Thursday, 18 June 2015

"I must be sitting on a small fortune with my limited collection!"

Just as an addendum I ought to point out that the Creepy Worlds issue shown with "the first appearance of the Fantastic Four" appears to be one of two titles that featured the story.


 Highwayman got in touch over a previous post -you can find it here:

His question was one I keep getting asked and I think it is relevant enough to answer in a full post.

"Nothing ultra rare, as you say, but when I read some eBay listings in which every issue of any Class title is described as "Rare!", I think I must be sitting on a small fortune with my limited collection. And yet, many of these over-priced listings do sell, and as soon as there are two or more bidders for the same comic, the sound of tills ringing becomes deafening.

I wonder, though, what should we consider a sensible price these days ? Firstly, is there any real justification for claiming (as some sellers do) that one issue is worth more than any other ? Surely they all had the same print run and so we can assume that surviving issues exist in roughly equal numbers.

Second, if the earliest publications cost 5p (or 1/- as it is nostalgically written on the cover), then some 50 years of inflation would make today's price well under £1. We know that by 1970 and decimalisation, the price had already quadrupled, so I think that £2.50 per issue would be a fair estimate for what Alan Class comics would cost if they were still being published today, and therefore £3 - £4 is a sensible maximum to pay for a copy in reasonable condition, and on eBay I try to set a limit slightly less than that. Bidding higher than that will only encourage the exploitative prices we have been discussing.

The best listings on eBay are those where the seller has put some effort into the task and included a list of the story titles in each issue. I find this really helpful because there are various stories I recall which I want to read again,and it is awfully difficult to trace them, unless someone can give me any pointers to a better source of information, for which I would be really grateful!"

I posted this a while back:

Hey -I Got Amazing Stories -Sinister Tales No. 177....or is it No. 69?

Well, yesterday my copy of Class Comics Amazing Stories -Sinister Tales no.177 arrived. Not bad condition either and £1.99.

The book contains, behind the Don heck cover of Mandrake The Magician #1:

Mandrake -Menace of the City Jungle  King Comics)

Lightning -While Our Hero Sleeps...!  (Tower Comics)

A Caveman Named Smith  (Atlas Comics?)

The Phantom -SOS Phantom  (King Comics)

Mandrake -The Flying Phantom!  (King Comics)

The Little Lost Planet  (Atlas Comics?  Ditko art)

Now, in my interview with Alan it was pointed out that he would mix-and-match covers and strips since there was limited material available.  So I was not surprised to learn that the cover had been used in a pre-1971 UK decimalisation edition of the same title.

Interesting is that Sinister Tales 69 cost 1/- (1 shilling which became 5p after decimalisation)  so the 20p cover price would have made it 4/- in old money!  Decimalisation ripped us off? Of course it did.

I was surprised to see three different sites list the contents of both issues as being the same.

This issue actually contained only two strips from the later no. 177 -the Mandrake and Lightning stories:

"Mandrake the Magician" by Dick Wood, Werner Roth, Don Heck, and André LeBlanc
"The Frightened Man" by Bob Powell (?)
"I Died Tomorrow!" by Pete Morisi
"While Our Hero Sleeps...!" by Steve Skeates and Chic Stone
"The Empty Chair" by Joe Orlando
"They Crawl by Night!" by Vic Carrabotta
"The Punishment of Paul Phillips!" by George Roussos (?)
"Something Strange on the Sand!" by ?
"The Man Who Crushed Rocks!" by Reed Crandall

There is a big difference, though.  I do not have no. 69 but I did look through a copy someone was "willing" to sell me for £15 -it was £1.50 but when I showed interest: "Oh, that's a rare collectible, mate and it should be £15 -that's what that should read" and my response?  "Really? £15.00? If I ever get brain damaged and have money to waste I'll pop by!"


Distracted then...right.  Alan had changed printers to Caldra House and for a 48 pages black and white comic I was quoted 11p per copy by them -which was cheap.  The cover and colours on No. 177 are not as bright and clear as on No. 69.  The same can be said for the internal reproduction standard where a lot of areas are badly faded rather than solid black and in some spots has faded all-together.

I am guessing Caldra House used the printing 'plates' made from the art originally supplied to Alan or made poor new versions.  When I say "plate" I should say "sheet" because they were a few millimetres thick and if you think of the flat bottom of a tin foil baking grey you are not far off.

