice guy. I'd written to him many times and he always promptly responded with a signed photo as well as a few kind words of thanks. Imagine, he was thanking me for writing to him.

Chuck Yeager may have been the early focus of Tom Wolfe's book, but Scott Crossfield -- a much more modest man -- was just as important to the early days of test flight. He truly had the Right Stuff.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Collector's Mentality

If you haven't checked out James Powell's blog, The Collector's Mentality, do so.

It's a thoughtful -- and sometimes funny -- insight into the neurosis that drives collectors.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Savage Pencil of Gil Kane

I had an itch for some original artwork and scratched it...

First, I am not a huge fan of Gil Kane's work. In fact, I think he drew the ugliest Superman ever. However, he is a noted Conan artist, and being a huge Conan fan, this page really appealed to me. You'll note that it's not really a battle action page, but the composition and linework is gorgeous and the bottom center panel really sold me. From The Savage Sword of Conan #85, page 12.

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According to the Grand Comics Database, this page was inked by either Danny Bulanadi or Nestor Redondo. If anyone knows for sure, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Upgrade Mania

Last year I finished my quest to have every regular issue of the Fantastic Four ever published. From Volume 1, #1 to the current ish, I have them all.

You'd think that would be good enough, no?

Well, after I finished the run, I started to get the itch to upgrade where I could. Granted, with most of the issues under 10 I'll have to live with the midgrade copies I already have. However, I saw some room for improvement in the 30 - 60 range. In this range I'd like to have books that are at the least very nice looking FINES and VF or better where possible.

Luckily, many of my books in this issue range already meet this criteria, but there were a handful that I wanted to upgrade. Here are a few...

FF 37 in VF-(7.5). I purchased this from a CGC Board Member for a great price. This is a tough book and is prone to color touches. I was burned with a previous eBay purchase that was color touched.
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FF 51 in VF/VF+. A really nice copy of a very tough book in high grade. The day this was printed and bound something must have been out of whack at the printer because most copies of this book tend to suffer from an indented top staple. This copy does not have the indented staple and the tear that tends to accompany it. Got it for a great price on eBay and luckily did not get burned.
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FF 53 VF. Won on a lowball bid from a Heritage eBay auction. Advertised as a VF and I concur. I really nice looking book, however, I suspect it's been pressed. The book has a somewhat unnatural crispness and "snap" to it... kinda like what a brand new $20 bill feels like.
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I'm Not Dead, But PGX May Be

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I'm finding that fatherhood is a very time consuming business... especially when the baby has colic! I have been following some important issues as well as collecting a bit here and there -- I just haven't had time to write about it. I will try to make up for some lost ground...

It appears that the wheels have come off the wagon at PGX, the comic grading company. Apparently, a number of high grade PGX Ducks books sold by Terence Leder (under a number of different eBay names) have been trimmed. Pre-trimming images have surfaced making the allegation indisputable.

PGX's Daniel Patterson has responded with the expected boilerplate type statements... "We're looking into it and taking steps to yada, yada, yada..." Sadly, nothing substantive and to even the casual observer, PGX is beginning to look like a one man garage operation that their critics have long alleged.

You can read all the gory details on the STL Comics Message Boards. More here. And even more here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Signed Baseball Basics

As baseball season draws near, I thought some signed baseball information might come in handy.

What To Get Signed
Always try to use the Official Major League Baseballs.

These balls are leather and typically cost around $12 each. Before they started using the same ball for both leagues several years ago, they used to have different balls for the American and National Leagues. Each ball was imprinted with the signature of the respective League President. So, it was always best to have a player sign the ball that was specific to the league he played in. For instance, you'd have Hank Aaron sign a National League ball and Mickey Mantle sign an American League ball. Now that there is only one ball for both leagues (imprinted with the signature of the Commissioner), it's a moot point for contemporary players.

Avoid "Official League Balls."

These look like the real deal, but they may have a synthetic cover and cost around $5 each. Signatures on these balls will fade and/or bleed over time.

Use a medium point blue ballpoint pen. Try to find a pen that leaves a nice dark, blue line. Bics with the white barrel are my favorites. Avoid superfine ballpoints that leave a thin weak line.

Why Do Some Baseballs Develop Brown/Yellow Spots?
The leather in the ball contains various acids and chemicals that may or may not turn dark with time.

