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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