Americana – Travel & Exploration, Space – World History – Cartography

(Berkeley, California, October 20th, 2020) – PBA Galleries will present an auction of Americana – Travel & Exploration, Space – World History – Cartography on November 5th, 2020. The catalogue features over 400 lots comprising a broad array of material relating to the history, culture, progress, and peoples of the Americas and the world beyond, with particular reference to California and the western portion of the United States. Included are printed books, manuscripts, photographs, maps and atlases, propaganda posters, ephemera, and more.

Watkins’ mammoth plate photo of Cliff House, San Francisco

The auction will showcase some of the most desirable Californiana on the market today, including a mammoth plate albumen photograph by Carlton E. Watkins of the original Cliff House in San Francisco. The photograph looks out on the Pacific Ocean from the western shore of San Francisco, with Watkins’ “photo wagon” visible in the image (Estimate: $15,000-$25,000). In The Exposition City: San Francisco, the city appears in a rare bird’s-eye view from 1912, showing the city risen from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire, and with the planned grounds of the Panama Pacific International Exposition on view (Estimate: $1,000-$1,500).

Canadiana is represented in the first octavo edition, in six volumes, of the official account of George Vancouver’s A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World, 1801 (Estimate: $4,000-$7,000). Other travel literature is expected to garner spirited bidding, including Zee Caerte vande Noordt Custe van Engelandt, by Lucas Jansz Waghenaer, c. 1586. The ornately engraved chart of a portion of the northeast coast of England showcases pictorial elements on both land and sea (Estimate: $2,000-$3,000).

Books, archives, and more from a variety of genres and time periods appear throughout the catalogue, offering something of note for a wide spectrum of collectors. An important archive on the Challenger disaster, from the personal papers of NASA flight director Don Puddy, provides an inside look at the causes and aftermath of the 1986 space shuttle catastrophe in which all seven crew members perished (Estimate: $1,500-$2,500). Richard F. Burton’s rare first book, Goa, and the Blue Mountains, 1851 will be on offer in the first issue binding, with the view of Old Goa as the frontispiece (Estimate: $1,500-$2,500). Nine vintage candid photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting Rock Island, Illinois in 1965 displays protesters marching after his assassination in 1968 (Estimate: $3,000-$5,000).

Other highlights include Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot, 1779, a scarce, important survey of the coasts of England and Scotland with 48 detailed engraved charts (Estimate: $3,000-$5,000). Frédérid Baraga’s rare account as a missionary among the Native Americans in Michigan and the upper Midwest, Abrégé de l’histoire des Indiens de l’Amérique septentrionale, 1837, is an exceptional, unopened copy in the original wrappers (Estimate: $2,000-$3,000).

PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. PBA will limit live auction participation to online or phone bidding. For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or [email protected]

Fine Books – Fine Press – Fine Bindings

(Berkeley, California, October 1st, 2020) – PBA Galleries will present an auction of Fine Books – Fine Press – Fine Bindings on October 22nd, 2020. The catalogue features over 350 lots including works on Alchemy and the Occult, classics in Greek and Latin, works in quantum physics, a wealth of books from the fine press movement, a large collection of posters from David Lance Goines, and an array of fine bindings.

Rare fine press books in superior condition are expected to draw spirited bidding. From the father of the Private Press Movement, William Morris, PBA will offer the Kelmscott Press’s The Poems of William Shakespeare [1893]. One of the most sought after works of the Kelmscott Press, Cockerell in 1898 described this volume as ‘one of the rarest books issued from the Press’ because of its popularity” (Estimate: $6,000-$9,000). Also up for auction will be the finest Blake production by Arnold Fawcus and the Trianon Press, Illustrations to the Book of Job by William Blake (1987 [printed c. 1974]) (Estimate: $6,000-$9,000). Works from Arion Press are present throughout the catalogue, but one of the more sought-after works is Poems by Wallace Stevens, of which PBA will present one of 300 copies in the limited edition ($3,000-$5,000).

One of Two Hundred Copies

Fine examples of historic bindings are sale highlights, including a gorgeous Cosway-style binding privately printed in 1862. In The Story of Nell Gwyn: And the Sayings of Charles the Second by Peter Cunningham, a beautiful miniature portrait is inset into the inside of each front board within elaborate gilt-tooled borders (Estimate: $5,000-$8,000). Other standouts include The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1777; 1781; 1788. Gibbon’s landmark work of historiography spans 13 centuries, from the reigns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius at the close of the Pax Romana, through the establishment of the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades, to the fall of Constantinople ($5,000-$8,000). Modern offerings include Rainbow Zenith posters – a complete set of progressive printings by David Lance Goines. The printings offer fascinating insight into the method used in printing Goines’ posters (Estimate: $800-$1,200).

PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. PBA will limit live auction participation to online or phone bidding. For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or [email protected]

Limited Editions Club Publications on August 13th

(Berkeley, California, August 11th, 2020) – PBA Galleries announces a timed auction of Publications of the Limited Editions Club that will begin closing at 11:00am PST on August 13th, 2020. The sale is comprised of 368 lots of publications from the Limited Editions Club, featuring classic literature from Grecian times to the mid-twentieth century. The books are finely printed, attractively bound, and adorned by the leading artists and illustrators the day, nearly all of whom have signed on the limitation page.

The Limited Editions Club was founded in 1929 by George Macy as a subscription-based book club intent on circulating limited edition copies of classic titles to its members. This meant that the print run of each book was limited to the number of members of the group, at first 1,500 and later, 2,000. Macy was a powerhouse New York City publisher who worked hard to ensure that each publication of the club was a once-in-a-lifetime production, often bringing aboard some of the most notable illustrators of the 20th-century (think Arthur Rackam, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Norman Rockwell) to collaborate on the reprints.

The PBA auction includes some of the best and brightest of the LEC publications, many of which are illustrated by the aforementioned artists. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard: The Almanacks is illustrated and signed by Norman Rockwell (starting bid: $100). A copy of Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, is illustrated by Arthur Rackham and also signed by the artist (starting bid: $100). Walden or Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau, features 16 collotype plates from photographs by Edward Steichen. The book was limited to 1500 copies and is signed by the photographer in the colophon (starting bid: $150). The Compleat Angler by Isaac Walton is illustrated with wash-drawings and engravings by Douglas W. Gorsline, and also remains one of 1500 copies signed by the artist (starting bid: $10).

The auction will be timed and most lots are included without reserve. PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or [email protected]

Fine & Rare Books on July 23rd

PBA Galleries is pleased to announce that an auction of Fine & Rare Books – Fine Literature will be held on July 23rd, 2020. The catalogue contains over 250 lots of rare and unusual books, from 16th-century historical tomes to landmarks of literary giants such as Dickens and Dostoevsky. Assembled throughout are finely bound and printed books, striking examples of illustration, illumination, and more, topped off by alchemy, hermetics, and other dark arts.

The most notable names in the history of science, medicine, and technology appear in the sale, including a first collected edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity. Published in London in 1769, the book is considered the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America, an exceptional copy in contemporary half calf and boards ($30,000-$50,000). 

Literary legends up for auction include those who have remained extremely desirable to modern collectors and held their value well, such as Charles Dickens. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby will be presented in a first edition in the original wrapper-bound parts (1838-1839). The Doheny copy comes with a receipt signed by Hablot K. Brown (Phiz) for money received in payment for illustrations he did for the book ($4,000-$6,000). Other significant copies of canonical standouts include T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land: The first edition (1922) is an Eliot family copy with the ownership signature of his niece, Theodora Eliot Smith, his sister’s daughter ($8,000-$12,000). Historic translations include the first book by Fyodor Dostoevsky to be published in the English language, Buried Alive, or Ten Years of Penal Servitude in Siberia (1881) based on the author’s own imprisonment and exile in Siberia ($4,000-$6,000).

Travel narratives and adventures are alive in the pages of Kipling, Cervantes, and Hemingway, all authors expected to inspire spirited bidding. The first illustrated edition in English of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1687) is a tall, handsome copy with a frontispiece and eight copperplate engravings ($8,000-$12,000). Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is signed by him on the title page and inscribed with verse from “Kaa’s Hunting” ($6,000-$9,000). Across the River and Into the Trees is inscribed by Ernest Hemingway to the two young children of wealthy American expatriates in Spain whom he visited in 1959, while researching articles on bullfighting for Life Magazine ($3,000-$5,000).

Other noteworthy lots include a presentation copy of Warhol model, artist, and “porno chic” sensation Viva’s autobiographical novel Superstar, inscribed to her publisher William Targ and his wife, with additional inscriptions, candid Polaroids, and more ($1,000-$1,500). The Works of the Famous Nicholas Machiavel, Citizen and Secretary of Florence (1675) will also be on the auction block: PBA is proud to offer the first collected edition in English, containing The PrinceThe Art of War, and others ($8,000-$12,000).

PBA continues to safeguard the health of employees and clients by remaining closed to the public. PBA will conduct previews via Zoom and limit live auction participation to online or phone bidding. For more information about upcoming sales or to schedule a Zoom preview or phone bidding for a future auction, please contact the galleries at 415.989.2665 or [email protected]

PBA Comic Auction Breaks World Records

(Berkeley, California, June 10th, 2020) – PBA Galleries announced world record-breaking results from their June 4th auction of Comic Books: Pre-Code Horror, Silver Age Marvel, and Undergrounds. The sale was PBA’s inaugural comic book auction under the direction of Ivan Briggs, whose catalogue showcased “the best overlooked gems in the world of comics, all the good stuff that hasn’t been vacuumed up by the big guys yet.”

