The collectors have spoken!

Note (10-15-13):  As I looked through this post, I made more and more changes.  So I decided to post it “anew,” as of this date.  But the main points of the original post remained the same. –TAS

I’m not sure that the collectors have spoken, but I kind of liked the above title.

But I wanted to talk a little about the Rusty Riley original-art market.

And if the original-art collectors have spoken, they have said that “quality” is an extremely important factor in determining how much to pay for original art.

On I believe February 28, 2012, the original art for the January 18, 1957, Rusty Riley comic strip sold on eBay.  (It is currently posted on the comicartfans.com website.)

Is this a record price for Rusty Riley original art?  Not even close.  But it is definitely one of the higher prices paid for Rusty Riley art, and I wanted to say a few words as to why I think it sold for that price.

First, and possibly foremost, there is the fact that the strip appeared to be in excellent condition.  There were no glue stains, for example.  And when there are any glue stains at all, the seller is in the unfortunate position of having to explain that they are minor (if they are), or that they don’t detract (if they don’t).  And unfortunately, in many cases the glue stains are so significant that they come close to ruining the art as a collector’s item.  But the one situation where you don’t have to worry about glue stains is when there aren’t any!

As a footnote:  I have a number pieces of Rusty Riley art, and a fair quantity of them have glue stains.  And I do know that in some cases, the glue stains do not detract significantly from the art.  But probably in most cases I am aware of, they do!

Here is another footnote, this one regarding Sunday art:  In probably a high percentage of the existing Rusty Riley Sunday art, the “Rusty Riley” stat in the upper-left is seriously afflicted with glue stains.  I think in the case of Sunday art, you need to ignore that — In my view, it does not hurt the value at all.  I suspect that a number of pieces have “replacement stats” there anyway.  I just looked at my Sunday originals.  It looks like one has a replacement, and one has glue stains.  The others are okay.  But if I were buying or selling a Sunday, I would not consider that stat’s condition.  (Other collectors might have different opinions.)

There are a few other more or less objective things about the January 18, 1957, Rusty Riley strip that sold for $648.

First of all, Rusty is shown in all three panels.

Secondly, the art has large areas of black, with a nice area of contrasting white.  But most of all, there is ink almost everywhere, and I suppose that is a hallmark of many of the best Rusty Riley strips.

Thirdly, the strip has conflict (“Don’t go down there! It’s just another trick!”) and a dramatic final panel (“Jeepers!  There’s some kind of box under it!”).

Is that strip a “perfect” Rusty Riley strip?

No, I don’t think so.

I have not scientifically broken-down the art that makes up the whole Rusty Riley strip, from 1948 through 1959.  However, it seems to me that Godwin’s art on the strip can be (to some extent) broken down into four or more different styles.  In at least one of those styles, the art tends to look great from a distance, or in small size, but when you look at the original art close up, the details sometimes are “suggested” more than drawn.  And the art in this case appears to be of that style.  If you look at the enlargements in the comicartfans.com website, this should be especially clear from looking at Rusty’s head, particularly in the final panel.

You might ask, “Well, Tom, are there any strips that you will mention as being better?”

Sure, thanks for asking.

There might be a half-dozen on (for example) the comicartfans.com site that I think are better.  At the moment, I’ll just mention two.

One I like better is the one from exactly one week earlier, January 11, 1957.

Another I like better probably better than the January 11, 1957, strip, is a very early strip, April 20, 1949.

Are there others I like even more?  Oh, definitely, and I have some in my own collection that probably fit that category.

I think that most Rusty Riley collectors tend to judge Rusty Riley strips as compared to other strips they have seen posted on the internet (for example, on the comicartfans.com website, or on the Heritage Auctions website).  This probably is not the best way to evaluate Rusty Riley original art.

Is there any “perfect” Rusty Riley strip?  I’m not really sure.  As I have basically just said, I know I like some a lot more than the main strip under discussion (January 18, 1957)!  Still, it is probably one of the better Rusty Riley strips art-wise, and certainly condition-wise there is nothing to complain about.

—Tom Sawyer

February 28, 2012

Revision published 10-15-13.

(About 843 words.)

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