Comics, Pulps, and Paperbacks: Why such a discrepancy in values?
10 10

1,592 posts in this topic

5,731 posts

I've recently been looking more into vintage paperback books. Some of the cover art and text blurbs are incredibly risque, and it fascinates me to consider what it must've been like to peruse the stands of the local newsstand considering the covers that adorned the comics, pulps, and paperbacks of the time.

 

From what little I know about the era, there was a glut of product from each of these types of publications. However, based on the values I've seen in my limited research, it seems that paperbacks have never attained the same level of collectibility of comics and pulps. Heck, it seems that pulps aren't nearly as sought after as the comics, either.

 

Can anyone enlighten me as to why that might be? I know there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, why is it that, in terms of value and apparent interest, it's: comics > pulps > paperbacks? I can understand why super hero comics, which are still in the public eye, have maintained their dominance, but are there any clear reasons why pulps and paperbacks aren't as sought after?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,677 posts

With the comic market moving more and more toward cover-art being the dominant force in collectability, it is a bit odd that pulps and paperbacks, both with far superior and more varied art than comics, have comparatively little interest.

 

Pulps even had a head start... with a plethora of fanzines beginning in the 1930s devoted to at least the sf side of it. But with pulps, a lot of the "problem" is that the format ended almost 60 years ago. It's the old out-of-sight out-of-mind thing. There are 2 major pulp conventins today vs. dozens of comic conventions. Newspapers and magazines do articles about comic books... but they don't have a clue what a real pulp is. Couple this with the fact that pulps are just too hard to obtain these days... putting together runs of anything beyond the most common titles is a true challenge. Most comic runs can be had for the asking just by laying out the cash.

 

Paperback collecting has always suffered because there is very little information out there about them. The guides that came out in the past were publisher-fixated, which is no longer the way most people collect (like comics they now tend to look for vivid artwork and author "keys"). Paperbacks are interesting in that they more closely follow the history of comics (what we think of as a paperback format began in 1939), and like comics move into more lurid covers in the late 40s and 50s. Unlike comics, covers continued to be daring into the 60s and beyond, though the adult nature of many paperbacks and their publishers, both within and on the covers, may also hurt their broader-based collectability, as holding "mainstream" conventions of them and having a mainstream company "slab" them might prove problematic.

 

I did what I could years back to shed some light and information on pulps, and am working, albeit slowly, on doing the same thing with paperbacks. Though in the era of eReaders, I suspect it's too little too late to generate any broad-based enthusiasm. (On the other hand, if a company like CGC did offer a grading service, paperback values would likely skyrocket, particularly with high-grade rarities. And there are even more paperbacks out there than comics, so if it took off, it would be a lucrative endeavor indeed for both the grading company and lucky collectors/dealers sitting on inventories of key items).

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16,806 posts

Oh you are so right in that pulps have some amazing covers to be discovered,and waiting for a grading service to come along and make them equal to the comicbooks in value!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18,326 posts

The value of Superhero comics which have no equivalent in paperbacks and limited equivalent in pulps drives the value of all comics. Pulp heroes are barely known by current collecting community, even the Shadow is thought of as a character from the past, whereas the top GA and SA characters are still being published.

 

The value of other comics, including obscure GA heroes, PCH and other non-hero genres may seem independent of Gold and Silver hero books, but the superheo comics establish benchmarks in terms of price that make the other stuff seem more affordable, or at least reasonable. I can guarantee no one would be paying 4 figures for classic PCH covers, if DC and Timely keys were still available for the same prices in the same grades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,677 posts
The value of Superhero comics which have no equivalent in paperbacks and limited equivalent in pulps drives the value of all comics. Pulp heroes are barely known by current collecting community, even the Shadow is thought of as a character from the past, whereas the top GA and SA characters are still being published.

 

The value of other comics, including obscure GA heroes, PCH and other non-hero genres may seem independent of Gold and Silver hero books, but the superheo comics establish benchmarks in terms of price that make the other stuff seem more affordable, or at least reasonable. I can guarantee no one would be paying 4 figures for classic PCH covers, if DC and Timely keys were still available for the same prices in the same grades.