Baseballs should be stored in a dark and dry environment. But, even under the best conditions, the inherent acids/chemicals in some balls will create dark spots over time. This is a ticking time bomb in some balls and there is NOTHING you can do about it.

In my experience, the dark spots will usually appear in the first 10 years after manufacture. If a ball makes it past 10 years old and has no spots, it will probably remain okay.

This is why I shy away from getting balls signed, especially from today's high-priced signers. Who wants to invest a few hundred bucks in a signed ball and have it self-destruct in a few years?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Superman's Cape In Strikezone Auction

From eSCD, 3/2/2006:

Items relating to sports heroes Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Jim Brown and Rick Barry were among the top sellers at the January auction for Broadway Rick’s Strike Zone, but it was a superhero’s cape that stole the show. A red cape worn by George Reeves in the 1950s “Superman” TV series sold for $22,226 (with buyer’s premium) to capture the top honors in the auction.

The rare cape had been on display for more than a decade at the Superman Museum in Metropolis, Ill. It was given to the museum by Whitney Ellsworth, the director of the TV series. The auction generated more than $970,000 in sales, the largest in company history. A dozen other items sold for five figures in the auction, paced by a rare game-used Brown jersey that sold for $26,893. Mantle’s signed 1959 contract with the Yankees garnered $18,521. Meanwhile, a Gehrig game-used bat checked in at $18,306 and a Pee Wee Reese game-used Dodgers jersey sold for $17,259.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dennis Weaver Rides Into The Sunset

As regular readers may have deduced, I am a big fan of the television show, Gunsmoke... especially the earlier -- and much grittier -- black and white episodes. So, it was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Dennis Weaver.

Mr. Weaver superbly played Chester Goode, Marshal Dillon's simple, yet honest and loyal, assistant. The media mistakenly reports that Chester was Marshal Dillon's deputy; this is not true. Chester was never deputized and typically did not carry a gun. He simply helped the marshal and was his friend... not a deputy.

Dennis Weaver went on to a very successful TV and movie career, and I enjoyed watching him introduce movies on the Western Channel.

Here is a signed photo (as Chester) I obtained directly from Dennis Weaver several years ago.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

UACC Suspends Two Registered Dealers

From the UACC Website:

The UACC Registered Dealer Review Committee has fielded complaints and has suspended two from the Registered Dealer Program. Permanent suspension was handed down to Myron Ross and his company, 'Heroes & Legends', who were RD018. A one year suspension was given to Robert L. Polk Autographs, who is RD041.

Friday, February 17, 2006

My GEM MINT 10.0

I haven't posted here or much on any message boards in the past week or so, but I have a good excuse.

She arrived at 9:58 pm on Friday February 10.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Superman To The Rescue

I'm happy to report that I crossed one more issue off the Action Comics WWII Cover want list.

Action Comics #60 with White Pages. It really is a great looking 5.0. I suspect the staple tear is what reduced the grade, because otherwise the book presents much nicer than most 5.0s.

Interestingly, I am the second owner of this book. It was obtained from an original owner collection in San Diego. The collection contained many other Actions, but I missed out on those other issues by one day.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Much Ado About Spidey's New Costume

So, whaddaya think of Spidey's new getup?

I'm not getting too worked up over it because it's an obvious and transparent publicity stunt... and I'm not going to get suckered in.

No one, including Marvel, really likes this new costume. In fact, I'd bet that they intentionally made it an ugly piece of crap to ensure maximum fan reaction.

They have ZERO intention of using this costume for more than 6 - 8 months. They are banking on the hub-bub with the costume change and they are banking on the hub-bub when he goes back to the original costume. If they get lucky, it'll be a slow news day on either end of the cycle and they might get a little play on the evening news broadcasts or CNN.

Think of it as "The Death of Superman Lite."

Friday, January 20, 2006

HBO Report Critical of Autograph Authenticators

From the January 19th edition of eSCD...

At least my good pal Richard Simon was one of the authenticators identified as getting it right...


HBO's Real Sports documentary series took a look at the sports autograph industry Tuesday night, with a specific focus on autograph authenticators and questioned their ability to spot fake merchandise.

Reporter Armen Keteyian began the story by claiming that as much as half the signed memorabilia being sold online today is fake, and outlined how the FBI's Operation Bullpen program has helped arrest and convict forgers and distributors of more than a million items of fake memorabilia. One of those convicted, Sheldon Jaffe, who was identified on the program only as "Eddie," said one of the reasons forgery rings like the extensive operation headed by the Greg Marino family were able to move their merchandise so easily were certificates of authenticity that were signed by third-party authenticators.

