The agony of glue stains on original “Rusty Riley” dailies . . .

These days, for those buying original Rusty Riley daily art, it may be getting a little difficult to avoid Rusty Riley art with glue stains.  To me, when they are present offensively, they are one of the most significant detractions from the enjoyment of the art.  I imagine that some people have several Rusty Riley pieces, and none with any glue stains.  However, I suspect that many people have succumbed to the temptation to acquire Rusty Riley art that does have glue stains.

I am one such person!

In fact, I have enough original Rusty Riley art with glue stains to have become something of an expert on them.  This post is an effort to help place glue stains into perspective.  I don’t imagine that everyone will agree with me–these are simply my opinions.  But remember, I do have a lot of glue-stained art.  (If the time comes that I want to sell them — disregard everything in this post!)

The image below will show an example.

IMG_4726 Patty 1

The portrait of Patty shown above is from the March 1, 1956, daily Rusty Riley.  It is not one of Godwin’s better portrayals of Patty, as you can tell if you compare it to the picture of Patty shown recently in another post.

Some of you may wonder, “What is this guy talking about?  Glue stains?”

Well, here is my understanding of what probably happened; exact details here involve a little guesswork, and I don’t know exactly how Godwin worked, or what the syndicate’s exact procedures were.  But in general, the following was probably pretty close to what happened.

Godwin would draw his Rusty Riley daily strips, for probably six dailies, maybe more.  Then, in areas that he wanted to appear overall darker in the printed version (maybe a mountain range or maybe a sky, just as examples), he would apply a light-blue wash (which would be invisible because of the sensitivity-attributes of the film used in the plate-making process).

Then Godwin would mail the strips to the syndicate.  One of the things the syndicate would do would be to apply a clear “film” with a “dot” pattern.  This film would be applied to the areas to which Godwin had applied the light-blue wash.  And the adhesive used was  . . . glue!  And in time, the glue often (but not always) turned an ugly brown.

I say “ugly.”  But sometimes it is not really ugly.  Sometimes the brownish color is so pale and unobtrusive that it just provides a little toning.  But when the glue stains are there, they are often quite ugly.

By the way, a lot of collectors and dealers seem to call the dot patterns “Zip-A-Tone,” or “Ben Day.”  I believe that those are not the processes used, as I have explained elaborately in an earlier post.

Now, in the earliest Rusty Riley strips, the “Ben Day” process (see my earlier post, just mentioned) was apparently used, so no further modification of the art was needed.  Thus, very early Rusty Riley originals may have blue wash, but may have had nothing else applied to them.

To my mind, the glue stains can significantly impact the enjoyment and financial value of any Frank Godwin comic strip art.  It’s hard to say “by how much.”  Sometimes the stains are relatively insignificant.  Sometimes they are more significant, but the art in the strip may be so great that it’s a question of, “Well, I don’t have any choice–but hopefully I am paying much less than I would if there were no glue stains.”

One problem is, though, that a lot of the Rusty Riley daily art with glue stains is not otherwise art that would be expected to go for high prices.  Either the plot is (in my view) rather ordinary, or perhaps neither Rusty nor Patty appears in the strips, or there may be other problems.  So, you might be starting out with a strip that might not be worth so much (relatively speaking), and then you are adding glue stains.

I just quickly glanced through a lot of my Rusty Riley originals, and I was semi-surprised to find that three or so of my “better” pieces actually have some glue stains.  Yeah, they are pretty noticeable, but they don’t detract much.

I might guess that I have about fifteen strips with glue stains in all, and in probably half those cases, the glue is a huge detraction.  These are just guesses!

If you are a new collector, the safest course of action might be to avoid glue-stained art altogether, until you figure out what in your opinion is okay and what is not.

—Tom Sawyer

October 25, 2013

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