Rarity - a foremost quality to hobbyists. A comic book with a print run of 100,000 is spawned from a single canvas - an original piece that was inked, coloured and then mass-produced. In the quest for exclusivity, novelty and investment value, original comic art is becoming more attractive to collectors. This article seeks to briefly address a few basic aspects of the hobby.
What is original comic art (or OA)?
This is the original, hand-drawn artwork produced by an artist, in contrast to comic books, prints and sketchbooks. OA can be published (printed as comic books) or unpublished (e.g. commissions).
Where can I find OA?
Apart from comic conventions where artists and dealers ply their trade, the Internet is the main marketplace. Many artists tap on social media and use personal sites to advertise their work. There are also specialised OA sites which stock extensive inventory, some of which operate as agents. As dealer sites are run as businesses, price tags here tend to include a premium. Finally, auction sites such as Heritage Auctions and Comic Link are essential destinations for anyone looking for value, as auction prices tend to more accurately reflect market sentiment. These auction sites also provide a platform for one to sell OA (for a consignment fee).
How much does it cost? What is it worth?
Different price points reflect the accessibility of the hobby. Published pages under $100 are prevalent, while high-end pieces can easily surpass the $10,000 mark. Valuation is less straightforward, given the subjective nature of art. Past performance is very informative, so auction data on EBay or Heritage Auctions are a primary resource.
Factors affecting the price of OA include: status of the artist, age of the work (in many cases, the older, the more costly), whether the work has been published (if so, is it a cover or “splash”), whether it features an action sequence, whether popular characters are prominently displayed and whether the page hails from an iconic storyline.
A prime reason for the surge in interest in this hobby is investment value – there is auction data to suggest that over the last 10-15 years, the prices of middle to high-end published OA have, at least, doubled.
How do I store my OA?
Most commonly, art is stored in acid-free, archival quality portfolios, away from heat and moisture. Semi-museum quality framing is also available locally.
To Infinity and Beyond
This article is but a basic introduction to OA collecting. Further information is readily available on Internet forums such as the Collectors Society, while comicartfans.com is an online gallery that allows anyone to display their artwork. Over the past 5 years, OA collecting has been intriguing and rewarding for me. Friendships have been forged over passionate debates on the history, aesthetics and value of OA. May your OA journey, should you embark on one, be as fruitful.
As Hippocrates once mused, “Life is short, the art long.”