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.

PBA Galleries Launches Inaugural Timed Auction Format

(Berkeley, California, April 14th, 2020) – PBA Galleries invites bidders to their inaugural online-only timed auction, available for bidding until lots begin to close on Thursday, April 16th at 11:00am Pacific Time. The sale features a collection of publications of the Book Club of California and other fine press books from the Robert Ebiner Collection. PBA’s next timed auction sale, Americana from the George E. Steinmetz Collection is also live and available for bidding until lots begin to close the following week on Thursday, April 23rd at 11:00am Pacific Time. 

In accordance with Berkeley’s shelter-in-place restrictions, the auction will take place without an auctioneer calling the sale. This has commonly been referred to as an “eBay-style” auction. Each lot will be open for a defined time period and will close one minute after the preceding lot, allowing bidders to watch each lot as it closes (unless extended bidding has been triggered). Earlier bids are given priority in case of a tie. 

“After a brief furlough, our small but mighty PBA staff is back at work via telework, in accordance with our public health order to shelter at home,” says PBA Galleries president Sharon Gee. “We are cataloging future auctions and will continue to offer timed auctions in the upcoming weeks.” PBA looks forward to continuing to serve clients who have been inquiring about future auctions, many of whom are enthusiastic about the new format. “The staff is also glad to be cataloging and interfacing with our consignors,” adds Gee.

Additional details regarding the logistics of bidding with a timed auction format are available on the PBA Galleries website. To protect the health and safety of PBA staff and customers, no in-person preview for the auction will be available.

“We appreciate your support during these trying and uncertain times,” says Gee. 

PBA Galleries was founded under the name California Book Auction Galleries in 1955. After 35 years of successful book auctions, founder Maurice Powers passed away and his heirs placed the company into voluntary bankruptcy. Butterfield’s acquired the name and mailing list, but not the people or the spirit of the company. The current iteration of the company, Pacific Book Auction Galleries, was founded in 1992 by the core members of the original auction house, including current Senior Vice President Bruce MacMakin. The company changed its name to PBA Galleries in October of 2001 to reflect its increasingly global presence in the marketplace as well as its diversified offerings. We are proud to have buyers and sellers from all over the world participating in our auctions.

Comic Books on March 26th

On March 26th, 2020, PBA Galleries will host their debut Comic Book Sale. Sale Director Ivan Briggs has assembled top tier overlooked gems in the world of comics, including rare or unique. The auction will feature EC, Kurtzman, Pre-Code Horror and Undergrounds, and a collection of silver age Marvels from a single owner who bought them off the stands in the 1960s. Over 340 lots span pre-Code horror comic books of the 1950s, Robert Crumb signed comics, signed prints, original comic art, and more.PBA Galleries is able to provide a distinct venue for these undervalued and underappreciated comic magazines and art.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 * 3.0 * 1st Doc Ock

Sale highlights include Weird Mysteries #5(CGC certified 7.5, one of the highest-graded copies). “Bernard Bailey’s cover epitomizes the pre-Code publishers’ ethos of “anything for a dime.” The sheer nerve and gall of it is staggering,” remarks Sale Director Ivan Briggs. “Lurid, distasteful, and unseemly: it’s everything one wants in a pre-Code mag.” The distinct cover depicts a mad scientist removing the brain from a severed head ($15,000-$20,000). Seven lots of material from the Estate of Harvey Kurtzman are headlined by Kurtzman’s original roughs to George Evans’s “Guynemer!”This extremely rare lot showcases seven pages of one of only seven surviving sets of Kurtzman vellum layouts. According to Briggs, “It’s an artistic seismograph, in which is recorded Kurtzman’s artistic process. It is quite unlike any other EC item currently on the market” ($5,000-$8,000).

The sale does not shy away from controversy by including the work of Robert Crumb, a legendary comic talent recently under fire for his edgy content. Examples of his work in this sale include printer Charles Plymell’s own copy of Zap #1. The book is documented by Plymell as one of the very first copies to roll off the press ($1,000-$1,500). Trina Robbins, first lady of the underground, has been critical of Crumb’s work for years. Her contribution to our sale, “Wonder Person Gets Knocked Up!” features a thinly-veiled Wonder Woman dealing with a recalcitrant boys’ club of super-sexists. PBA intentionally will spotlight both artists’ point-of-view, and the results of bidding on each lot will provide a thermometer for their place in the canon of modern collecting.

