Comics, Pulps, and Paperbacks: Why such a discrepancy in values?
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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.

 

Actually, you would think that would be true, but right now in terms of value anyway, the 1st hardback usually trumps everything. Most famous science-fiction stories and novels started out in the pulps, or later, in digests. Yet the first hardback printings of these tales... sometimes coming years later... are often far more valuable.

 

Of course, some of that has to do with print runs. A pulp might have had a 100,000+ copy print run, whereas a 1st edition hardback... especially if it's from a specialty house like Arkham or Gnome, might have a print run of 1000 to 5000 copies.

 

But mostly it's just a traditional (and somewhat elitist) thing... book people have always promoted the value of the book... and that means a hardback, with a dust-jacket if it came with one. My father is a book collector, and owns thousands of 1st editions. But he won't own, or even read, a paperback. He would love to own any Raymond Chandler 1st edition, but probably wouldn't care about the previous pulp appearances. This is simply the way it's always been. It goes back to the days, now sadly dying out, where it was prestigious to have a home library... and in most cases these book lovers did indeed read what they collected. Pulps and paperbacks really didn't meld well with stately leather-bound books or literary first editions, and would look awkward on the shelves beside them.

 

Now, at least in America, reading, or at least physical book reading, is becoming so rare that you really can't even buy any decent pre-made bookshelves anymore. The bookshelves that are manufactured are designed to hold dishes and little ceramic knick-knacks... not weighty volumes.

 

A few years ago I went to one of those open houses where they showcase brand new million-dollar homes (and that's million-dollar in Ohio... think 4-5 million in more upscale cities). These places were massive... up to 20,000 sq.ft., had all the extras... walkaround decks, whirlpools, media rooms with 80" televisions, high-tech kitchens, glass indoor elevators... and almost no bookshelves, save for maybe one or two shelves behind a massive oak desk in an office, usually holding photos or, yep, ceramic knick-knacks.

 

Then visit mansions of 50 or 100 years ago... whole rooms devoted to libraries... sometimes 2-story libraries with rolling ladders or circular staircases.

 

Those places were designed for books with a capital "B"... to which magazines (pulps) and paperbacks did not belong. And to be fair, to begin with, paperbacks were indeed just cheap reprint editions of hardbacks. There wasn't much in the way of original paperback publishings until the '50s... and soon, some houses like Gold Medal, began to even specialize in them.

 

 

 

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Here is an idea of the prevailing attitude toward paperbacks up at least through the 1960s. The Wikipedia entry on Donald A. Wollheim (Ace paperbacks editor and later founder of DAW books) includes this story from Wollheim's daughter...

 

"He (Wollheim) called (J.R.R.) Tolkien in 1964 and asked if he could publish Lord of the Rings as Ace paperbacks. Tolkien said he would never allow Lord of the Rings, his great work, to appear in 'so degenerate a form’ as the paperback book. Don was one of the fathers of the entire paperback industry. He'd spearheaded the Ace line, he was the originating editor-in-chief of the Avon paperback list in 1945, and I think he was hurt and took it personally. He did a little research and discovered a loophole in the copyright. Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s American hardcover publisher, had neglected to protect the work in the United States. So, incensed by Tolkien’s response, he realized that he could legally publish the trilogy and did. This brash act (which ultimately benefited his primary competitors as well as Tolkien) was really the Big Bang that founded the modern fantasy field, and only someone like my father could have done that. He paid Tolkien, and he was responsible for making not only Tolkien extremely wealthy but Ballantine Books as well. And if he hadn’t done it, who knows when — or if — those books would ever have been published in paperback."

 

 

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Here is an idea of the prevailing attitude toward paperbacks up at least through the 1960s. The Wikipedia entry on Donald A. Wollheim (Ace paperbacks editor and later founder of DAW books) includes this story from Wollheim's daughter...

