I wonder how many of the 3,648 “Rusty Riley” daily comic strips (original art) are still in existence . . .

Update 10-14-13:  I originally posted this on April 7, 2012.  However, in looking through it, I found it quite interesting, and the observations I made in it are still completely valid today.

Using a calculator on the web, I ultimately (after one or two adjustments) figured out that the Rusty Riley daily comic strip ran for a period of 608 weeks.  (I had to do some experimenting to see what the calculator included in its results.)  At six strips per week, that’s a total of 3,648 strips.  If for some unknown reason that figure is wrong, it is at least very close. (The Sunday strip ran for more than eleven years, but not as long as the daily strip.  I’m not considering the Sunday strip in this post.)

Of course, the collector may wonder just how many of the pieces of original art may still exist for those 3,648 (or so) daily strips. I think there are probably far more examples in existence than most people might imagine. Some collectors love to post, on the internet, images of original Rusty Riley art in their collections. Quite a number of images of Rusty Riley art for sale by dealers have also been posted on the internet. One result of this is that a large number of images of original Rusty Riley art are on the internet.

The fact that so many collectors and dealers do this, and the fact that in a number of cases the same art has come up for sale multiple times, may lead a person to believe that he or she is more or less acquainted with all of the Rusty Riley art that is “out there.”  This I believe is very far from the case.

While some Rusty Riley original art — and for that matter, other Frank Godwin original art — seems to have appeared on the market multiple times over a period of time, some of it has appeared on the market once, and then has seemingly (from the standpoint of the ordinary interested person) dropped off of the face of the earth.  Sometime I may write a post dealing with that phenomenon, because it is a pretty interesting topic.  And probably much of the art has never even been on the market in any public way — and some, I assume, has never been on the market at all. And related to this is the fact that, although many collectors are drawn to posting images of the Rusty Riley examples in their collections, surely there must be many for whom doing do is something they would never consider doing.  And in the case of some collectors, they probably would not know how to do that, even if they wanted to.

Of course, one wonders what happened to the art which does not exist.  You can probably find stories of the lack of respect that was often afforded to comic strip original art back in the old days. I have a feeling that some of that information is apocryphal. In Frank Godwin’s case, and specifically in the case of Rusty Riley, I believe that both King Features Syndicate and Frank Godwin treated the original art with respect, and as being valuable and worth preserving.  A number of very early Rusty Riley strips (original art) do still exist.  Examples (reference-catalog listings): Library of Congress, Michigan State University.

Nonetheless, as I have discussed in a different post, there is reason to believe that significantly more strips (original art) were preserved from certain years than from others.  If this is the case, then it follows that much of the original art is indeed no longer in existence.  As to how many strips (original art) are still around, I am not going to hazard a guess at this time.

—Tom Sawyer

April 7, 2012

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