Comics, Pulps, and Paperbacks: Why such a discrepancy in values?
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I've recently been looking more into vintage paperback books. Some of the cover art and text blurbs are incredibly risque, and it fascinates me to consider what it must've been like to peruse the stands of the local newsstand considering the covers that adorned the comics, pulps, and paperbacks of the time.

 

From what little I know about the era, there was a glut of product from each of these types of publications. However, based on the values I've seen in my limited research, it seems that paperbacks have never attained the same level of collectibility of comics and pulps. Heck, it seems that pulps aren't nearly as sought after as the comics, either.

 

Can anyone enlighten me as to why that might be? I know there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, why is it that, in terms of value and apparent interest, it's: comics > pulps > paperbacks? I can understand why super hero comics, which are still in the public eye, have maintained their dominance, but are there any clear reasons why pulps and paperbacks aren't as sought after?

 

 

I have been actively collecting Comics, Paperbacks, Crime and Girly Magazines for the past 20 years and agree that the prices and demand for Paperbacks and Pulps compared to Comics seems quite low.

 

That being said, I believe there are several key drivers:

 

1) Lack of Information and Visibility - Before the Internet and Gerber's Photo-Journal Guides, you could pick up incredible pre-code horror and good girl art books at great prices. Paperbacks frankly lack enough visibility. There is confusion about first prints, reprints, different titles and publishers, and of course, value. A price guide by itself is not enough to move the needle.

 

2) Lower Collecting Interest - since paperbacks and pulps are not published today, they lack the collectability of still published comics and there is no movie, TV, or other media x-over appeal. It is hard to collect random paperbacks as opposed to saying I want to collect the first 100 issues of X-men.

 

3) Readability - People like to read comics, plain and simple. Reading paperbacks and pulps takes a lot more time and effort. And without familiar storylines and characters, it can be a lot less interesting.

 

4) "Sponsorship" - we need the Heritage Auction houses and the Nick Cages of the world to bring more attention and demand to raise the bar on paperbacks (less so for pulps). Action 1 would not be a $2M book without this so called sponsorship.

 

On a final note, I have seen Pulps begin to close the gap. Some of the sales prices on 6th Street Pulps have been very high.

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I believe there are several key drivers:

 

1) Lack of Information and Visibility - Before the Internet and Gerber's Photo-Journal Guides, you could pick up incredible pre-code horror and good girl art books at great prices. Paperbacks frankly lack enough visibility. There is confusion about first prints, reprints, different titles and publishers, and of course, value. A price guide by itself is not enough to move the needle.

 

2) Lower Collecting Interest - since paperbacks and pulps are not published today, they lack the collectability of still published comics and there is no movie, TV, or other media x-over appeal. It is hard to collect random paperbacks as opposed to saying I want to collect the first 100 issues of X-men.

 

3) Readability - People like to read comics, plain and simple. Reading paperbacks and pulps takes a lot more time and effort. And without familiar storylines and characters, it can be a lot less interesting.

 

4) "Sponsorship" - we need the Heritage Auction houses and the Nick Cages of the world to bring more attention and demand to raise the bar on paperbacks (less so for pulps). Action 1 would not be a $2M book without this so called sponsorship.

 

Excellent, well-thought-out list. I would add this:

 

5) Childhood nostalgia. Many comic collectors link their enjoyment of comics to their happy days reading and maybe even collecting comics as children and teenagers. Unless a kid was reading books like "Junkie" and "Hot Dames on Cold Slabs" when he was 11, it's unlikely there is any childhood-nostalgia connection to vintage paperbacks.

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I say nothing but - some good ones!

For the record, those pictures aren't from my collection. I wish they were (though I do have dozens of the books shown). I have established folders of hundreds of paperback images so I can do research and narrow down my wantlist. I wish I did have titles like "Reform School Girl" and "Junkie," but I probably never will as those top many high-rolling collectors' wantlists.

 

There really ought to be a Gerber journal or well-programmed database (ala Grand Comics Database) for vintage paperbacks. I am constantly discovering new titles/covers I'd never seen before.

