After viewing the video tour of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum I wondered about what the original material for comic strip reprint collections cost. Sure, if you can tap a big time collector of original newspaper strips they may lend you their newspapers but they’ll need to be scanned and corrected. Plus working with brittle newspaper from 50-100 years ago takes a lot of care and effort.

Billy Ireland Cartoon Libray and Museum logo     Syracuse University Library logo

Places like Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State and Syracuse University Library Special Collections Research Center house a good amount of either original artwork or printer proofs. Bill Blackbeard’s San Francisco Academy Of Comic Art was added to the Billy Ireland collection after his death.

These institutions offer digital reproduction services, providing high quality scans of their material for a fee: $10-$20 at Ohio and $10-$15 at Syracuse, plus labour and storage in some cases. You need to provide written permission from the copyright holder before they’re proceed for anything not in the public domain.

That’s not bad when you think about it. I took a look at two books I had on my desk: X-9 Secret Agent Corrigan Vol 2 and Prince Valiant Vol 6. Corrigan Vol 2 has approximately 810 strips included, so at $10 a pop from Ohio that’s $8100 for the source material of the book. Valiant Vol 6 has approximately 100 strips so at $10 each from Syracuse that’s $1000 for source material. No matter how great the material there will be touch ups and restoration required. Then they need to pay someone to compile and edit everything, but that’s true of any book. Not sure if there’s a bulk discount but Ohio has one price for already scanned material and another if they need to scan it; check out the cartoon image database.

Collections like these have made the recent avalanche of comic strips reprints possible, providing the best possible source material for a better reading experience.