Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, February 24, 1966. Intended for Apa L, Seventy-First Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1489, February 24, 1966. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 3-6321.
|San Diego in 1966!||Thomas Schlück for TAFF!||Salamander Press #156.|
Maybe some of you read an article in the Los Angeles Times a couple of weeks ago (or in your local papers, for you out-of-towners; it was carried nationally) about how Len Brown and Malcolm Willits of the Collectors Book Store (1717 Wilcox Avenue, Hollywood) discovered $10,000 worth of rare old comic books in an old trunk they'd bought at an auction for $4.16. According to the story, by a Times staff writer, they were told by a customer of someone who used to live in Burbank who had a lot of the rare old issues. Checking the story, they found that the fellow had supposedly moved to Harrisburg, Pa., long ago, they then wrote to everybody in Harrisburg by that name, and finally got a reply from the man's uncle, who didn't know where the man was, but did know that the comics were still in a trunk in storage in Burbank. So Len and Mal went out to Burbank, arriving just as the trunk was being put up for auction to pay an overdue storage bill; they bought every trunk at the auction until they hit the right one (fortunately, they got it on the third try), and ended up with a collector's bonanza -- the first thirty issues of BATMAN alone were quoted at being worth $1,000.
I was out at the Collectors Book Store last week to look through their new stock of Arkham House books (they now have every title Derleth still has in stock, including a couple officially Out-Of-Print, at 10% off cover price), and I was talking to Len & Mal about the article. "Oh, man, was that a put-on!" Len said. "The facts about how we got the comics are straight enough, but they're only worth about a quarter of what it said in the article. We had this guy in from the paper to interview us, and we tried to play it straight, but we could see that he wasn't very interested, because we weren't waving any of the old comics that're supposed to be worth $100 each around. So I said, well, some of these comics are worth more than the prices I just told you, and he looked a little more interested, so then I said, we'll probably get a grand for the set of BATMAN alone, and he took his notebook and pencil outta his pocket, so I got up and pointed dramatically and said, "This...is Americana!", and I could see he was just eating it up."
"We figure we must've gotten $50,000 worth of publicity out of that story," Mel put in. "You should see the mail we've been getting from all over the country since the story appeared. Unfortunately, it's more sell offers than customers wanting to buy, but we're getting some really great stuff in -- that article's getting people to go up and look in their old trunks for stuff they'd just forgotten about for the last 20 years. In fact, it's getting a little embarrassing, because we've got most of our capital tied up in stock right now, and people keep writing in and coming in with beautiful stuff at such low prices that we'd be fools to let another store beat us to it -- but we just don't have any more money to afford it right now."
Mal showed me the file of clippings of the article about them that they've been assembling from all over the country. The article in the Times may've been slightly exaggerated as to prices, but it was a sterling example of impartial reporting compared to some of the other versions, which had a field day with those funny people who go around spending lots of money for comic books. One of the stories even wrote up the event as though it were an episode on the "Batman" show. It began more-or-less; "Our story opens as Leonard Brown and Malcom Willits, intrepid proprietors of the great metropolitan Collectors Book Store in Los Angeles, heard about a fabulous fortune in rare old comic books locked away in a trunk somewhere. "Holy treasure chests!" explained dashing, muscular Leonard, jumping up and down with excitement; "we've just got to locate that trunk, Malcolm!"", etc. Len and Mal generally laughed it off, though. "Right now, we're at the stage where we don't care what they say about us as long as they spell our names right -- and get the name and address of the Store in the article. Frankly, we couldn't really expect much more than this; we're happy that the story got as wide a coverage as it did." One of the drawbacks to the exaggerated set of prices, though, is that occasionally someone will come in with one of the rare old first issues mentioned in this (or other) newspaper article, and say, "Hey, I see that this is worth $100. I just got it outta an old box where it was sittin' for years, an' I'll sell it to ya for just $50." Then Len or Mal has to try to explain to the fellow that the newspaper article was exaggerated, that the comic isn't really worth more than $50 actually, and that they can't give him more than $20 or so for it. He's likely to feel that they're trying to cheat him -- the papers wouldn't say it was worth $100 if it wasn't worth $100, would they?