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2) Lower Collecting Interest - since paperbacks and pulps are not published today, they lack the collectability of still published comics and there is no movie, TV, or other media x-over appeal. It is hard to collect random paperbacks as opposed to saying I want to collect the first 100 issues of X-men.

 

3) Readability - People like to read comics, plain and simple. Reading paperbacks and pulps takes a lot more time and effort. And without familiar storylines and characters, it can be a lot less interesting.

 

In general your comments apply to pulps, but not paperbacks. Paperbacks are still being published (just check out your local Barnes & Noble). In fact, there are far far more potential paperbacks to be collected out there then there will ever be of comic books.

 

Paperbacks have plenty of familiar characters... first, every famous hardback has also had a paperback edition, and many characters were created for paperbacks originally.

 

Like Dark Shadows? There are a couple of dozen paperback originals out there. Star Trek? -- hundreds of paperbacks. Same with Star Wars. Or James Bond. Or Doc Savage. Or Tarzan. Travis McGee started in the paperbacks. Louis L'Amour's 1st books were paperback originals. Mickey Spillane. All of Philip K. 's early works were paperback originals. As were many from Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jim Thompson, Harry Whittington, Dean Koontz, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Jack Vance, and on and on.

 

Nearly every major movie ever based on a book (which is most of them) has a paperback edition out there somewhere.

 

The public is well aware of paperbacks... they just aren't aware of them as something collectible. Part of that is just the way things are marketed. Marvel makes sure that when you watch "Iron Man" you know it is a Marvel product. When they make (and re-make) "The Killer Inside Me", there's no financial motive to play up it's based on a 1950s Lion paperback.

 

Newspapers and magazines make Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, and John Romita familiar names.

 

We don't hear much about the giants in paperback art -- Rudolph Belarski, Robert Bonfils, James Avati, Robert Stanley, Rafael DeSoto, George Gross, Robert Maguire, Lou Marchetti, Robert McGinnis, Barye Phillips, etc., etc. (The exceptions that have moved into mainstream recognition are Frank Frazetta and Jeff Jones).

 

Still... who knows? For all of the fuss about comic books, they are still very much a niche market... sold to about 1% of the population and available only in comic shops or on line. Paperbacks are still in every K-Mart, pharmacy, grocery store and Wal-Mart (for now... though the format is probably going to give way to the larger trade softbound).

 

AIt will all depend on a breakout auction sale or two. If a paperback sells for $100,000, or the news makes a big deal out of someone discovering a collector horde hidden in their walls, than the floodgates may open. Otherwise... probably not.

 

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Collecting Pulps can be more challenging for sure. Prices also range wildly on hard to find books.

 

Its sometimes years before I see the pulp/magazine I want for sale. Then when the book does up for sale, with my luck the prices go wild on the great covers I want.

I've gotten lucky on a few, but its kept the amount of books I'm buying very low.

 

I think the Good girl/Weird menace stuff has been doing rather well lately, with a few high profile finds sparking new interest.

 

This recent one is from the Southern States collection. The magazine is also much bigger than a golden age book and thinner making it harder to store.

 

ss16-003_zpsc1bf9225.jpg

 

 

This one took me years to find. Such a crazy cover!

 

TrueGangster.jpg

Edited by Rip
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Excellent, well-thought-out list. I would add this:

 

5) Childhood nostalgia. Many comic collectors link their enjoyment of comics to their happy days reading and maybe even collecting comics as children and teenagers. Unless a kid was reading books like "Junkie" and "Hot Dames on Cold Slabs" when he was 11, it's unlikely there is any childhood-nostalgia connection to vintage paperbacks.

 

I dunno--

I don't think I ever got as excited over any comic book as I did when I turned the drug store spinner rack around to find this item staring at me... I still recall the adrenaline rush.