 

While you are absolutely correct that super-heroes drive the comics market, I'm not sure the lack of super-heroes in pulps or paperbacks is particularly relevant. Sure, super-hero fans aren't going to be attracted to those other formats, but so what? Dashiell Hammett collectors aren't looking to comics either.

 

Science-fiction fans drove the pulps and paperback markets for awhile. The problem is, sf folks kept everything... so the respective pulps and books from that genre are relatively common. Mystery, noir, and exploitation covers now are the key and most valuable collectibles in those formats, with a greater emphasis on title or publisher rarity than is found in comics.

 

I don't think pulp prices are ever likely to explode beyond the pace they are already increasing, often as much due to inflation and frustration with availability as anything else. Paperbacks, which have been stagnant the longest, could have the potential for rapid growth if the public were made more aware of them, since unlike pulps, there are many names in paperback publishing that are familiar to everyday folks... Stephen King, Lawrence Block, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Harlan Ellison, Louis L'Amour, a lot of movie and TV tie-ins, famous and not-so-famous spy series and spoofs. Plus paperbacks have the potential for "signature series" items like comics in a way where pulps do not. Plus, also unlike pulps, existing paperback collectors are generally high-grade aficiandos, often desiring the equivalent of 9.0s or better.

 

Pretty much anyone who wants to shell out 6 figures can own an Action #1, for instance. Several copies come up for sale every year. Paperback's most valuable book... the first edition of the 1st Pocket Book... probably exists in under two dozen copies, and rarely comes up for sale,regardless of one's ability to pay for it. This either makes paperbacks more interesting for the challenge-inspired, or more frustrating for the instant-gratification crowd.

 

Another plus for paperback collectors is that rare and sought-after items can still turn up at garage sales and used bookstores, which happens now very rarely with the more publicized comics, and almost never due to the age and fragility of pulps.

 

But should paperbacks break out as a collectible, it will be much more broad-based than the heroes-focused comics medium... I don't see any one genre completely dominating their collectibility.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5,731 posts

Lawrence Block is an author who has me interested in some of these old paperbacks. I had no idea he had so many pseudonyms, and I didn't know until recently that he wrote some of the soft-core porn titles from the 50s and 60s. To me, as someone with a book collecting background, I'm drawn to those original paperbacks.

 

However, the odds of someone not familiar with collecting coming around and being interested? I'm not sure that's very likely. Not with the widespread use of digital books. The only way to get people interested in these as a collectible would be to show them that A) there are some great stories to go along with the cover art, and B) you can't find these old books on a digital reader.

 

But with millions of books available at the push of a button, I'm thinking that very few of us will find our way to these old paperback gems.

 

Of course, I hope I'm wrong...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18,326 posts
The value of Superhero comics which have no equivalent in paperbacks and limited equivalent in pulps drives the value of all comics. Pulp heroes are barely known by current collecting community, even the Shadow is thought of as a character from the past, whereas the top GA and SA characters are still being published.

 

The value of other comics, including obscure GA heroes, PCH and other non-hero genres may seem independent of Gold and Silver hero books, but the superheo comics establish benchmarks in terms of price that make the other stuff seem more affordable, or at least reasonable. I can guarantee no one would be paying 4 figures for classic PCH covers, if DC and Timely keys were still available for the same prices in the same grades.

 

While you are absolutely correct that super-heroes drive the comics market, I'm not sure the lack of super-heroes in pulps or paperbacks is particularly relevant. Sure, super-hero fans aren't going to be attracted to those other formats, but so what? Dashiell Hammett collectors aren't looking to comics either.

 

 

I don't follow the pulp market that closely. I used to dabble in buying shudder pulps, but realized my collecting dollar only stretches so far, and have since sold them. You would be the guy to ask as far as increasing values, and I have noticed that higher grade high interest pulps seem to have risen against inflation pretty well in the last few years, but it strikes me that even the cool stuff is fairly static in terms of price in lower grade, and has been so for decades ( factoring for inflation). Am I wrong on this? Are there pulps that seem to be seeing strong price increases regardless of condition?

