Signature Series

Over the past few months, I’ve been flooded with emails from the CGC and CBCS Comic Grading companies promoting exclusive inhouse signing events by artists and writers. These events are now a regular occurrence at the grading sites thanks to the fact that there are no Comic Cons to go to. Traditionally the big Cons would have CGC people there, all the creators would be there too so if you wanted to get something signed and graded you’d just get a CGC person there to witness the creator signing your book and away you go towards a yellow Signature Series label.

We recently shipped a book down to CGC for a customer, it was all so rushed, the event was approaching and the customer rushed the book into us and told us to get it down there quick. We usually ship in bulk and get returns from CGC in bulk to save on the ridiculous shipping charged. We didn’t have time to get some extra books of our own ready and the customer understood and he was fine with the extra shipping costs, he wanted his book in this fast-approaching Signature Series event.

This past weekend we sold a CGC Signature Series Amazing Spider-Man #300, the book had two signatures on it, Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane, the ones you’d want on that book. The problem was the signatures were in marker on the actual case of the blue label CGC 9.8. What to do? You can’t replicate the signature on the book anymore since Mr. Lee has since passed away. You can’t get CBCS to authenticate because it’s in a CGC case. All the same, the buyer was satisfied that he has the two signatures and his purchase price reflected the fact that it was the case that was signed.

This Spidey #300 transaction, the rushed submission and all the email solicitations got me to thinking and asking the question, where does the market stand on Signature Series?

From what I’ve read multiple signatures are all the rage, the more the better for the value of the book. Sometimes it’s hard to get the whole creative team to sign a book because some no longer speak to each other and one won’t sign if the other already has, yikes. Multiple signatures can cost you a bundle though since each creator will charge a fee for their signature so you best know the market on what adds value or things can go backwards quick.

I’m not well versed in what adds value, I’m assuming big names like Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, Neal Adams etc. will add value but I’m not even sure if the extra value you gain can even cover the cost of getting the thing sent down, signed and sent back. Again people that deal in Signature Series books seem to know these things.

I can see the merits of Signature Series comics from a market perspective, a signature creates extra scarcity and multiple signatures create even more scarcity to the point where you may own for example the Hulk #181 with the most signatures on it. Scarcity often drives up value so it can be a good move to take your 3 signatures book, which may be relatively common, and turn it into a much scarcer four signature book.

As for these events the grading companies are holding at their sites I can only see this as beneficial to the resellers. If I was a fanboy and wanted my personal copy signed I would not send it down to these signing events. Personal copies need that added personal meeting with that artist you really like, a hello, a short conversation, a look in the eye, a smile and you witnessing him or her signing your book. This then turns into a true memory and makes the book a bit more valuable to you on a personal level.

I once talked to an artist about this at a show and he said that the amount of people that want their names written on the cover, like “to John” has dried up over the past 10 years or so. It seems that even fans are leaving room for an eventual exit strategy for their signed copy.

I kind of like the Signature Series stuff that is outside the norm, the Wayne Gretsky signature on a copy of Skating on Thin Ice or an Arnold Schwarzenegger signature on a Conan comic. Of course, a Jack Kirby signature would always be cool but you’d need to send it to CBCS as CGC does not authenticate and I think they would be wise to start doing so.

I was just looking at the prices for Amazing Spider-Man #300s and the Signature Series prices are insanely high. The Signature Series market is one more example of a niche part of the market I thought long past its prime yet here we are looking at a year where signed books have shown major gains. Another example of me not paying attention.

Anyone have any cool Signature Series books?

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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  1. As an old school collector, signed comics have never had a great appeal to me. Nor more than a very minor added value. And Inthink that’s the general feeling of fans my age.

    Which is strange, since in the antiquarian book field—real books—that I know very well, signatures and interesting inscriptions can be a big plus. Phikip K. Dick, Stephen King, Frank Herbert, etc.

    But signing the cover of a vintage comic book just does not seem right to me. Fortunately, many artists, such as Kirby, Kubert, Russ Heath and others, would often sign or inscribe a comic book inside on the margin of the splash page. I recently had a set of the 1950s Prince Valiant Four Color issues, each one carefully inscribed by Hal Foster on the inside front cover. They were done for the well-known ERB collector, and publisher of the semi-prozine ERB-dom, Caz Cazedessus. He fortunately dated them 1958 in pencil, so I srumise he met Foster at a Cartoonist’s Society function, or perhaps a World Scuence Fiction Convention. No comic-cons bacj then!

    And then also just recently, I found a Joe Kubert signature on a very minor 1950s titke. I surprised me when it did very well in an auction, making me realize times have clearly changed. None of these old signatures have authenticity cards or anything, much less are they encased…kind of contradictory if the signature is inside anyway. So you have to go on faith the signature is right…which it usually is, since back in the day, with little or no added value, who would fake a signature?