Happily, the news article has stirred up more than just old comics, because several people have come in to inquire if old pulpzines are worth money, too, and the Store is in the process of buying a couple of fair-sized lots of old science-fiction, detective, air-adventure, etc. pulps in beautiful condition. Due to their location in Hollywood, and the current boom in ComiCollecting (with hordes of little kids running around with pocketsful of money to spend on building up collections -- Mal reported some excitement in the Cherokee Book Shop down Hollywood Blvd. a couple of weeks earlier, when Harlan Ellison and the kid who plays the little boy in "Lost in Space" got into a screaming argument over who's getting the bigger salary), their biggest sales have been in old motion picture posters and stills, and comic books. Mal's an s-f fan himself, though -- he's got several original Paul and Morey covers from AMAZING framed on the walls of the shop -- and he's glad to build up the Store's stock of rare s-f magazines for the collectors. The new supply of Arkham House books -- the only line of hard-cover books the Store carries; the rest of their trade is in ephemera only -- is part of Mal's policy to make the Collectors Book Store the store for the science-fiction collector on the West Coast. If you still have a gap in your collection, Len & Mal may be able to fill it in now.
Speaking of collectors' items, I've got 19 issues of a Conan comic book. How much would they be worth to the Howard collectors among you?
The sea was her element...
Danger, her destiny...
Read: THE QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST
Meet: The exotic costumes of the Vikings...
The dangers of unknown seas...
The warlike fury of Conan the Cimmerian,
And the intrepid valor of Belit of Askalon...
Read: THE QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST!
S'truth! If you don't believe me, I'll ask Alderson to photo-ditto the cover of one of the issues for you.
Ted White -- In California, they couldn't care less, either, as to whether you stick your 1966 license sticker over the '64 or the '65 one. The instructions should've said to past it over the '64 one; a lot of people recognized that the gov't has goofed again, and took matters into their own hands by pasting it where it obviously should go, rather than where the instructions say to paste it. I haven't heard about any official hollering yet. As I've got a brand-new car with brand-new plates, it's an academic matter with me. Howcum you still got Calif. plates, though, considering how long you've been in Brooklyn? ## Among other pro and con arguments over Stranger in a Strange Land, how about one as to whether it's science-fiction after all, or really science-fantasy like Magic, Inc. or Fred Brown's "The Angelic Angleworm"?
Helen Smith -- I understand that even in the secret confines of the ITR membership, none of the members will admit to each other just which of them is responsible for putting the two OFFICIAL NOTICEs through Apa L. Gee, can things be so hard up that they're reduced to hoaxing each other, now?
Ruth Berman -- I know what you mean about collections overflowing available space. I'd tell you about my own collection, except that I figure that if there's any subject that's automatically redundant in fandom, it's a discussion of thus & such a collection has overflowed its available space. As you say, they all do.
Gregg Wolford -- There was a regular CATMAN comic book in Australia a few years back. It was a straight steal from BATMAN, with Catcave, Catmobile, and the works, but done seriously and not as satire. It's defunct now. ## Well, there shouldn't be any more problems of your getting two copies of the Dist'n. How does Trimbleservice compare to PO service -- how many days sooner do you get your copy?
Jim Schumacher -- Pray that your mother never meets my mother and finds out about all the black widow spiders that must just naturally be nesting & breeding in your collection of Stuff. ## Good luck with the ValSFA, and if you recruit any new members from Valley Mundania, don't forget to bring 'em around the LASFS, too. You increase our membership and we'll increase yours. (Maybe.)
Dwain Kaiser -- You and Jim might get together on the initialese for your new club. ## Oh, you've discovered Mr. Ne Plus Ultra in Hollywood? Yes, it's worth a laugh to go into his shop and chuckle over the ridiculous prices; I included his store in the Grand Tour of L.A. that we gave Len Bailes when he arrived in town. It's also fun watching him argue with his customers over his prices. How he stays in business, I don't know. If you're looking for a bargain in Arkham House books, try the Collectors Book Store on Wilcox, a half a block off Hollywood Blvd.
Felice Rolfe -- Sure, if I can just find somebody driving up to Palo Alto between now and April 30th...
Bruce Pelz -- I've tried throwing nonworking chatterers out of the back room -- including, on occasion, Dian -- only to be told that I don't own the rear half of Silverlake Playground just because I'm using it to put out an unofficial club publication, and if they're disturbing the club Meeting, that's the club's problem and not mine. I think it's about time to repeat the threat that those who don't shut up and clear out when told to, don't get Apa L, even if they're contributors. (Maybe I'd better enforce the threat a few times, to put teeth into it.) ## I assume you're kidding about the BSI not recognizing Petrie and Sir Dennis? I find it hard to believe that Holmes fans are so insular that they wouldn't recognize two of the other most famous characters from a running detective series -- especially considering some of the other pastiches they've written, including at least one Holmes-Fu pastiche by Derlith, or the "proof" that Holmes knew Tarzan's grandfather, who was a Communist? And I still don't see why Petrie's & Smith's being from the Fu Manchu series makes them better suited to an appearance in an s-f Fandom publication than a detective-fiction fanzine?