British comics art helps boost Heritage Auction sales record, first European auction date revealed

Super Spider-Man Issue 171 Cover Art by Dave Hunt
Super Spider-Man Issue 171 Cover Art by Dave Hunt

Numerous records set by Heritage AuctionsComics & Comic Art category in 2017 include total sales of $44.3 million (almost £32 million)  – the highest ever in the 16-year history of the category and a new standard for the second year in a row.

Gross sales surpassed 2016’s total sales of $42.95 million – and British comic collectibles were right up there with some of the high-priced items, so expect some more high prices for UK art and comics when, we can reveal, the company launches its European expansion with its first auction on this side of the Atlantic on 7th April 2018.

Heritage Auctions has reported that the department’s Weekly Internet Auctions cracked the $10 million plateau for the first time, bringing in a total of $10.8 million, an average of nearly $208,000 per week for the world’s leading comics and comic art auctioneer.

Departmental revenue records were not the only ones set in 2017. Robert Crumb R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat Cover Original Art (Ballantine, 1969) set a new world record for the most valuable piece of American comic art when it sold for $717,000 – nearly tripling its high pre-auction estimate – while Joshua Middleton’s NYX #3 cover and X-23 concept art (Marvel, 2004) established a new mark for the most valuable piece of 21st-century comic art when it hammered at $71,700.

Star Wars Weekly #1 - Pin-Up art by Tony DeZuniga
Star Wars Weekly #1 – Pin-Up art by Tony DeZuniga

British top selling items include Tom Palmer‘s original cover art for  Star Wars Weekly #26 (Marvel UK, 1978) which sold for $7,170.00, while a pin-up for Star Wars Weekly #1 by Tony DeZuniga sold for $19,717.50. 

Tom Palmer's original cover art for  Star Wars Weekly Issue 26
Tom Palmer’s original cover art for  Star Wars Weekly Issue 26

Original cover art by Dave Hunt for Super Spider-Man#171 (Marvel UK, 1976), a masterful recreation of the scene from John Romita Sr.’s cover for Amazing Spider-Man#122 sold for $16,730.00.

A UK edition of Amazing Fantasy#15 (Marvel, 1962) sold for $27,485.00 and a UK edition of Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel, 1961) sold for $20,315.00. A UK cover The Incredible Hulk #1 (Marvel, 1962) sold for $20,315.00.

The UK edition price is some way lower than the top lot sold during a 2017 weekly auction – a US Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel, 1962) which realized $35,850.

A rare British 1934 Mickey Mouse Hood Ornament
A rare British 1934 Mickey Mouse Hood Ornament

British media rarities commanding a high price at auction included a very early Mickey Mouse Vintage Hood Ornament, dated at around 1934, as Mickey has his famous slice-cut “Pie Eyes.” This is the second UK Mickey Mouse alone version.

The top animation art piece from 2017 was an iconic Kay Nielsen Concept Painting for the “Night on Bald Mountain” scene in Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940), which sold for $59,750.

“The last year has been the best in the history of our department,” Heritage Auctions Comics and Comic Art Operations Director Barry Sandoval commented. “We were able to offer a number Robert Crumb items in which collectors saw premium value, and our weekly internet auctions underscored the quantity of in-demand lots our consignors consistently sell through Heritage Auctions.”

Heritage Auctions weekly auctions have been a major boon to the company. The final total for the year of $10.8 represented a jump of  five per cent over the previous mark, which was established in 2016.

“Our average weekly auction has more than $200,000 worth of material, all sold without any reserves or minimum bids,” Sandoval said. “In addition to the Disney animation drawings and comic art we sell week in and week out, we’re proud to have a steady flow of key comics. In weekly auctions this year alone we have sold 22 Amazing Fantasy #15s, 26 Amazing Spider-Man #1s, 33 Incredible Hulk #181s and 27 New Mutants #98s … and there are plenty more in the pipeline.”

The most lucrative comic art lot sold in a 2017 weekly auction was John Buscema and Jim Mooney Amazing Spider-Man #76 The Lizard Original Art (Marvel, 1969), which brought $11,950.

Disney lots enjoyed significant success at the 2017 weekly auctions. Among the top offerings was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Grumpy Animation Drawing (Walt Disney, 1937), which sold for $1,434.

A significant contributor to the Comics Department’s 2017 success was the Ethan Roberts collection of comic art, a compilation of more than 1,000 lots that have yielded sales totalling more than $2 million … so far. Among the top lots Roberts sold through Heritage Auctions in 2017 were Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Original Art dated 10-27-35 (King Features Syndicate, 1935), for $131,450; Alex Raymond Flash Gordon with Jungle Jim Topper Sunday Comic Strip Original Art dated 11-12-39 Group of 2 (King Features Syndicate, 1939) for $95,6000; Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man #34 Story Page 16 Original Art (Marvel, 1966) for $71,700; and Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing #6 Cover Original Art (DC, 1973) for $58,555.

First Heritage Auctions Europe auction date revealed

I’m sure there will be plenty more British comics goodies in Heritage Auctions first European Comics & Comic Art auction , which will take place on 7th April 2017.

“We have leads on some momentous pieces to launch our Euro expansion,” a Heritage Auctions spokesperson told downthetubes. The physical location has not yet been announced.

The company’s Euroean expansion was announced last year, with Bernard Mahé and Eric Verhoest joining Heritage Auctions Europe as Consulting Specialists last October to launch the company’s European Comic Books and Original Comic Art category, including building and conducting Heritage’s first and subsequent auctions of European comic art.

“We are all thrilled to welcome Eric and Bernard to our team,” announced Jacco Scheper, Managing Director. “These two renowned experts and gallery owners will contribute their vast knowledge and client base, as well as their retinue of represented artists, to Heritage’s efforts, to the great benefit of our clients.”

Heritage has been expanding its European presence, with the recent acquisition of MPO (now Heritage Auctions Europe) in the Netherlands as well as their newly announced London acquisition of London Coin Galleries (now Heritage Auctions UK).

“Bernard and I sincerely believe that the combination of Heritage’s award-winning, state-of-the-art IT platform and international bidder base, along with our research capabilities and clientele, will quickly create the world’s most trusted venue for serious owners of valuable European Comic Book Artworks,” Verhoest said.

With over one million registered online bidder-members from 192 different countries, it is easy to understand how Heritage achieved $43 million dollars in US Comic Book and Comic Art sales in 2016, far surpassing all other auction concerns combined. On average, HA.com receives more than 44,000 visits every day. In 2016, the site recorded 16.5 million visits, the most traffic of any auction house in the world.

Heritage also sells more online across all categories than Christie’s and Sotheby’s combined, with $348.5 million in online 2016 revenues (41 percent of its total sales), as confirmed by Hiscox, Artsy, Art Market Report and numerous other sources.

Mahé, Verhoest and their team are very eager to meet with collectors in Europe to discuss collections and the possibility of consignment.

• Check out: HA.com/Facebook and HA.com/Twitter

• If you’re interested in discussing items for the first Heritage Auctions European auction, both North American collectors of European Comic Books and Comic Art are invited to contact Mahé at BernardM@HA.com or 33  6 52 69 08 56 and Verhoest at EricV@HA.com or 32 475 26 94 08. Their American counterparts, Joe and Nadia Mannarino, may be reached at 214-409-1921 or JoeM@HA.com and NadiaM@HA.com

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as a freelance editor, as Creative Consultant on the new Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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