CARTOON COLLECTIBLES: THERE'S BIG MONEY IN ANIMATION CELLS
Animation art for "Awakening Part I," background, sold for $2,875. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's
Can you imagine a childhood without cartoons? Many of us grew up with Snow White and Popeye, Betty Boop, The Sad Sack and Felix the Cat.
Cartoons are as much a part of growing up as riding bikes and catching fireflies in old mayonnaise jars.
Comics were a major source of inspiration for the Pop art we see today in museums.’ They were nicknamed “the funnies” because the storylines were funny. Comics later moved into adventure, science fiction and even political satire, as in Walt Kelly’s “Pogo.”
There is no getting around the mass appeal of cartoons and comics. Children learn quickly that the art form happens through thousands of drawings being photographed onto movie film. Today collecting individual cels from old and new cartoons has skyrocketed into a big business.
To give you an idea of the work involved, a typical 7-minute cartoon from Betty Boop used as many as 120 artists to produce around 30,000 drawings. Larger features like Walt Disney’s 1937 classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs used around a half-million drawings.
Before Snow White most of the art work disappeared after the directors and cameramen were finished with it. Some was thrown out. Some was given away as souvenirs and some went home with crewmembers.
The popularity of Snow White and her magical Seven Dwarfs caused the Disney Studio’s to take a second look at the art work and recognize the importance of an animator’s work. Out of this attention came the beginnings of collecting individual cels, short for celluloid, the material on which the original drawings were made.
California art dealer Guthrie Sayre Courvoisier approached Walt Disney Studios after the release of Snow White and suggested the sale of individual cels. He sold 65 of the Snow White cels almost immediately for prices ranging from $5 to $35. From then on there has been a growing collector interest in animation art.
Offering unique animation art work at auction is not uncommon for Sotheby’s. On June 10, 1995, they offered 42 lots of original production art work from Walt Disney Studios’ critically acclaimed animated television series, Gargoyles in New York. Of the Gargoyles series offered, 34 of the lots sold totaling $45,080.
The film was Disney’s first dramatic animated TV series. Each cel offered was a one-of-a-kind, original television production cel used in the creation and production of an episode from the series.
“With Gargoyles, we’ve taken all the quality elements of Disney television animation, strong characters, compelling storylines, humor, and heart, and translated them into an exciting new genre for our viewers,” says Gary Krisel, president of Walt Disney Television Animation.
Gargoyles, Awakening Part I, a background shot showing the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building estimated to sell for $1,200-1,800 brought $2,875. Awakening Part I, featuring Lexington, Broadway, Brooklyn, Demona, Goliath and Captain sold for $1,955.
Q. I have three quilts that were made by my grandmother in the late-‘30s and early-40s. How do you go about valuing them? Helen Trautman, Pittsburgh.
A. American housewives made many beautiful quilts from the late-18th century until the 1930s. Around 1935, quilt kits came on the market with pre-cut pieces of cloth that made quilts more standardized and the individual hand became less obvious in the creation of quilts.
Overall, quilts from these kits look mechanical, too symmetrical and are going to be less interesting to collectors. So you need to decide how your quilt was constructed.
Quality of materials, patterns and designs are important in valuing quilts. Also, you need to consider factors such as age, condition and the delicacy of the stitching.
Age is difficult to determine because you are often unable to trace the origin of a quilt. Whereas, you can tell by looking at a quilt what the condition is and possibly how rare the pattern is.
How the quilt was constructed is a good way to go in uncovering the age. Usually the denser the quilting patterns the older the quilt. In quilts made after-1850 you will see machine stitching, especially in finishing the edge. But, a good indicator of quality is that the quilting itself should be done by hand.
The oldest quilts are not necessarily the most valuable. Unique designs like those in the Baltimore album quilts you will see in museums can be some of the most valuable.
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