    A good friend of mine passed away recently, and he had bought another buddy’s collection about 25 years ago. So it came about that I was able to reunite a FINE copy of Thunda #1, raw of course, that inside was inscribed to my friend Larry (Bigman). Larry first met Frank Frazetta at the 1971 Seuling NYCon, when Larry was 17 years old or thereabouts. That was the very first show Frank ever attended. Larry told me he never thought he’d see it again, so he was pretty jazzed to get it back 25 years later, nearly 50 years after it was signed. It would have been a minor upgrade for me, but it was only too right to get it back to Larry.

    I still have a lowly VG copy of a Durango Kid that Frank signed on the cover, Frank signed it on the cover, with no inscription. Back then, we’d grab whatever we had with us or could buy at a show, to get a signature, and one or maybe two was all I would have had the nerve to ask for. I would have never imagined they’d be worth any more, it was just cool to get a giant of the comics world to acknowledge us and give us something to carry home, as Walter mentioned.

    My biggest thrill was when Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredsson both were guests at San Diego Comic Con in the 1970s. I had them each sign a copy the Abbeville compiliation books of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, which had just been published (and I was selling there at the show). No comics! And an equally big thrill was when Stan Lynde was a guest. I grew up reading his Rick O’Shay on the San Jose Mercury News, and meeting him was as big a deal as meeting Frazetta for me. I had him sign a couple books for my kids, then toddlers, for when they would be old enough to appreciate them…

    Will Eisner was VERY generous signing Spirit sections, I have couple myself, including the first from June, 1940, and a whole slew of them from that same buddy’s collection, some 15 or so! Sheesh!

    No old timers seem to try and identify these old books. So it’s pretty cool to pop open an ordinary copy I am grading, and find Joe Simon, or Otto Binder, or Joe Kubert, or Jack Kirby, have signed it!

    Those Foster Four Colors still were the biggest surprise for me, since he didn’t even draw them. More often, but still pretty rarely, I find his signature on the Prince Valiant Hastings House books from the early 1950s…seven were adapted into kid’s books with new text with pictures, and later they were reprinted by Nostalgia Press. Fans would send copies to him with return postage, since Foster only attended one comic show that I know of, Seuling’s New York Comic Art Con in 1969 I believe. He’s guest of honor in the well-known “banquet” picture you can find on the internet, with Gary Groth and fan publisher Bill Wilson as young teens, and pros like Jeff Jones, Al Williamson, Gray Morrow. One of the coolest convention pictures ever.

  2. Hey Walt and Bud. Im not big into signature comics. But I do like original owners copies that have childhood cursive or printing on them. I get to imagine the owner, their relationship to this particular book, where are they now, are they alive? Would they recall their comic collecting days?
    Ive a huge Harvey collection. Many books have girls signatures on them, on many consecutive issues. I had a series of 1940s books with a Carol Burnett signature……you just never know 🙂

  3. Just bought my first ever SS book this summer. A Daredevil 18 with both Stan and Jazzy Johnny. I definitely paid a big premium for it, but very happy to get the best dual signature I would ever want. Not sure if I have a taste for it now or not. Would consider it again for the right book, but more for personal value than future returns.

  4. Bud, I love your Larry – Thundra story, sounds like your heart has always been in the right place. You are right about the old days though, no one would think to forge a signature because as you pointed out, it would bring no extra value.

    Dave, the only guy I ever cursed for writing on the covers was some schmuck that numbered his collection in pen on the covers, thousands of comics. I think the collection was from south of London, Ontario, years and years ago.

  5. The only thing I have signed… and there is no affidavit… is a Spiderman publicity photo one of my kids go 16-18 signed by Sam Rami. I also cringe at signed covers but have a friend who loves them… oh so many Excelsiors.
    I have an early thirties G-8 and his Battle Aces pulp a 17 kid filled out a coupon for the lucrative new field of radio! I Google Earth his old home… a farmhouse north of Boston and thought as he read that pulp he could get out of The farm. A few years later he probably did.

  6. Signatures are a funny thing. I used to love getting them for artists and writers I really liked. I remember waiting in line in Chicago for a Stan Lee signature on DD #2. And way back then, you didn’t have to wait long, or at all, for most creators. But I think what I liked best about it, was not so much the signature, but meeting the creators and chatting with them. I have wonderful stories about meeting Al Feldstein, Julius Schwartz, etc. etc. And back then, they would sign on the inside of the book. Never on the cover.
    Except I remember Mike Zeck signing the cover on the Punisher limited series #5, because he drew the cover, but not the rest of the issue, which made sense back then. And it used to be fun to buy a back issue off of someone and find out there was a signature in it. For books like DCs Who’s Who, (where multiple artists were hired for the character profiles) artists would jump to the page for a particular character they drew and sign that page in the middle of the book.
    Now everything is always on the cover. Which, as a collector who wants an endgame to be able to sell, I totally understand. AND be sure to get it slabbed. But as a collector who is nostalgic, I like the signatures on the inside. But if a signature is only being valued for it’s collectability, then more and more, comics are becoming only a commodity. And is that good for the future of the business?