“It’s a niche that no other auctioneers have filled, and PBA is glad to step up and lead the way,” said Briggs. Bidders communicated their appreciation with their paddles, closing the sale with a tremendously successful 96% sale rate. Overall revenue exceeded expectations, and many individual lots achieved either auction highs or auction records. 

Horror comics attained historically momentous prices, driving steep competition for the fantastically eye-catching and compelling covers. Weird Mysteries #5 (CGC 7.5), featuring one of the most lurid covers of the pre-Code era, established a new world-record price for its grade at $19,200, beating the previous high price of $15,600 established in August 2019. Similarly, Weird Mysteries #7 (CGC 9.2) sold for $9,000, thus realizing the best result ever for this comic in any grade. The sale price far surpassed the comic’s previous high price ($2,272 for a 7.0 copy) by a significant margin.

Other world-class sale records included those for The Thing! #15 (7.0), whose final price of $3,000 represents the best result by far in any grade, obliterating the previous record of $1,701 from December 2018. When the gavel landed at $3,600, the Tomb of Terror #5 (9.0) sold for a world-record result that was over $2,000 higher than any other CGC copy in any grade, and the result was repeated with #13 and #16 of the series. 

Other sale highlights included Shock Illustrated #1 (CGC 6.5): When the winning bidder took the sale for $3,600, they attained the best-ever result for a non-Gaines file copy, and the second-highest price in any grade, only exceeded by a 9.6 Gaines file copy ($4,995, April 2009). The Mister Mystery #12 (5.0) sold for $1,920, achieving a record price in this grade and beating the previous record for CGC 5.0 copy ($1,650, Feb. 2020).

PBA looks forward to continuing to achieve world-class results in future comic auctions, and is currently accepting consignments of comic books, original comic art, or comic-related ephemera and literature. For more information or to inquire about consigning, please contact the galleries at 415-989-2665 or email Ivan Briggs at [email protected].

Press contact: [email protected]

Comic Pix Panelologist: The End of Pre-Code Horror, 1954

-From the Ivan Briggs Collection of Comic-Related Photos.

The last gasp of pre-Code horror: 35mm color slide, undated, but probably November or December, 1954.

The Comics Code took effect in September, 1954, and the sole survivors of the crime & horror craze on display at this newsstand are gutless versions of Atlas’s MYSTERY TALES, Gleason’s CRIME DOES NOT PAY and Harvey’s CHAMBER OF CLUES (the previous 26 issues were titled CHAMBER OF CHILLS). EC comics are nowhere to be seen, with many vendors refusing to sell New Direction titles. Casper the Friendly Ghost haunts the comics rack, having wafted, wraithlike, from the corpse of Harvey’s horror line. 

I’d love to hear from anyone who loved EC and other pre-Code horror and crime publishers back then. What did it feel like to shop the stands in the first few months after the Code was imposed? Fan-Addicts must’ve scanned the horror-free stands with a mounting sense of… well, horror. 

The Jughead Annual on the top left seems to mock the woebegone EC fan… In this context it represents the triumph of squeaky-clean Archie Comics’ publisher, John Goldwater, over the momentarily vanquished Bill Gaines.

PBA Comics: Little Lulu in Lights, NYC, 1950s

Little Lulu was created by Marjorie Henderson Buell in 1935. The character proved popular enough to win a spot selling Kleenex tissues in an elaborate animated billboard in Times Square, NYC, from 1952 to 1961. This image was scanned from the original negative.

Ivan Briggs, PBA’s Director of Comics, is the world’s foremost authority on vintage, original comic-related photos. If you have pre-1980 comic-related snapshots to consign or sell outright, contact: [email protected]

PBA Comics: Kurtzman Update

There’s good news and bad news on the Kurtzman front. The good news is, if my son’s Hey Look fanaticism is any indication, there’s a market for Kurtzman’s brilliant pre-Mad gag strip among our nations’ youth… The bad news is, a new version of the collected Hey Look isn’t likely anytime soon. I asked Kurtzman’s estate handler Denis Kitchen for news to share, and he told me this:

“It’s on hold till publishing gets back to normal. My Kitchen Sink Books partner John Lind and I have to discuss pending projects with Dark Horse when the time is right. 2020 looks dead and no one has a clue what 2021 will be like. The sales on our last couple of HK books (Complete Trump and Jungle Book), though critically acclaimed, were disappointing so it’s possible that DH will discourage publication of Hey Look! If that’s the case we’ll look at a Kickstarter option I imagine.”

In the meantime, there’s the wonderful 1992 Kitchen Sink edition, sadly out-of-print (paperback copies typically fetch $40-60; the signed hardcover sells for about $150-200). Here are a few strips, originally printed in various Timely comics edited by a young Stan Lee in the mid-to-late 1940s. Denis Kitchen promises that his updated edition will be published in full color.