ZAP COMIX #1, PLYMELL 1st Printing * CGC 7.0

Other highlights include The Complete RAW Vol. 1 Limited Edition Boxed Set,a fine press edition of Art Spiegelman’s alternative commix anthology wonderfully bound in buckram and morocco in a special solander box with recessed cavities to hold additional material. This copy is one of ten copies from the Optics Press ($2,000-$3,000). EC’s rarest comic book, Shock Illustrated,will be available in one of 100 copies hand-collated and stapled by the EC staff in order to satisfy subscriber orders. The remainder of the 250,000 print run was pulped, as the publisher lacked funds to have them bound ($2,000-$3,000). A high-grade copy of the Amazing Spider-Man #14(1st Green Goblin)represents the debut of Spider-Man’s archfoe, scripted by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko ($3,000-$5,000). 

Auction previews are available by appointment. PBA is accepting consignments in pre-Code horror, golden age, silver age, platinum age, key internationals and R. Crumb, as well as original art and comic-related ephemera (including vintage comic-related photos). Contact [email protected] to inquire. 

Collection of Rare Early Photographs and Photo-books on March 5th

An internationally significant private collection of early photography will be auctioned by PBA Galleries on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

The collection was amassed by Dr. Robert Enteen while living in Paris and other major European cities. It includes an estimated 10,000 photographs, photo-books, and ephemera.

92 photographs from Fratelli Alinari

The earliest items date from 1839, the dawn of photography, to 1939, spanning the medium’s first century. Photography originated in France and England, but the technology spread quickly throughout the globe. The collection includes original works by numerous luminaries, including  Fox Talbot, Charles Negré, Charles Marville, Edouard Baldus, Matthew Brady, Timothy O´Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, Eadweard Muybridge, Edward Curtis, Félix Nadar, Félix Bonfils, Francis Frith, Fratelli Alinari, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Eugene Atget, Man Ray, André Kertesz, Kimbei Kusakabe, Lewis Hine, Karl Blossfeldt, and others.

The Journal of the French Academy of Sciences announced the new medium in 1839. This announcement is among the many high points in the collection, which also includes paper negatives; one of only four known examples of the earliest paper photograph of Charles Darwin (1854); an album of over 100 photographs of a tsarist estate in Russia c. 1895; an extremely rare first edition, first issue of Man Ray’s first book of photos; and the only known complete set of Yellowstone Albertypes taken by William Henry Jackson, which influenced the US Congress to designate Yellowstone the first national park in the world. 

Eleven stereoviews of NorCal

According to the collection’s owner, Robert Enteen: “The photographs in this museum-quality collection are notable not only because there are many exquisite images, but also because they have historical significance. One can see transitions in photographic technology, materials, and styles, as well as the medium’s enormous influence in medicine and science, the arts, politics, education, travel and ethnology, history, architecture, religion, and other fields of human endeavor.”

Dr. Enteen, originally from New York City, has been collecting antiques, rare books and prints for over 50 years.  His photography collection began at a flea market in Paris in 2013, when he acquired a large group of early photographs by Adolphe Braun. Subsequently, he added to his growing collection in Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. He has intensively studied the field of early photography, which helped him curate this comprehensive collection.

Binkley’s Japan the Edition De Luxe, 1897

Bruce MacMakin, Executive Vice President of PBA Galleries, notes: “The Enteen Collection is among the largest private collections of early photography ever placed in auction.  It includes European, American, Asian and African works by most of the great photographers.  In my experience, it comes closest to an American version of Sotheby’s celebrated Paris auction of the Thérèse and André Jammes collection.”

The sale will begin at 11:00 am Pacific Time and the public may preview the auction on Monday, March 2nd from 1:00-5:00pm, Tuesday, March 3rd and Wednesday, March 4th from 9:00am-5:00pm, or Thursday, March 5th from 9:00am-5:00pm. For more information, please contact the galleries at (415) 989-2665 or [email protected].

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