Eric Knowles Eric Knowles, Antiquarian

Comics

The British 'Comic' collectors take their subject very seriously especially the one who paid £20,350 for a No 1 edition of 'The Dandy', issued in 1937. According to comic Guru and expert Malcolm Phillips the price paid reflected its rarity and that it retained its free gift. 'The Express Whistler', a tinplate pan pipe. It was the first to surface with its original promotional gift that made it a must have for the collector of obvious means, remarked Malcolm.

So what about the dear old Beano that arrived on the comic scene a year after The Dandy in 1938. It also came with a freebie in the guise of a 'Whoopee Mask' and the fact that so few have survived accounts for the last example selling at auction for £6,800. Both The Dandy and The Beano were produced by D C Thomson of Dundee and the original artwork is always popular with collectors.

The top illustrators at Thomsons were Reg Carter and Dudley Watkins who gave us Lord Snooty and his pals - a 1955 piece of artwork selling recently for £1,000. The earliest comics are thought to date from about 1860 when 'Comic Cuts' made its first appearance. By the 1950s the great British comic was enjoying its heyday when Saturday mornings for Eric Knowles meant 'Topper', 'Beezer', 'Valiant' and more.

Having mentioned the big prices its as well to point out that most comics from the 1950s and 60s are worth about £2 each, if in good order. What is important to remember is that it is almost always the number 1 issue of any comic that sooner or later becomes a collectors item. Another deciding factor is condition with tears, stains and missing pages making most comics absolutely worthless.

The success of both The Dandy and The Beano resulted in the introduction of the more robust hardbound Annual. The First Dandy annual was issued for 1939 although printed in 1938, the number 1 Beano arriving in time for 1940 but printed in 1939. According to Malcolm Phillips an understanding of the above is crucial when considering that a No 1 Dandy has sold for £3,500 with the first Beano doing even better at £4,500.

Whilst on the subject of annuals probably the most sought after in relatively recent times has to be the 1973 'Brown Face' Rupert annual. Rumour has it that in 1972 the managing director and publisher of the annual, Express Newspapers, decided to give Rupert a brown complexion. Ruperts creator, Alfred Bestall, was to put it mildly against the idea although a handful of the 1973 brown face annuals survived, one having sold for £15,000. The white face version sells for £8.

As you might imagine the American comic marketplace produces the collectors prepared to spend 'Megabucks'. The 'Golden Age' of the US comic is 1936 - 1955 with the 'Silver Age' 1956 - 1969. Keen devotees include Mr Jonathan Ross, no less. The first 'Marvel Mystery Comic' of 1939 is purported to have changed hands for a staggering $350,000.

Superman published by DC (Detective Comics) made his entrance in 1938 whereas Spider-Man appeared courtesy of Marvel comics in 1962. Both No 1 issues are said to be valued at $100,000. So what about a tip for the future, well Malcolm Phillips suggests Japanese 'Manga' comics from the 1980s - pure escapism and high quality artwork. Finally talking British as far as 'yours truly' is concerned it never got better than 'The Eagle'. Clean copies are a snip at £5.

For further information Malcolm Phillips can be contacted at www.compalcomics.com

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