Saturday, 26 May 2012

Will “Sentimentality” Empty YOUR Pockets? Or: The Cost Of Class

No one who knows me or has been a CBO regular is unaware of the fact that I am a big fan of Alan Class and his Class Comics series.  Before there was proper distribution of US comics to the UK again, around the mid-to-late 1970s, Class reprints were our way of catching up with The Avengers, Daredevil, The Fly, etc.

These were black and white reprints of Charlton, ACG, Timely/Marvel and other US company strips. Print quality was always a little hit-or-miss at times -the comics had to be printed cheaply enough to make money back when they sold.  Alan Class was one of the guv’nors of Independent British publishers.

But how much are the comics worth?

As revealed in Alan Class’s CBO interview (reprinted in The Hooper Interviews and the one off magazine The Amazing World Of Alan Class -both available via the online store) a strip could appear in one title and then later make up the page count in another.  Books were not dated because they could be picked up a year later by someone as new.

At the recent Bristol Comic Expo, one dealer had a big box full of Class Comics and there was a stack more on top of those (not treating the books very well).  The cheapest was £10 and the most expensive I saw was £25.  To me that is just wrong.  The bags were sealed with lots of address labels so you could not open up and look at the quality.  I asked the man behind the table just WHY these comics were so expensive and he pointed at the roughly written sign and said “Collectibles”.

Sheer utter bollocks. He wants me to fork out £10-25 on a comic in an oversized/over sealed bag that I cannot inspect??  I pointed out that these were black and white reprints of US comics and not unique strips -and that print and binding quality varied -why were they that expensive? He turned and walked away.

The next table was Nostalgia Comics where I bought around 20 of the same Alan Class books at between £1-£3.00 each (only one at £3 but it was one I wanted because of a specific strip). The guy asked if I was aware the comics were only “poorish quality reprints of American comics?” I thanked him and told him I was.  Complete difference. No attempt at conning me with the “collectible” line and he couldn’t have been more open.

I was then introduced to a “mystery man”.  Well, it was explained that he was probably the top man when it came to the valuation of comics in the UK. He is a collector himself but he’s like one of those paid “secret shoppers” -anonimity is a must.

We chatted for a while and he asked what I’d brought? I showed him. He looked them over and said “I hope you never paid more than a pound each -even that is stretching it a bit value-wise.” I told him how much I had paid and he just tutted and nodded.  I explained about the £10-£20 a copy table and it seems he had seen it and shrugged:”Fools and money soon parted.”

So I had to ask what he thought even a number 1 Class Comic would cost? “Forget the print quality, it’s a first issue by a publisher so I’d say £5 at the maximum.”  That made me baulk a little.  At my query of really low-pricing he checked through what I had bought and held up Creepy Worlds 239 and pointed out that this was one of the best print jobs but even so, based on how they were printed, there was still fading and the binding glue was showing signs of crystalising.  “These books were throw away or swapsies and not expected to last a year. I was recently involved in valuating and selling two hundred assorted Class Comics that the owner had read and put straight into individual greaseproof paper bags and sealed with tape. The lot sold for £30.”

He went on: “Sentimental value is often given as a reason for buying one of these for £10, which is ridiculous in the extreme pricing wise. I got rather ‘sentimental’ when I was 9 years old and stepped in some dog poop. Am I looking around to buy something similar because of that? No. These are cheap throw-away entertainment and here’s the thing -how many online scans of an Alan Class Comic have YOU seen?”

I knew the answer to that as all seven have ended up on my Yahoo Alan Class group!  The expert pointed out that in many cases it was cheaper to find and buy the original US comic a strip had been taken from “After all” he said, “it was not the entire comic Class was reprinting but individual strips.”

I explained that I had always wanted to establish a Class comics Library for posterity. I asked if he thought that not worthwhile?  Apparently he did think it worthwhile.  I asked whether, if he got any more complete runs for £30 he’d call me?  “That was the exception for an established client -no auction house I know of nor memorabilia dealer would really touch them unless as a very cheap job lot to sell of AS a very cheap job lot.”

I could understand his point though I was slightly annoyed.  He was not putting down Alan Class or his comics but valuing them for what they were -even with certain “sentimental” attachment. In fact, he told me that he had three Class first issues that were valued at £15 in total “simply because it marked a publisher’s debut -the print quality in two is so-so and the staples rusting! I have an Ally Sloper from the 1890s that is in far better condition.”

So, next time someone tells you a Class Comic is going to cost you £35 tell him where to shove it. I still love the comics but I have ALWAYS drawn the line at £1.50-£3.00 in buying one. And if the serious financial value of a first issue is around £5.00 for a well preserved copy….I better close that Caiman Island account!
Comics are, and always should be, FUN!!

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