 

 

ba50c18accabd1db6c4a99132e870f75.jpg

 

 

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Excellent, well-thought-out list. I would add this:

 

5) Childhood nostalgia. Many comic collectors link their enjoyment of comics to their happy days reading and maybe even collecting comics as children and teenagers. Unless a kid was reading books like "Junkie" and "Hot Dames on Cold Slabs" when he was 11, it's unlikely there is any childhood-nostalgia connection to vintage paperbacks.

 

I dunno--

I don't think I ever got as excited over any comic book as I did when I turned the drug store spinner rack around to find this item staring at me... I still recall the adrenaline rush.

 

 

ba50c18accabd1db6c4a99132e870f75.jpg

 

 

The first book I ever purchased was WARLORD OF MARS, the Ballantine version with a cover by Whelan. I still remember eagerly searching out books with cool cover art (although this was the 1980s, and wouldn't be considered vintage).

 

So I for one feel that there can be a childhood connection with books, just as easily as they come with comics.

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was WARLORD OF MARS, the Ballantine version with a cover by Whelan. I still remember eagerly searching out books with cool cover art (although this was the 1980s, and wouldn't be considered vintage).

 

True... but if paperbacks were to be publicly seen as potential collectibles, as with comics, certain "bronze age" and even "modern" books would become hot and valuable as well, especially in near-mint grade.

 

Edited by Bookery
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was WARLORD OF MARS, the Ballantine version with a cover by Whelan. I still remember eagerly searching out books with cool cover art (although this was the 1980s, and wouldn't be considered vintage).

 

True... but if paperbacks were to be publicly seen as potential collectibles, as with comics, certain "bronze age" and even "modern" books would become hot and valuable as well, especially in near-mint grade.

 

It's a big IF because so many things have to align perfectly to generate market growth (collector enthusiasm). These are my observations as a long-time collector of pulps, digests and art as well as comics. I'm sure that others have different perceptions that are just as relevant, but here is how I view the long-term market potential for PB books...

 

Pros:

 

1. Size (see #7 below)

2. Cover art & styles (paintings to photographic, realist to abstract)

3. Variety (every genre imaginable)

4. History & crossover (pulps & digests)

5. Noteworthy authors & artists (with rarities & early printings driving values)

6. Rare examples (first editions, early printings, etc.)

7. Holdering potential (grading)

 

Cons:

 

1. Lack of media interest in the format (few direct tie-ins)

2. Limited interior art (lack of storyboard iconography as with comics & film)

3. Number of reprints/reissues of PBs may diminish appeal to collectors seeking focus

4. Lack of event identification (pre-code, post-code, gold, silver, bronze, etc.)

5. No well-established (accepted) CGC style grading system for paperbacks

6. Less of a nostalgic experience to collectors than comics & pulps

7. Perception that PBs are less desirable than HC editions or earlier larger formatted pulps

8. Reading non-illustrated books seems more like a personal experience than a shared experience

 

While not all of the CONS listed above are correctable, many can be alleviated to a greater or lesser degree. As I see it, the more collector friendly the PB market becomes the better for long term growth potential. hm

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was WARLORD OF MARS, the Ballantine version with a cover by Whelan. I still remember eagerly searching out books with cool cover art (although this was the 1980s, and wouldn't be considered vintage).

 

True... but if paperbacks were to be publicly seen as potential collectibles, as with comics, certain "bronze age" and even "modern" books would become hot and valuable as well, especially in near-mint grade.

 

It's a big IF because so many things have to align perfectly to generate market growth (collector enthusiasm). These are my observations as a long-time collector of pulps, digests and art as well as comics. I'm sure that others have different perceptions that are just as relevant, but here is how I view the long-term market potential for PB books...