 

"He (Wollheim) called (J.R.R.) Tolkien in 1964 and asked if he could publish Lord of the Rings as Ace paperbacks. Tolkien said he would never allow Lord of the Rings, his great work, to appear in 'so degenerate a form’ as the paperback book. Don was one of the fathers of the entire paperback industry. He'd spearheaded the Ace line, he was the originating editor-in-chief of the Avon paperback list in 1945, and I think he was hurt and took it personally. He did a little research and discovered a loophole in the copyright. Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s American hardcover publisher, had neglected to protect the work in the United States. So, incensed by Tolkien’s response, he realized that he could legally publish the trilogy and did. This brash act (which ultimately benefited his primary competitors as well as Tolkien) was really the Big Bang that founded the modern fantasy field, and only someone like my father could have done that. He paid Tolkien, and he was responsible for making not only Tolkien extremely wealthy but Ballantine Books as well. And if he hadn’t done it, who knows when — or if — those books would ever have been published in paperback."

 

 

I was a kid at the time, but I dimly remember this being a big deal, with sic-fi/fantasy fans organizing a boycott of Ace. I may be misremembering, but wasn't Ace, in fact, not paying Tolkien a royalty on these unauthorized editions? Perhaps an agreement was reached later, or maybe I have the story wrong. Wouldn't be the first time! :D

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Then visit mansions of 50 or 100 years ago... whole rooms devoted to libraries... sometimes 2-story libraries with rolling ladders or circular staircases.

 

Just took the girls to the Chateau de Chantilly and you could find me salivating in the library ... -

 

ChantillyLibrary-2_zps5a1be282.jpg

 

ChantillyLibrary-1_zpsef710842.jpg

 

The above being the "small one" :o

 

Here's the other one -

 

ChantillyLibraryBIGONE_zpsc599928f.jpg

 

Both date from the 1870's and 1880's respectively.

 

Love the conversation guys :thumbsup:

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This was posted in December on PulpMags. Dated 1943 -

1943Paperbackshelf-Small_zps46bdb18b.jpg

 

Here are the details you want. I recommend A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler btw. Great book. Was also adapted as a movie. Caught the tail end of that on AMC about last year or so. Looked very faithful to the novel.

1943Paperbackshelf-Detail_zps32da69f9.jpg

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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.

 

So I let my own personal preferences and biases color my comments. Of course when looking at the overall paperback market, all comments above are correct. I was thinking about the fairly narrow range of collectible paperbacks and digests from the 1950s with their lurid good girl, drug-related, and wild covers. The Archers with the amazing Heade covers or the unbelievable Falcons, Venus, Avon, Beacon, etc... like Junkie, Girls Out of Hell, Helen of Troy, etc...

 

Sorry for not being clearer. On a separate note, I will try posting some of my favorite digests and paperback covers from my collection in the coming days.

 

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Hi,

 

Careful about the sales of 6th street books, as that is mainly with Spicy's. The other thing to watch is the fact that the one Spicy that sold for $5600 was re-listed by six street books and just sold for around $800.

 

Spicy's have always been great sellers, but believe it or not, their market has been higher and hotter in the past decade, and other than in this single owner collection which has gathered hype, the Spicy sales are not where they once were.

 

The reason that these Spicy's have sold so well is that it was a single owner collection and nearly a complete Spicy collection. One guy re-listed a couple of sixth street books on his own after purchasing some, and realized only half the value that he originally paid. Nevertheless, the collection is great, and the books are very nice, and the dealer selling them is very forthright and honest.

 

I have been following pulps the pulp market very carefully, and have been buying and selling high end pulps and collections over carefully over the past 15 years. Right now the market is in a slump, and other than the Ultra rare issues, high grade early hero titles (first or second year if the title), Spicys, and some Weird tales, pulp prices are much lower than they were six to ten years ago. I have an ultra high grade Shadow run, and I can tell you that the prices on hero pulps are down at least 50% from what they were from 2000-2008.

 

 

The pulps certainly have room to grow, but a number of factors inhibit this.

 

1). Availability, especially in grade

 

2). An aging collector base that grew up on the pulps and the pulp Hero's.

 

3). In order to create a frenzy, there has to be a fervour created, and to do that you need continuous sales, especially of the rare issues and high grade issues and there just is not enough supply to create this.

 

4) no slabbing (thank goodness) to create the investor market. You could slab the 1940's pulps, but not the 20's and 30's pulps with the large overhangs, without damaging the overhangs themselves.