You'll note that the AC comics symbol and price are much better defined on the no. 69, too. 

But, for one thing, I have a Don Heck Mandrake strip  which was worth the cost.
Now, on the Sentinel Of Liberty blogspot, R. R. Werner looks at Class comics pertinent to Captain America -which also includes The Avengers issues.  He/she writes:
 "As far as I can tell, the Alan Class books were never consistent with their content. The Avengers run was spread out throughout several titles and never limited to one. And they were just the Avengers run and not the regular Cap book or Tales of Suspense. I could be wrong on this but I have yet to uncover an issue on an Alan Class book from these other runs."
Also, in the Alan Class interview on this site you will find the answer to another point made by Werner: "Unfortunately, these books never list the year they were printed."
Totally different culture in comics between the UK, where there were still import restrictions so it was rare in the very extreme to find a (say) June 1967 edition of the Avengers or Justice League of America in a newsagents in June...July or even August 1967.  We never had shops of a wide variety, as in the United States, that stocked comic books.

So, an American kid may well go to the "usual outlets" to get his June 1967 copy of a comic for the follow up story or next part.  Not in the UK.  You may well, in the US, have looked for issue number 23 following on from issue number 22.  Not in the UK.  Some comics were issue numbered but, generally, we relied on dates.

Money to buy new material just did not exist.  With Class Comics if a new issue was four pages short then a four page strip published in one of the other earlier books (or same title) was used.  Or if printers were raising their costs (and that was quite common even with people who were regular customers) then a few pages came out of a book -or maybe money from sales was not enough to pay for as many pages as before.  Or, don't laugh, it did happen,  if printers could do the job for less then you could put a few extra pages in and then a thicker looking book stood a better chance of selling -the "more value for your pound"  (or if you are American: "More bang for your buck") aspect.

Therefore it could be adding pages, taking pages out or creating a whole new mash-up.  

This led to the cover dating issue.  There was this whole industry set around long UK Summer school holidays and visits or holidays to the seaside -day trips, staying in a caravan or tent or lodgings.  Whichever, you did not want bored kids kicking up a fuss, especially if the weather was bad and they had to stay indoors.

Now, a newsagent or novelty shop might buy a few Class Comics because comics attract kids and parents knew comics kept kids quiet.  So, buy ten copies for Summer 1967....bad weather....people not visiting the seaside and no sale-or-return what could the shop owner do?  Not a loss because the books were not dated "1967" so a parent or kid next Summer might still buy the comic rather than say "Hey, this is a year old!" (that never ever stopped me!).

On the plus side, if there was still stock of that same book in 1967 then Alan could use those for order filling.  Remember that there was no big catalogue with "purchase code number" or ISBN and a shop owner would not say "I need issues covering June to August"  -you simply placed an order for "ten books".  That was it.

Yes, this none dating is very annoying to an archivist such as myself.  I know that people often incorrectly state that any Class Comic with a decimal currency price is dated after 15th February, 1971.  Not quite as clear as that. The first decimal coins were circulated in 1968 and these were the five pence (5p) with a value of one shilling (1/-) and ten pence (10p) which had a value of two shillings (2/-). A lot of retailers/businesses began using decimal before 1971 (as UK retailers did with pounds (lbs) and ounces (ozs) before the introduction of kilograms -some businesses using the lbs/kilo weights side-by-side as a gradual introduction.  Find one with something like 6d (or "D" -the UK symbol for a penny -from the Roman denarius) then you know its pre-1968 ...possibly.
So as a dating method it can only tell you, roughly, before 1968 or after 1971.  Obviously, as prices increased you could tell the newer issues from older decimal ones by cost but that never let you say anything like "this would be around July 1975" or " that cover price covered the 1977 period".  

Which added to Class Comics being "forever sellable" in shops!

I have early examples of Class Comics where the glue binding is brittle, almost close to crystallising.  Nothing expensive was used to bind the comics they were, to use that worn out old phrase "disposable entertainment".  I mean, publishers used to say to me: "Who on earth is going to keep a comic longer than a few months or year?"   These were printed on every type of paper possible -"cheap and nasty"  but kids never stood around discussing the "truly awful paper stock used in this week's issue"!