 

Pros:

 

1. Size (see #7 below)

2. Cover art & styles (paintings to photographic, realist to abstract)

3. Variety (every genre imaginable)

4. History & crossover (pulps & digests)

5. Noteworthy authors & artists (with rarities & early printings driving values)

6. Rare examples (first editions, early printings, etc.)

7. Holdering potential (grading)

 

Cons:

 

1. Lack of media interest in the format (few direct tie-ins)

2. Limited interior art (lack of storyboard iconography as with comics & film)

3. Number of reprints/reissues of PBs may diminish appeal to collectors seeking focus

4. Lack of event identification (pre-code, post-code, gold, silver, bronze, etc.)

5. No well-established (accepted) CGC style grading system for paperbacks

6. Less of a nostalgic experience to collectors than comics & pulps

7. Perception that PBs are less desirable than HC editions or earlier larger formatted pulps

8. Reading non-illustrated books seems more like a personal experience than a shared experience

 

While not all of the CONS listed above are correctable, many can be alleviated to a greater or lesser degree. As I see it, the more collector friendly the PB market becomes the better for long term growth potential. hm

 

I agree with your pros, and most of your cons. I don't think #4 is an issue... in fact, it will irritate many here, but these designations are silly in comics, and they would be silly anywhere else. Rare book collecting has been going on for 500 years, and they don't divide the eras with pretty non-sensical appellations. There's no reason why comics shouldn't have been designated as from the 30s, or 40s, or 60s, or WW2-era, or any other more descriptively apt term. Silver or golden-age means nothing to the uninitiated.

 

I think #7 was definitely propageted by the rare book collectors... to many of them a paperback was never a "real" book, and they did (and still do) often pay premiums for a "1st hardback" edition that came out many years after the paperback original.

 

#8 was probably a problem once, but I think paperback collecting is already focusing more on cover art than the reading material anyway... a lot of paperback collectors have no intention of reading any of them, or if they do, will seek out a later cheap edition for reading.

 

#3 has definitely been a problem, not because there are reprints, but because many people have no idea what edition their copy is. My book, should it ever come to fruition, will completely remedy this. But it's a long way off, if ever.

 

An additional Con:

 

Many paperbacks, especially by popular authors, had such huge print runs it makes the odds of them becoming valuable unlikely. Except for the Bachman books, Stephen Kings are out there by the millions. Likewise with Pattersons, etc. But the same is true of 80s and 90s comics that have no premium value as well.

 

An additional Pro:

 

Paperbacks are relatively fragile, so high-grade copies of rarer items could escalate quickly in value were they to catch on. Yet they aren't as fragile as pulps, so it's not like high grades are virtually impossible either.

 

More information on collecting them will be essential, however. There are actually quite a few books on the market that showcase paperback covers now... more than there are similar comics books, for that matter! But there is nothing out there that explains which books should have their original lamination, which books are likely never to be found with white pages, which early Avons are originals vs. reprints, and on and on. A proper grading company would help, but would have to be familiar with all of this. I work with vintage paperbacks all the time, and still have plenty to learn in these areas.

 

 

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Reno-

 

you've asked the right question- I couldn't imagine collecting PBs without reading some, and my collection is author-based to a large extent. I'll prepare some author comments - will take a while...

 

Pat

 

img616.jpg

 

I managed to delete my other post instead of editing it, but yes, I'd very much like to know more about which authors supplied the best reads. Buying based on the cover is certainly fun, but to some degree, finding a great author is even more satisfying.

 

Then again, a Woolrich with a great cover can't be beat. (thumbs u

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Bookery (sorry, I don't know your real name), I like your statements above. One thing I've noticed is that a book collector strives to have the first state of a book. So if that's a hardcover, that collector wants that hardcover. If it's an old pulp magazine later collected in hardcover, and then later in a paperback, well, then the pulp is the prize. And that makes sense to me.

 

However, today anyway, it's pretty difficult to find first prints of paperback originals of recent books. As you've said, they seem to be discarded easier than hardcovers, and there seems to be that sense that paperbacks are more disposable. But because of that, at least for me to some degree, finding these first prints of PBOs is more of a challenge and in the end more rewarding.

 

For example, I recently went looking for one of Cherie Priest's steampunk books, which weren't published in hardcover. Finding someone who lists it online as a first print, or finding anyone who actually cares enough to have kept it in mint condition, is nearly impossible because of the "it's not a hardcover so who cares" mentality.

 

Of course, this is a modern book and might have no worth being mentioned here... :tonofbricks:

 

 

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