"This was a scam like no other," Jaffe said in regards to the concept of COAs. "The only reason the forgery ring worked was we were able to find 'forensic experts.'"

Donald Frangipanni was spotlighted as the "authenticator of choice" for the forgers. Jaffe acknowledged that if they had a fake document and wanted someone to approve it, it would be directed to Frangipani. An HBO staffer with a hidden camera then took seven items with signatures from athletes such as Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Brett Favre to Frangipani's office for authentication. He approved all of the items. When confronted by HBO, Frangipani said he was simply fooled by the forgeries. "I gave my opinion on these items," he said. "If I made errors, I admit to my errors."

HBO sent the same items to six other authenticators. The report stated that four of the six "failed miserably," authenticating 15 of the 20 fake items as being real. None of those four authenticators were identified. The network said two unnamed authenticators -- those identified by logos as Richard Simon and Global Authentication -- rejected virtually all of items as fakes.

Also featured on the show was last month's $85,000 eBay sale of an Upper Deck quad-signature card featuring Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner. Jaffe claimed the Ruth and Johnson cut signatures used on the card were Marino forgeries. HBO sent images of the card to the authenticators that passed its test, as well as PSA/DNA. Both reportedly said the two signatures were likely not real. Upper Deck told HBO it stood by all of its products and said it questioned the findings of authenticators who did not examine the actual card.

After the report, Bryant Gumbel asked Keteyian if the industry was trying to standardize the guidelines of COAs. "Not everybody who gives out a COA is corrupt, but in an industry that generates billions of dollars, you would think there would be more scrutiny to these COAs and there's not," Keteyian said. "If you're at home buying one of these things on the Internet and you're not checking out where these signature and these authenticators are coming from, you're really in a buyer-beware kind of situation."

Who Is Watching The Watchmen?

I have received a tremendous response to my article, Who is Watching The Watchmen?, which ran in The Pen & Quill. In short, my article investigates a number of controversial issues surrounding third-party authenticator, PSA/DNA.

Yesterday I was interviewed by a writer from Barrons Magazine regarding my article and the matter of investing in autographs.

The writer promised to stay in touch and I will share his article when it becomes available.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jason Ewert Book Registry

Joseph "Comicwiz" has created an online registry of books known to have passed through Jason Ewert. The database contains, CGC Serial Number, images, sales information, etc.

Kudos to Comicwiz for this valuable tool. Please contact him directly if you have additions to the registry.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ewert Trimmed JIM: Deja Vu All Over Again

A CGC Unrestored NM 9.4 Journey Into Mystery featured in the most recent Heritage Auction has been identified as the same book that was previously a CGC NM- 9.2. Apparently, the top edge has been trimmed. The previous owner confirms that he sold it to Jason Ewert when it was still a 9.2 and prior to it being trimmed.

Read about it here.

It seems to me that Jason Ewert knew the grading system well enough to be able to identify flaws that could be a) micro-fixed to improve grade .2 or better, and b) shaved away undetected. From the few examples that have gone public, it seems as though books whose primary flaw was slight fuzz on the spine corner(s) were good candidates for trimming.

Since the book in question was graded after the last Ewert trimming scandal, CGC obviously still cannot detect this trimming with consistency or accuracy.

One shudders to think just how many of these trimmed books have passed through CGC undetected.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a happy and healthy New Year! Mine started off with a great collecting bang... a piece of Neal Adams original art.

This is a convention sketch on a comic backing board from the days of yore when Adams did con sketches. Granted, it is personalized to someone else, but it is a nice sized sketch and for the price I paid, I've been told that I stole this piece. I'm going to have to go a long way to top this collecting bargain in 2006...

Neal does Conan...

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Last Pick Up of 2005

This was my last pickup of 2005... Superman Gallery signed by noted Superman artists Neal Adams, Curt Swan, George Perez, Jim Steranko, Jerry Ordway and Dan Jurgens

It was signed as part of an official signing and sold on one of the Home Shopping Networks in the early 90s. It comes with a COA from a reputable memorabilia company from New Jersey. Obviously they didn't all sell, so some guy on ebay was selling the overstock for a $7.50 Buy-It-Now. The signatures are all certainly authentic. This is quite a deal and makes a nice display piece.

I really like it when I can combine my two hobbies of comics and autographs.

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