When newsprint paper was used -especially in the 1970s onward- even the comic size could vary.  I have issues printed a couple weeks apart where one is square and the other the same height but about one half inch (1.5 cms) less in width.  And there are other variations.  But, again, "Who on earth keeps comics?"

Now, although some of the binding glue is in a very bad state with old Class Comics others are in quite a good condition.  Of course, the binding goes then the pages start falling out -but I have this problem with issues from the end of the Class Comics period!  

I have seen people asking from £50 ($100 US) upwards for "Class Comic featuring first appearance of the Fantastic Four!!"   This, implying, that the book will be re-sellable by the buyer at an equal or higher price.  I mean -the FIRST appearance of the Fantastic Four!!

Whoops. A reprint.  In black and white.  You want a high quality reprint of that story in black and white then go look for The Essential Fantastic Four volume 1.  Or, in full colour for between £38-40 you can get it in full colour in the 848pp Fantastic Four Omnibus -or Fantastic Four Masterworks volume 1 for £30-£34 or £45 (if you even thin of the copy for over £100 you ARE a dumb ass) -in the US these books go cheap.

Let me make it even clearer: there is absolutely nothing in the Alan Class reprint of Fantastic Four #1 (one of the most reprinted stories in comics) that would make it worth even £10.00  If you are a collector who MUST have an issue to complete your run then maybe you will pay £10 -that's up to you.

Chuck Rozanski, of Mile High Comics, in the United States, has stated that, in the United States, "under beds, in lofts, in cupboards, in garages" that there are an estimated 1 billion (one billion) comic books.  Some think it more like 1.5 billion but let's not quibble on a point five!

In the UK, I have spoken to people who went through old boxes or tea crates/chests (the storage unit until the 1980s in the UK) and found "lots" of Class Comics.  One told me that he had found and counted 120 in his attic amongst old kid stuff his parents had put away.  He mentioned this to his cousin who had started to clear his loft to use it as an office and he had found a "tea chest full of class comics in grease proof paper bags" -his cousin thought he might have 10-20 but ended up counting 245 and had no idea why they were in grease proof paper bags.  In fact, that was how you stopped oil, dirt, water -anything- spoiling your favourite comic or book in the old days.

There are probably many, many thousands of Class Comics still stored away or forgotten in UK homes in amongst "old kid stuff".

I have only ever paid £3.00 for a particular Class Comic because it had very sentimental meaning for me but I won't go into that.  Postage bought that purchase to £5.00 and that I would not pay for a comic but as post ain't free....

Firstly, a point to make.  People ask me why I watch so many TV antique shows?  Firstly, I like seeing  how the so called experts (mainly those who have jumped into antiques because they think it's a good way to make a fortune) fall flat on their faces.  The famous "It's a 1968 Star Trek Annual -its 1960s so put a price of £35 on it!" comes to mind.  Never sold.  That same annual I saw in four charity shops and one comic shop -the dearest was £1.50.

The term constantly used is "vintage" -now what does "vintage" mean?

Search Results

noun: vintage; plural noun: vintages
  1. 1.
    the year or place in which wine, especially wine of high quality, was produced.

    "1982 is one of the best vintages of the century"


    "1986 was a classic vintage for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape"
    • a wine of high quality made from the crop of a single identified district in a good year.
    • literary
    • the harvesting of grapes for winemaking.

      "the work songs of the scything and the vintage"
    • the grapes or wine produced in a particular season.

      "they have released the 1988 vintage of their best-selling red wine"

      synonyms:grape harvest, grape gathering, grape crop, harvest, crop, yield, year's growth

      "he never lost a vintage through frost"
  2. 2.
    the time that something of quality was produced.

    "rifles of various sizes and vintages"

    synonyms:period, era, epoch, time, origin; More

    "the hotel was furnished with some choice pieces of Louis XV vintage"
adjective: vintage
  1. 1.
    relating to or denoting wine of high quality.

    "vintage claret"

    synonyms:high-quality, quality, prime, choice, select, superior, best

    "vintage French wine"
  2. 2.
    denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.
 Someone on an Ebay related forum asked about the term "vintage" and the answer was:

" Fact is, with the exception of wine, the year of the "vintage" is unfortunately rarely included. The horse is long out of the barn on "vintage"; demanding the world now close the doors is a waste of time and energy. Not gonna happen...However, on ebay "vintage" often seems to mean anything that was purchased less than 24 hours ago, is dirty and worn, or looks like it might be old if you don't know anything about history and squint really hard..."