-Ivan Briggs, PBA Galleries Director of Comics

PBA Comics

Greetings, comics cognoscenti! I’m Ivan Briggs, PBA’s resident comics man, and I’d like to kick things off by sharing a bit about myself and my comics-peddling background.

My dad was a first-generation comic book fiend. He remembered seeing the first issue of Action Comics on the stands in 1938 when he was five years old. He stared at the cover image of Superman hoisting a car over his head in breathless fascination… unfortunately, his mom didn’t share his enthusiasm for the garish pulpy tabloid, and refused to shell out a dime for the comic book! Dad’s frustration at missing out on that future million dollar mag sparked a lifelong interest in “funnybooks” (as his mom insisted on calling them).

Dad’s fave comics were Lev Gleason’s “Daredevil” and Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”. He even formed a small comics club called “The Daredevil Club” and tried to induce other kids in his neighborhood to sign up. Dad lived in the juncture of San Francisco’s North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, an area especially rife with newsdealers, candy shops, drugstores and mom & pop shops, most of which had comic book racks laden with four-color treasures. He eventually amassed quite a nice collection… all of which his mom chucked into the dumpster when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War!

Dad’s “Dare Devils Club” card, c.1945.

Pop went to law school after the war ended and more or less forgot about comic books, except for MAD magazine, which he followed faithfully. Then, in the late 1960s, just around the time I was born, ZAP Comix #1 was released… and just like that, dad was hooked on comics again. Dad became a regular customer at Gary Arlington’s landmark comic book store, The San Francisco Comic Book Company. Pop gave Gary free legal advice and Gary send pop home laden with funnybooks, everything from undergrounds to Marvels, Warren mags, DCs, Charltons, Archies… I grew up surrounded by comics and they became my passion.

Mom and dad in our Frisco pad, 1965 (note MAD mag on coffee table).
Gary Arlington, SF Comic Book Co., 1960s (photo by Patrick Rosenkranz).
Me in our SF backyard, c.1978, with my fave comic mags: Amazing Spider-Man #’s 121 & 122 and Howard the Duck #1.

After college, I went to work at San Francisco’s Green Apple Books. Green Apple didn’t have a comics & graphic novels section at the time, but my boss, Richard Savoy, decided to gamble on my enthusiasm, and he allowed me to start a tiny comic book section, hidden away in the store beneath the main staircase. The tiny section took off like a rocket, and before long, Richard allowed me to expand the section. I developed an eager network of buyers and sellers and soon the comics section became Green Apple’s 3rd best-selling category (after art and fiction). I produced two catalogues for Green Apple, both of which have become collectors’ items of sorts (my EC, MAD and Pre-Code Horror catalogue can be found in PBA’s debut comic book auction as lot 166). Hoohah!

My two Green Apple catalogues.

After Green Apple, I joined PBA Galleries at our old Kearny Street location in San Francisco. After paying my dues as a bookman, I hoped to launch a comic book department. Alas, PBA’s management of the time preferred not to go that route… The sum total of my comics work for PBA back then was a listing for an old Spidey comic in PBA’s August 15, 2002 Fine Books sale.

Spidey meets Freud at PBA Galleries, Aug. 2002.

So I jumped ship and joined Bonhams Auctioneers book department, again hoping to pay my dues and launch a comics department. But the bigwigs at Bonhams had other ideas… They wanted me to sell fountain pens, so I stepped up to the plate and started marketing fine pens in a series of highly successful sales that took me from SF to London, Paris, Hong Kong, Geneva, Hamburg and beyond. I became the world authority on fine pens at auction, and loved every moment of it. But I was still determined to start a comic book department. Finally, Bonhams’ book department took in a collection of thousands of comics and asked me to put together a sale. I gladly did so, and the sale of Jack Gin’s silver age Marvel collection (part of Bonhams’ December 8, 2014 “Period Art & Design” auction) was a smash hit, with a dozen or so world record prices achieved. Now I would finally have my chance to start a comic book department! Or so I thought…

The Jack Gin Collection… These catalogues vanished instantly upon publication and are now impossible to find.

Despite the comic book sales’ wild success (with prices meeting or exceeding those achieved by Heritage for the same books in the same grades), Bonhams’ London-based management decided not to start a comics department, perhaps considering the category a bit too American – who knows? So after concluding a million-dollar pen sale for Bonhams, I rejoined PBA. PBA was under new management, and I’d heard lots of good things about the company’s direction. After meeting with PBA’s president, Sharon Gee, I knew that I’d finally found my proper place. And so here I am, happily restored to PBA, where I hope to bring you a series of comic book auctions for many years to come!

PBA’s debut comic book sale, now rescheduled for June 4th.

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