 

5). The heavy hitters in the market, especially the silver age, have not grown up on the pulps, and maybe other than the Shadow, this generation and especially the previous generation have no affiation with the characters or pulps themselves.

 

6). Pulp collectors tend to collect for authors, and stories etc., and in general are not as demanding for the grade, therefore less competition.

 

7). A number of comic dealers jumped on board and then quickly got off the pulp bandwagon around 2000-2005, and a number of the heavy hitters that once collected the pulps (especially hero) are no longer collecting. I bought out 7 hard core Shadow collectors that would pay high prices, and now there are less collectors, and less demand.

 

8). Only a handful of all pulp collectors will spend some serious cash. Frank Robinson's lifetime collection of high grade pulps sold primarily to two people, with one person buying nearly 75% of the entire collection.

 

9). There have not been a string if successful movies created from pulp characters, just a couple of flops.

 

Dwight

 

 

Edited by detective35DF
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Hi,

 

Careful about the sales of 6th street books, as that is mainly with Spicy's. The other thing to watch is the fact that the one Spicy that sold for $5600 was re-listed by six street books and just sold for around $800.

 

Spicy's have always been great sellers, but believe it or not, their market has been higher and hotter in the past decade, and other than in this single owner collection which has gathered hype, the Spicy sales are not where they once were.

 

The reason that these Spicy's have sold so well is that it was a single owner collection and nearly a complete Spicy collection. One guy re-listed a couple of sixth street books on his own after purchasing some, and realized only half the value that he originally paid. Nevertheless, the collection is great, and the books are very nice, and the dealer selling them is very forthright and honest.

 

I have been following pulps the pulp market very carefully, and have been buying and selling high end pulps and collections over carefully over the past 15 years. Right now the market is in a slump, and other than the Ultra rare issues, high grade early hero titles (first or second year if the title), Spicys, and some Weird tales, pulp prices are much lower than they were six to ten years ago. I have an ultra high grade Shadow run, and I can tell you that the prices on hero pulps are down at least 50% from what they were from 2000-2008.

 

 

The pulps certainly have room to grow, but a number of factors inhibit this.

 

1). Availability, especially in grade

 

2). An aging collector base that grew up on the pulps and the pulp Hero's.

 

3). In order to create a frenzy, there has to be a fervour created, and to do that you need continuous sales, especially of the rare issues and high grade issues and there just is not enough supply to create this.

 

4) no slabbing (thank goodness) to create the investor market. You could slab the 1940's pulps, but not the 20's and 30's pulps with the large overhangs, without damaging the overhangs themselves.

 

5). The heavy hitters in the market, especially the silver age, have not grown up on the pulps, and maybe other than the Shadow, this generation and especially the previous generation have no affiation with the characters or pulps themselves.

 

6). Pulp collectors tend to collect for authors, and stories etc., and in general are not as demanding for the grade, therefore less competition.

 

7). A number of comic dealers jumped on board and then quickly got off the pulp bandwagon around 2000-2005, and a number of the heavy hitters that once collected the pulps (especially hero) are no longer collecting. I bought out 7 hard core Shadow collectors that would pay high prices, and now there are less collectors, and less demand.

 

8). Only a handful of all pulp collectors will spend some serious cash. Frank Robinson's lifetime collection of high grade pulps sold primarily to two people, with one person buying nearly 75% of the entire collection.

 

9). There have not been a string if successful movies created from pulp characters, just a couple of flops.

 

Dwight

 

 

Excellent post. :applause:

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All excellent and accurate points, Dwight.

 

In fact, one of the difficulties in judging pulp prices on better items is that whenever you see a record price paid for a high-grade pulp, there's a pretty good chance it was sold to one of maybe a half-dozen prominent high-end collectors. Once these folks have their copies, remaining books that turn up may sell for a fraction of the last price.

 

Of course, it's not much different in comics. There are others here that would know better than I, but I suspect the really top prices paid for big comics at auction generally end up in the hands of maybe only a couple of dozen different collectors, with scattered exceptions.

 

That is indeed one of the dangers for long-term investors (collectors generally won't care)... and that is that high-prices and GPA averages on big high-grade books... whether it's pulps, comics, or paperbacks, are often driven by only a small number of people. If those people complete their runs, or get out of collecting, prices can be subject to radical shifts.