 So we are not talking wine.  We are not talking of a period of time when Class Comics were of such incredible quality that they stood out from everything else before going back to plain ordinary.  Sellers use the word to mean "old" and, as we know, "old" = "big money"....or, rather, does not.  It is a flim-flam. A con word.  Some idiot paid £25 for my photocopied Zine Zone published in 2004 because it was sold as "vintage" -I could have sold them it for cover price and postage -£5.00. 

The other word used is "antique".  A seller uses that term he/she is either stupid, ignorant or a con merchant.  Here is the definition of "antique" as any real (honest) antique dealer will define it:
 "An object that is 100 years of age or older."
Antique books, magazines and TV shows stress this over and over and the term "vintage" either gets scowls or howls of derision or a look that says "I've stepped in something brown and smelly" -I even heard one antique dealer (Phillip Sorrell?)  on Antiques Road Trip respond to someone who said "It is vintage" with the words -"you mean its crap!"  And the person in question laughed and nodded "yes" saying "I'll save that for the punters then!"

For a copy of any Class Comic I would say pay no more than £1.50 -£2.00 at the most.  If it is one you really want because it has a special meaning then it is up to you but if you pay over £5.00 you are paying too much ("But that issue was the last one my old mum bought me before she passed away" -okay, I'll buckle there on cost).

remember that if you buy via Ebay ask the seller if the binding in perfect, there are no markings and cover is unmarked/undamaged.  If the Seller say "Yes" and it isn't true you complain to Ebay if the seller does not refund -if they offer up the old "But its an old book what do you expect?" or "it's 40 years old and for that age it IS perfect or very fine" and will not offer a full or partial refund leave negative feedback and then make a complaint to Ebay.

"Vintage" and "Antique" are con words in comics.  Put it this way, I saw an Alan Class Creepy Worlds 20p issue on Ebay.  Asking price was £17.00.  For £7.00 including postage and packaging I got a 1947 Gerald Swan Colour Slick Fun hardback annual in VERY good condition while the Class Comic on Ebay had "Slight cover crease on front. Back cover written on".

£1.50-£3.00 should always be your guide.

I get plenty of hate emails from comic shop owners and dealers about this subject but because I love Class Comics I hate to see people conned into paying steep prices for them.  Books that will not even make the buyer them their money back if they try to sell them -and if a seller says "hold on to the comic a couple years and people WILL pay a lot more" then THAT is a conman.

I hope that has answered Highwayman's query....I just hope he stayed awake through all of this -you, too!

Make Mine Class!
And I found this 2015 interview with Alan on You Tube-  A treat all round really!


  1. As an active collector of UK comics for well over five years now, primarily Alan Class and L Miller but a few miscellaneous others was well, I feel compelled to comment. Currently I own approximately 270 of them, with more being added all the time. I'm not going to go into specifics, but one can get a pretty good idea of what I now have by checking the Grand Comics Database here online, where most all that I've acquired has been indexed for them by me. My name can be seen toward the bottom of the sidebar on the right whenever I've been credited with indexing an entry. As for cost: I've found the majority of what I've purchased to be pretty affordable, but that's from the standpoint of an American collector who's owned a great many US Silver and Golden Age comics, mostly during the Nineties. Back then I amassed well over a hundred of the Kirby/Ditko pre-hero monster books alone, those from the late Fifties/early Sixties. I mention them because those particular comics are what sparked my interest in their UK counterparts. I thought I might own them again, and found that these UK comics were far more affordable than the American originals. And while this still remains true, I've noticed that some Alan Class comics have sold for astonishing prices recently on eBay UK, most specifically Sinister Tales #23, which features the origin of Iron Man found in Tales of Suspense #39. Right now a seller has one listed with the current bid being 79.00 GBP (approx. $124.00 USD). This is the third copy of this particular comic that he's offered up in the past two, three months. The first of the three he sold went for well over $700.00 USD as I recall. And then there's this: Now I would never pay a price that high, but apparently there are those who will, and have. My focus is on what are called the pre-decimal issues, and of those I rarely collect anything past the fiftieth issue of the longer-running titles, Amazing Stories of Suspense, Creepy Worlds, Secrets of the Unknown, Sinister Tales, as well as Astounding Stories and Uncanny Tales. I could discuss all this further but before I do, I will say this: while the American source comics are far more costly they seem to be far more plentiful as well. I've waited months, sometimes years for certain Alan Class and L Miller comics to surface on eBay UK, and I'm still waiting. Those later post-decimal issues are plentiful, but I can't be bothered with reprints of reprints. And also, for the record: if anyone out there has a nice copy of Creepy Worlds #32 (the issue that contains the reprint of Fantastic Four #1) they want to sell PLEASE feel free to contact me, as I would love to take it off your hands. As a collector, not a speculator, mind you.

