This week, Longbox Graveyard welcomes guest blogger Will Kountis of Comic Swap Shop for a look at an issue of interest to all serious comic collectors. Take it away, Will!
We collect comics because we enjoy it. The reading, the “hunt” for them and the curating of this slice of pop culture. I’m sure you feel or want to feel good about your collection. I have a sense of pride about my treasures. I think you feel the same about yours.
Amazing Fantasy #15 from the White Mountain collection … doubtless at the top of Chasing Amazing’s wish list!
Have you ever wondered what makes a pedigree comic collection?
Have you ever wondered “How does MY collection become one?”
- Is it the number of books?
- Is it the value of the collection?
- What are the rules around this naming convention?
Yes, it’s the number of books. Yes, it’s the value and yes there are rules.
Sub-Mariner #38, from the Cosmic Aeroplan collection
The Certified Guaranteed Company (CGC) has established parameters for a Pedigree Collection, which are quoted below.
The collection must be original owner
CGC: This means that the books must have been bought off the newsstand as they came out. For example, a collector cannot buy a high-grade run of 1940s comics from various sources and expect it to be considered a pedigree. The original owner need not currently own the comics for the collection to be considered for pedigree status.
Will: So unless you bought the book new, you are SOL as far as having and owning a pedigree collection. I’m sure someone will be happy to SELL you some pedigree books. But adding quality back issue books to your collection doesn’t gain you any ground over not buying them at the news stand.
All-Star Comics #36, from the Spokane Collection
The collection must be of vintage material
CGC: This means that a large collection consisting of comics from the 1970s to present cannot be considered a pedigree. In fact, until the sale of some key White Mountain books in a Sotheby’s auction in the early 1990s, Silver Age comics were not accepted as pedigree collections. Comic books from 1966 and after are relatively common in high grade compared to earlier issues. This occurred as a direct result of a tremendous explosion in the number of collectors in fandom in the mid-1960s. Collections that are primarily from 1966 and after must have average grades of at least 9.4 to be considered a pedigree.
Will: The new books you are buying now … you are going to have to live to a ripe old age, keep the collection intact AND have them be in freaking STELLAR condition to have a snowball’s chance at a pedigree.
The collection must consist of a considerable number of comics
CGC: Most pedigree collections consist of at least 1,000 books and some number over 10,000 comics. The collections that consist of fewer books, such as the Allentown and Denver collections, must include extremely rare, important, and/or key material.
Will: LOTS of books. Got it. THIS one I have covered. Not that it matters.
Marvel Comics #1, from the Allentown Collection
The collection must be high-grade
CGC: Comics from the Silver Age in general would have to be 9.2 and higher, and a collection of exclusive Silver Age material must have an average grade of 9.4. Golden Age comics would have to be high-grade as well. For example, the Lost Valley collection consisted of many golden age books from before 1941 that were technically mid-grade, but were almost across the board the highest graded copy for that book. Page quality must be nice as well.
Will: Grade matters. Got it.
Red Raven #1 from the Mile High Collection, and as seen in Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
Here are some notable “Pedigree Collections” As you can see MOST of them are named after the city/town/location they were found in. Some notable individuals associated with comics get their name attached to their comic stash.
Marvel Family #23, from the Cape Cod Collection
Davis Crippen “D” Copy
Don Rosa Collection
Don/Maggie Thompson Collection
Edgar Church (Mile High)
Gaines File Copy
Green Lantern #15, from the Okajima Collection
Note that you can browse scans of many of these collections thanks to the links at the fascinating site, Comic Book Pedigrees.
So to Summarize:
Pedigree collections are as rare as finding an original owner Mercedes Gullwing coupe in excellent condition in a barn. Under a cover. With original paint.
Mercedes Gullwing Coupe … looks like something Nick Fury would drive!
Smells like a marketing racket to me. You can’t have one, you can only buy pieces of one.
This sure seems like a retailers wet dream. They get to tout a premium, elite provenance to a group of books and jack the prices for retail sale. And why not, that’s America in action. Its great collection to own, but terrible to buy because of price.
Moment of truth: Every true collector wakes up in a cold, wet sweat dreaming of THIS type of find. Not for the selling of it, but for the HAVING and curating the collection. I hope, upon hope, that as the baby-boomers age more of these collections from someone’s dad or grand-dad will become available and flood the market — pushing the price BACK to something that resembles affordability and that I’ll have an opportunity to get in on the action.
Thanks, Will, for your insight and firm opinions on Pedigree Collections. What do YOU think of the issues Will has raised? Are Pedigree Collections a way for retailers to stack the deck against hobby collectors, or do they have a role in the larger world of collecting? Give us your feedback in the comments section, below, and be sure to visit Will at his home blog, the Comic Swap Shop!
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