 

 

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I was a kid at the time, but I dimly remember this being a big deal, with sic-fi/fantasy fans organizing a boycott of Ace. I may be misremembering, but wasn't Ace, in fact, not paying Tolkien a royalty on these unauthorized editions? Perhaps an agreement was reached later, or maybe I have the story wrong. Wouldn't be the first time! :D

 

I don't remember all of the specifics either, but I'm guessing Tolkien didn't get paid by Ace until the court ordered them to do so, which came about some years later. Wollheim was probably accurate in that the copyright had not been properly secured... but the court ruled against Ace anyway. And by that time Ace had made lots of money and publicity off of the matter, and likely still came out ahead.

 

Frustrated that he couldn't keep his books out of that disgusting paperback format, Tolkien relented and sold the authorized rights to Ballantine, who made a fortune off of endless reprintings. Of course, Tolkien and his estate made a fortune as well... something that would likely never have happened if the books remained in hardback only, and likely out of print for long periods of time.

 

I'm a bit surprised about Tolkien's initial attitude, however, and as an Ivory Tower type professor, I'm guessing he didn't really understand much about affordable mass-market paperback books. He felt they were beneath him, which means he must have considered himself at a loftier level than the likes of John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, and just about every Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner up to that time!

 

 

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Hi,

 

Careful about the sales of 6th street books, as that is mainly with Spicy's. The other thing to watch is the fact that the one Spicy that sold for $5600 was re-listed by six street books and just sold for around $800.

 

Spicy's have always been great sellers, but believe it or not, their market has been higher and hotter in the past decade, and other than in this single owner collection which has gathered hype, the Spicy sales are not where they once were.

 

The reason that these Spicy's have sold so well is that it was a single owner collection and nearly a complete Spicy collection. One guy re-listed a couple of sixth street books on his own after purchasing some, and realized only half the value that he originally paid. Nevertheless, the collection is great, and the books are very nice, and the dealer selling them is very forthright and honest.

 

I have been following pulps the pulp market very carefully, and have been buying and selling high end pulps and collections over carefully over the past 15 years. Right now the market is in a slump, and other than the Ultra rare issues, high grade early hero titles (first or second year if the title), Spicys, and some Weird tales, pulp prices are much lower than they were six to ten years ago. I have an ultra high grade Shadow run, and I can tell you that the prices on hero pulps are down at least 50% from what they were from 2000-2008.

 

 

The pulps certainly have room to grow, but a number of factors inhibit this.

 

1). Availability, especially in grade

 

2). An aging collector base that grew up on the pulps and the pulp Hero's.

 

3). In order to create a frenzy, there has to be a fervour created, and to do that you need continuous sales, especially of the rare issues and high grade issues and there just is not enough supply to create this.

 

4) no slabbing (thank goodness) to create the investor market. You could slab the 1940's pulps, but not the 20's and 30's pulps with the large overhangs, without damaging the overhangs themselves.

 

5). The heavy hitters in the market, especially the silver age, have not grown up on the pulps, and maybe other than the Shadow, this generation and especially the previous generation have no affiation with the characters or pulps themselves.

 

6). Pulp collectors tend to collect for authors, and stories etc., and in general are not as demanding for the grade, therefore less competition.

 

7). A number of comic dealers jumped on board and then quickly got off the pulp bandwagon around 2000-2005, and a number of the heavy hitters that once collected the pulps (especially hero) are no longer collecting. I bought out 7 hard core Shadow collectors that would pay high prices, and now there are less collectors, and less demand.

 

8). Only a handful of all pulp collectors will spend some serious cash. Frank Robinson's lifetime collection of high grade pulps sold primarily to two people, with one person buying nearly 75% of the entire collection.

 

9). There have not been a string if successful movies created from pulp characters, just a couple of flops.

 

Dwight

 

 

Really interesting about the Sixth Street Pulps being resold at a loss. You make some great points and I only collect random pulps so I have minimal knowledge of the market.

 

I do think that the Sixth Street Collection has brought greater overall awareness to the Pulp and Paperback markets and I would strongly suspect that some comic book collectors crossed over and bid on some of the Spicys with the lurid covers.

 

 

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