  2. If it has any Avenger movie connection -action figure, comic book -even fan art being sold- there are almost insane prices being asked. That particular comic with Iron Man's origin I purchased last year for £4.00 incl p&h -$9.00. The books are out there -I could tell you how difficult it is to find US Silver and even Bronze age comics on Ebay UK -again, any Avenger connection and prices sky rocket and last year I had to fill in a lot of gaps in my US Bronze age collection (and Silver age) by buying from the US and even with p&h it was cheaper to buy 6 comics from the US with postage than one from the UK. Its all speculators and the current comic chic. The books are out there but its finding them.

  3. Not surprised to read of the film connection to the frenzy, both Avengers and Iron Man I'm guessing. Of course it doesn't hurt that the cover of Sinister Tales #23 is nearly identical to that of its source, which even further helps to get a collector's blood pumping I'm sure. One other thing I like about the UK comics: the 68-page length of those pre-decimal issues. As opposed to just say one Ditko story per issue, you can find sometimes 2, 3, or even 8 stories with his art. Comparatively they all have their virtues and shortcomings, UK and US comics: thin vs. thick, color vs. black & white, availability vs. scarcity, etc. I'm glad you got your copy of ST #23 for as cheap as you did. Especially since it wasn't all that long ago.

  4. Let's put it this way, I was told this morning that in 50 years time Class Comics WILL be antiques. I'll be 108 (I intend to live on until I sell every last comic I have and earn big time with Class books!). I've asked 5 comic dealers about Class Comics and explained mine were in Fine to VG condition. "Anything with Captain America, Thor or Iron Man?" I was asked. I said yes and was told the "very best offer" any of them could make would be "a dollar each" according to two Americans and the three British -75p each and everyone ended the offer with "We're dealers so we need to make money through sales but there is NO MARKET for these old books". Yeah, sure. ST #23 came from someone just selling old comics he had. Not a dealer. I tell people willing to sell Class books that I'll pay £1.50 ($3) for a book -even if they only ask 75p or even 50p because I'm not a crook! I'm old school comicker! ;-)

  5. I could name those dealers on eBay UK who ask ridiculous sums for what they are offering but I won't. However I will share a message I sent to one of them recently, re. a copy of Uncanny Tales #1 that he had for sale.
    "I would be very surprised if someone were to pay your asking price for this item. I bought this off eBay UK not too long ago for considerably less, a nice copy too, and I indexed it for the Grand Comics Database. The real problem with this comic is that in spite of its premiere issue status its contents are mediocre Charlton reprints throughout. As an Alan Class collector I'm glad to have it, but in the grand scheme of things it's no big deal." He did not respond. The item did not sell. And this isn't the first time he's listed it either. But I'm sure he'll post it again. Oh, and his asking price? 99.95 GBP.

  6. £99.95...ooh, so under £100 then! The cheek amazes me. I once asked a seller a question about a Class Comic -it was one I had and was one of the weaker examples when it came to content. He was asking £60.00 and I asked WHY he thought it was worth that price? "Its 1960s and vintage. What I ask is none of your business!" I think the most honest answer I ever got was "Its Ebay. I can ask what I want for the comic. Someone buys it I make money. If no buyer I'll just re-list over and over until someone bites!" :-/

  7. And that's the bottom line: it's only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. Sad thing is, someone may be willing to pay for it thinking they've bought something of worth, when in fact they've been burned. Some realize this, some don't. It'll be interesting to see what new surprises await us as we travel further on down this road.