If you were to look at this Todd McFarlane cover for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #328, you would probably not guess that it is the most valuable piece of American comic book art.
But at Heritage auctions yesterday it sold for a record $675,250. Not as valuable as McFarlane’s balls, but not shabby either. The price shattered the old record, for a page of Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT. (The world record is $1.6 million for the cover to TINTIN IN AMERICA by Hergé.)
It was but one pricy piece of McFarlane art. In the same auction yesterday his cover to the arguably much more iconic SPIDER-MAN #1 sold for a mere $358,500.
While some might look at these prices as the end of comics as we know it, we would rather suggest that this is the beginning of something that could become incredibly important to the American comics industry.
You see, despite the worldwide recession and economic gloom, one area of investment has been positively soaring of late: the art world has seen record prices in recent years.
“Art has become a real asset class, because people are now recognizing what art is worth as an investment, and they are seeing the appreciation,” said Steven Halliwell, managing director at The Collectors Fund LLC, which manages portfolios of private art investors.
Mr. Halliwell said that while only about a third of all art sales take place at public auctions, the high-priced deals are helping to fuel a growing appetite for investments in art.
It seems the 1%ers out there, rather than taking their billions and burrowing through them like a gopher, are investing in something that looks snappy and erudite hanging on the wall. A little Cezanne here, a little Munch there. And the value shows no sign of slowing. Art is actually performing better than the stock market.
Comics original art remains incredibly underpriced. For a few hundred dollars you can still buy a piece of iconic art by a future hall of fame artist. For a bit more you can own something by a grand master.
This page by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott from a 1978 Silver Surfer graphic novel sold for a mere $10,157 at the same auction. Chump change. Other Kirby pages go for much more of course…but not as high as they will soon be going for.
Poke around on Comic Art Fans…you’ll see lots of bargains.
With the stature of comics still growing in the pop culture world, I’d expect to see prices for premium art pages soaring. And not just Golden Agers, either. Right now, you can buy a page of original art from Scott Pilgrim for $500.
$500! The price of a few dinners. Ridiculously cheap.
That level of pricing is going to change in the near future. Mark my words.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.