Sunday, May 13, 2012


I've been tracking auctions of Milton Caniff-related items for over a year, and what I've seen are some interesting finds, trends and deals. One thing that surprised me is that the majority of Caniff auctions on Ebay (90% or so) go unbid on and unsold. Not due to lack of demand or popularity, but rather due to the seller's inflated or unrealistic expectation of what their item is worth. For example, there are seven copies of "Steve Canyon Magazine" #4 for sale right now, ranging from $3 to $35. Most go unsold.  Is it because sellers don't understand what they've got or don't look into an item before they sell it? Do they say, 'Well, Caniff is famous and this is 25 years old, so...uh, $35?' When they do sell, it's for around $3-5.

Other reprints don't fare much better. The NBM/Flying Buttress reprints of "Terry & the Pirates" are very common, but don't sell frequently due to high opening prices. Those that sell average $5. The Checker "Steve Canyon" reprints sell well, and cheaply, and are likely to get cheaper now with the superior hardcover series underway from The Library of American Comics (LOCA). In an anomaly, the last Checker volume "1955", had a low print run and one copy sold for $59. The LOCA's flagship series of "Terry & the Pirates" sell frequently, usually in the $25-40 range.
The "Terry & the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon" comic books from Harvey Comics and others sell well, but as with most collectibles it depends on condition. A near mint Terry #3 sold for $100, but comics of that grade are hard to find. Most of them are in the Very Good to Fine range of comic book grading. The Dell "Four Color" Steve Canyons still sell, even though a collection of those was published last year. The Four Color Terrys are harder to come by. A Good copy of #9 sold for $80, though in this case you're appealing to not just Terry buffs but Four Color collectors as well. Terry got an early start in comic book form in the 1930s as part of the anthology "Popular Comics". High grade copies of those usually best $100.
Older reprint book collections are generally cheap and easy to find. The Nostalgia Comics books of the 1970s, under the banner of "The Golden Age of Comics", seem to fluctuate wildly between $5 and $25. The "Complete Dickie Dare" collection runs between $10 - $20. "Male Call" has had many reprintings, averaging about $10, sometimes even for a 1940s printing (though not one in prime condition). The "Raven - Evermore" book, reprinting one of Caniff's most remembered "Terry" storylines, averages $5.
Original strips come up frequently and are generally the most valuable of any Caniff collectible. "Terry" dailies average out between $600 - $700, with Sundays averaging $2500. Not surprisingly, "Canyon" dailies are a bargain, averaging $200-250 apiece. Character prints which Caniff hand-colored and personalized can command as much as an original strip.
Caniff ephemera and merchandise, such as toys, is wonderful mixed bag of product and prices. The Ideal Captain Action costume is common, but in various degrees of quality and completeness. There were so many accessories, finding a complete one has run between $130 - 350 (without the box). The "Steve Canyon" TV series of 1959 led to lots of tie-ins. The Canyon lunch box and the Jet Pilot Helmet are two of the most common Caniff items for sale. An unused lunchbox, with thermos, sold for $450. It's surprising how many of the pilot helmets survived, most of them intact. Like-new condition helmets with the box go for about $100. There was also a 3-reel View Master set, selling between $5-20. There's not just a Caniff market for this, but for those who just collect View Master reels. And you thought your hobby was obscure?
All in all, a brisk market for Caniff books and related strip collectibles is out there. Fortunately, a nice collection can be built inexpensively. Now, if we could just get those sellers to reduce their expectations, it could get even better.


The Fan With No Name!!! said...

...really?!?? Collecting View Master Reels is obscure?!??

Matt Tauber said...

To a guy who has the Special Edition DVD of Elektra, just because it's a comic book movie, (meaning you), then, no, it's not obscure.

To most people, yes, collecting View Master Reels is an unconventional hobby.