Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

University of South Carolina Receives a Gift of Over 180,000 Comics

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The Avengers #1 (from the University of South Carolina website).

Remember when your mother said you would never learn anything by reading comic books? The folks at the University of South Carolina don't. When they heard a collector from Ohio had an enormous collection of comic books and related material he wanted to donate to a good home, they jumped at the opportunity. It has since made it to the the university's library, hundreds of boxes weighing 40,000 pounds, requiring two 26-foot long truckloads to haul.

 

The collection contains an estimated 180,000-plus items. No one knows for sure. It's all in boxes which will take years to sort. It includes around 143,000 unique comics, 20,000 magazines, 15,000 paperbacks, and 5,000 pulp books. The collector was Gary Lee Watson of Columbus, and he obviously dedicated much of his life to building this collection. Indeed, if he purchased one item every day, he would have to be 501 years old. He is not. He is only 69, and has been collecting since he was eight. So, it means he has been collecting, on average, a little over eight items a day for the past 61 years. One might even go so far to say he was a bit obsessive with his collecting. The University of South Carolina does not mind.

 

The collection includes comics through the entire time spectrum of their existence. They go from the Platinum Age (1897-1938) when comic books often were compilations of newspaper strips, to the Golden Age (1938-1950) when many superheroes were born, through the Silver Age, Bronze Age, and Modern Age. Comic books evidently have their own archaeology. Among the comics in the collection are the Avengers #1, Star Trek #1, and the Brave and the Bold #28, featuring the first appearance of the Justice League. While all your favorite superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, etc., are to be found, there are also some early characters such as Mutt and Jeff from the beginning of the twentieth century. Those were the days when comics were actually comical. Undoubtedly, there are many as yet unidentified titles hidden away in all of those boxes.

 

An estimated value has been placed on the collection of $2.5 million. That must be a bit of guesswork since what exactly is there will take time to sort out. Mr. Watson, naturally enough, has no idea how much he spent on acquiring it all over the years. Perhaps the better question than "how much?" is "why?"

 

Associate Dean for Special Collections at the South Carolina University Libraries Elizabeth Sudduth is quoted on the university's website as saying, "This is a new direction for us, but this is precisely what special collections are really all about." She also described it as "a phenomenal, transformational gift." That it is, and the library better be prepared for some transformations. This will not be an easy gift to handle. At a time when many libraries are struggling with how to manage their rare book collections, which see limited traffic, particularly in an age when so much material is now available digitally, the South Carolina library is taking on 183,000 more items of paper. The amount of cataloguing will be enormous, the storage space something like two 26-foot long truckloads worth, and preservation of old material is never easy or cheap. Space demands, climate control, security, etc. are taxing, and most of this material was printed on cheap paper, not the easiest to preserve. They have their work cut out for them.

 

We finish with a concluding comment from Ms. Sudduth - "Comics are universal. Whether you read them as a child, have a favorite superhero or your mother threw out your collection when you went to college — everyone has a comics story." Now we finally learn the truth about your mother. She didn't throw out your comics after all. She sold them to Mr. Watson. And, there's not a thing you can do about it now.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.

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