The Contractor Did It!
At the end of June, we had a story here about the latest batch of comic books to be auctioned off by Heritage Auction Galleries: the Davis Crippen collection, which consists of some 11,000 comics that were collected from 1938 to 1954, including 1943's All Select Comics No. 1, featuring Captain America and the Human Torch, and Suspense Comics No. 3, which is notable for its Nazi-nasty bondage cover by Alex Schomburg. Bidding's already underway for the auction, which begins at Heritage's Oak Lawn offices on Friday at 1 p.m.; that issue of All Select is already up to $6,000, while the Suspense is already cruising past the $20,000 mark.
We pointed out at the time that the Crippen collection, which consists of superior-quality comics of almost every title printed back then, was previously unknown to collectors, but that it was the collection from which another famous batch of comics was sold: the so-called "D Copy" collection consisting of some 2,000 books sold in the 1990s. But how had those comics been separated from the larger collection now in Heritage's possession? It was a mystery till this weekend, when The Wall Street Journal on Saturday ran a front-page piece on the Crippen collection, which is being sold by Davis' son Alex, and its mysterious origins.
"Although nobody knows the precise value of the original D books when they hit the market, they are estimated to be worth at least $1 million at today's prices. The missing comics happened to be some of the collection's very best, including early Superman, Batman and other big-name super hero books. Since Davis Crippen did not store his books in any discernible order, whoever brought the books to market had to have the time and knowledge to ferret out some of the highest-quality books.
Stephen Fishler, owner of Metropolis Collectibles, a big New York dealer, recalls buying many of the D books about 15 years ago...Mr. Fishler recently told Alex Crippen the seller's name: Eric Kechejian. Separately, the Crippen family had begun to suspect that one or both of a pair of young contractors might have sold the comics when Davis and Cynthia Crippen hired them to do extensive home renovations that lasted for many months in 1991. Anyone working on the house would have had plenty of time alone with the comics since the couple worked away from home. One of the workmen was particularly curious about antiques. The other contractor's name: Eric Kechejian."
It's estimated that Crippen's books, not all of which will be made available this weekend, will fetch some $2.5 million at auction. That is far more than I got from Half-Price Books in 1982, when my folks insisted I sell off my rather estimable collection. --Robert Wilonsky