  7. What I hate is the kids who’d discover the wonders of a stamp…sometimes with their name, sometimes just a date or return address stamp. Never could stamp a book just once, but multiple times, on the cover and on inside pages. I have too many of those. Gary Dolgoff just turned up a GA collection with some from Pipeline, MT or something, who stamped the books all over. And I find it strange that CGC rarely downgrades a book for stamps, treating them like a date stamp and virtually ignoring them. Not right, guys. There’s a minor, subtle stamp, and then there’s one that detracts from the cover. I have a date stamp on girl’s faces, and their legs, in the middle of the cover. Arghh.

    But Dave, you are right, it’s interesting to wonder about those kids that signed their comics. My buddy Mal is still looking for ones he bought in the 1940s. He wrote “MH”, his initials on the covers, when he lived in Tulsa, OK. He has never turned up one of them. He did find one with a girl’s name he believes was a schoolmate.

    My San Jose buddies Dick Swan (on EBay as Big Guy’s Comics) and Tom Tallmon, back in the mid-sixties, used to stamp each of their cheap dupes on the bottom of the splash page. I actually find it charming now, since they were friends, but others may not.

    In our first two stores, in 1968 and 1969, we initialed each comic on the top left side, in the margin, on the last page, opposite the back cover, with our initials and a number. That way we knew who to credit the sale to, and how long the comic had been in stock. Usually in pen, too, but at least it’s kind of hidden unless you look hard or, like, me, grade each comic starting at the last page….

    I’ve run across several of these, including a vintage Captain America golden age issue.

    So if you guys ever find comics that say “JMB 1002” or “DS 800” or, God Forbid, “BP something”, they came from our first stores, Seven Sons Comic Shop and Comic World (this was pre-Comics and Comix, we didn’t practice that there), Funny thing, I find my buddies’ books but never my own, even though I had an abundance of these “run of the mill” comics that we’d sell them for a base price of .25. At the Flea Market nearby, I could score countless comics for five cents, the going price on used comics then…so the profit margin was HUGE. Today’s equivalent of .50 or $1 comics.

  8. I have mixed feelings about signed books. I generally prefer my signed books to be signed in my presence so that the signing is also an opportunity for me to talk to the creator and at least convey my appreciation for their work. That didn’t however stop me buying a Spider-man #600 signed and numbered by Alex Ross, and, additionally, signed by Stan Lee, both with certificates of authenticity. How could you pass that up? But, I have also taken books to be signed by Charles Vess and Leonard Kirk, both of whom were not the least bit friendly or forthcoming, and managed to leave a very bad taste in my mouth. Not all creators live up to our expectations and that can be disappointing. To be sure, I have had the pleasure of meeting some first-rate creators with hearts of gold who made me feel like a long-lost friend. Just prepare yourself for the good the bad and the occasional ugly.

    cheers, mel

  9. Quite the elaborate inventory and tracking system you guys had going. I’d love to find a ‘BP something’ comic, would be a coveted prize and worthy of a post of its own.

    Mel, you are right, I’ve had experiences with creators at both ends of the spectrum, at the end of the day there are all kinds of people.

  10. Certificates of Authenticity are worthless unless you are there to witness it or have a picture of the book being signed.

    I’ve heard of some unscrupulous dealers who would sign the comics and the CoA themselves, forging the signatures and then telling customers the signatures on the comics were authentic because they matched the CoAs.

    As a result, I steer clear of signed comics or put no extra value on any I might come across.

  11. Mel, Charles Vess is really a sweet, generous man. All I can say is you must have met him at a bad time, I am sure even the nicest creators can just get tired and fail to be “up” for everyone they meet. I’ve known Charles for several decades and count him as a good friend.

    His wife was in a terrible auto accident quite some time back, in the 1990s, and Comic-Con put together a charity auction to help. They had inadequate insurance for her medical bills. Charles had lived for many years in NYC with Michael Kaluta and they’ve always been close. Michael created a fine painting of The Shadow for the event. A buddy and I went halves and bought it, which got the price even higher than if we’d bid against each other.

  12. I have a plain cover X-Men 1 (not sure from which year) with a hand-sketched Wolverine and Trimpe signature CGC’d at 9.8. Probably my favourite item for the uniqueness.

    I also hoarded S.Lee signatures prior to his passing (R.I.P) only on books he was directly involved with so Cap#100, FF#6, ASM#50 (also signed by , X-Men#1. Alas, I let a DD#1 get away. I have some others but those are the highlights.

    I wouldn’t pay too much of a premium for a signature but it’s nice to have a personal touch from someone who created it.

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