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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Dick Ayers/Stan Goldberg, "Strange Tales No. 101," 1995, cover art, sold for $1,265. Photo courtesy of Christie's East
Kids never start out collecting comic books. They just look around and piles seem to stack up around them. Can’t seem to throw them out. The conversation goes something like, “I’m going to read that Superman comic book again and it might be worth something someday.”

It’s hard to argue with that investment strategy.

Comic books are the nostalgic trophies of childhood. Just the feel of them can transport you back in time. A trip to the drug store, a spin of the wire rack and a universe opens where superheroes are really super.

Can you throw out a part of your childhood history? For many collectors the answer is no, and if they don’t still have them stashed in the attic, they go out and buy them again.

“People want the comics they read as kids,” says Todd McDevitt, Bugs Bunny comic collector and owner of New Dimension Comics in Cranberry, Pa.

“There are at least 100 serious collectors of old comic books in Pittsburgh.” Middle-aged lawyers and quiet bankers comb McDevitt’s shop for Spiderman, Hulk and Avengers comics. “It’s a way for them to get caught up in old memories,” he adds.

The funnies started out simply. They helped sell newspapers and printers reprinted the most popular strips as a way to make money. Kids and members of the armed forces were instant buyers. When America went to war so did American funny-paper characters. When Smilin’ Jack joined the Air Force he fought Japs instead of pirates.

Incidentally, the super hero of all, Superman, was ruled 4-F by his draft board. When he took his pre-induction physical his X-ray vision allowed him to look right through the eye chart in the next room. He read the wrong numbers and flunked the physical.

You’ll hear collectors talk about the Golden Age of comics from 1933-1959. “Comic books (from this era) were perfect flights for fancy. They were a lot less expensive than movie special effects, yet almost as convincing,” says Don Thompson in his book, “Collector Guide to Comic Books.”

“Back then, comic books let readers vicariously travel the universe, performing mighty feats, for just a dime.” We were right there when Superman saved Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.

Are we really surprised when the heroes of our youth like the cast-iron toy trucks in the backyard show up on the auction block? Right now Christie’s auction house sells close to $1 million a year in comics.

The auction houses are catering to the younger collector, whose tastes run the gamut from Marvel comics to Russian icons. Maybe a comic book doesn’t flash the million-dollar price tag an impressionist painting might or carry the same artistic importance, but how many comic book collectors do you think really care? If anything, the collectibles market demonstrates there’s room for lots of variance.

The Marvel art and collectibles sale at Christie’s East on Nov.18, 1995, generated $205,366 on 250 lots. Prices ranged from $8,625 for the first appearance of Marvel Comics “Fantastic Four” to $3,450 for the original art from “Strange No. 97.”

Q. I recently came upon these two bisque angels at a flea market. On the bottom they are marked Made in Italy. How old? Value? Charles Swint, Pittsburgh.

A. The age of items is a common question from readers. You want to remember that prior to 1891 items imported into the U.S. were not required to be back-stamped with the country of origin.

After 1921, items were required to be stamped with the country of origin as in Italy. There are exceptions and loopholes but generally this was the case. After 1921, products are usually stamped Made in___(country). So when you see “Made in Italy” you know your angels were made sometime after 1921.

The import laws applied to all products coming into the U.S. So you can use it as a general rule for dating everything from porcelain and china to toys. However, there will always be exceptions.

From the photo I would say your angels in good condition with no chips are worth about $50 for the pair. They date around-1950.

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