 

The reason I brought up superheroes in responding to the OPs query as to why pulps seem a great value compared to GA comics, is that while even a decade ago non-key pulps with great covers were priced comparably with "classic" cover non-key GA books, superhero keys have taken a tremendous rise, dragging along many of the classic covers with them. Pulps with great covers don't appear to have seen the same increases, largely because there isn't an equivalent driver for the medium as a whole. Superhero collectors aren't necessarily going to be any more interested in say Baker romance or Archie comics than they are pulps, but the collectors of those other comic genres are fully aware of the value of what they like in respect to the market as a whole, and may feel more comfortable paying escalating prices for what they want as long as the superhero books are keeping the pace up.

 

Your point about Dashiell Hammet is well taken, as with a title like Black Mask a Chandler, Cain or Hammet appearance obviously increases the value tremendously, I'm guessing in no small part due to cross-over interest from collectors of authors more than pulps in particular. Authors who have longevity and whose fame has eclipsed their pulp roots are in some ways to pulps what Batman and Superman are to comics, characters whose popularity far outstrips the medium that spawned them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5,731 posts
P2263645.JPG

 

Any chance for a zoomed in shot? I'd like to see what you've got there, but alas, my eyes...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28,680 posts
P2263645.JPG

 

Any chance for a zoomed in shot? I'd like to see what you've got there, but alas, my eyes...

 

.... do I see "I Was a Sultry Vodoo Priestess" in there ? GOD BLESS....

 

-jimbo(a friend of jesus) (thumbs u

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,677 posts
Any chance for a zoomed in shot? I'd like to see what you've got there, but alas, my eyes...

 

Offhand, I see...

 

Think Fast Mr. Moto -- John P. Marquand

Cave Girl -- Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Dell 1st edition)

The Green Girl -- Jack Williamson

Night Has a Thousand Eyes -- Cornell Woolrich (1967 Paperback Lib. ed.)

Slan -- A. E. Van Vogt (Dell)

False Night -- Algis Budrys (Lion)

Bring the Jubilee -- Ward Moore (Ballantine)

Dead Ringer -- James Hadley Chase

Human? -- Judith Merril (Lion)

Halo in Brass -- Howard Browne

The Far Cry -- Fredric Brown

First He Died -- Clifford D. Simak

Fallen Sparrow -- Dorothy B. Hughes

Cup of Gold -- John Steinbeck (1st paperback ed.)

Too Many Women -- Rex Stout

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,677 posts

A man who knows his paperbacks! Lots of good stuff...

 

Day Keene, Charles Williams, Robert Bloch, the "Earthman on Venus", "The Dying Earth" of course, "Dunwich Horror"...

 

Particularly impressive... the scarce "Mansion of Evil" (which should be of special interest to comics collectors), and a set of the John Russell Fearn Harlequins!

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5,731 posts

Wow, that's an impressive collection. I don't recognize as many as Bookery does, but I do see some authors I've wanted to read more of, such as Cornell Woolrich. And there's a Nightmare Alley in there, which I've heard about.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,904 posts

I love Cornell Woolrich...

 

img2pb.JPG

img314.jpg

img315.jpg

img317.jpg

img475.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,400 posts
I love Cornell Woolrich...

 

img2pb.JPG

img314.jpg

img315.jpg

img317.jpg

img475.jpg

 

I love Cornell Woolrich too. After I became obsessed with Hitchcock films, I started looking for Woolrich writings. His ideas are still fodder for Hollywood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,584 posts
I love Cornell Woolrich...

+1

His short stories provide some great, pulse-pounding reading...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11,395 posts
I've recently been looking more into vintage paperback books. Some of the cover art and text blurbs are incredibly risque.... However, based on the values I've seen in my limited research, it seems that paperbacks have never attained the same level of collectibility of comics and pulps. Heck, it seems that pulps aren't nearly as sought after as the comics, either. Can anyone enlighten me as to why that might be? I know there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, why is it that, in terms of value and apparent interest, it's: comics > pulps > paperbacks?

Shhhhhhh..... Don't tell anybody about this....

 

It is still possible to occasionally find $300+ paperbacks for $30... Etc....

 

So shhhhhhh.....

143993.jpg.91519d0cf362bd7702d4d4c2c6023d98.jpg

143994.jpg.245b6c148c41cf221e63926aeb14eeda.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4,904 posts

I say nothing but - some good ones!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
10 10