$100,000 Garage Sale: Henschel Pedigree Collection Auctioned

Mon, April 12th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Seth Jones, Staff Writer

WICHITA, Kan. -- For one day only, the Air Capitol of the world became the Comic Book Capitol of the world.

Collectors from as far away as New York, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida flocked to a sleepy house on a dirt road in South Wichita, all to view the recently discovered Henschel Pedigree collection. Over 400 comic books from the late 1930s and early- to mid-1940s were recently discovered in bags under beds at Irene Ford Henschel's home. The comics originally belonged to her late husband, Robert Ford, who died in 1999 at age 75, three months before their 50th wedding anniversary.

For this auction, the first of two, 121 comics were sold, fetching prices as high as $4,100 for a fine copy of "Action Comics" #23. Over $100,000 in comics were sold (most of the books can be viewed here.). Titles ranged from "Action Comics," "Batman" and "Flash Comics" to "Jungle Comics" and "Famous Funnies."

Yes, over $100,000 was netted for Mrs. Henschel on the sale of her late husband's books. Not bad, considering she told the Wichita Eagle that her only hope was to be able to buy a red pickup truck with the money.

"I instantly knew we had something special," said Conrad Swenson, auctioneer and the person to find the comics. "We do auctions all across the country, and once in a while we sell one or two comics, and they'll go for $100, $200. Within the hour I got my digital camera and posted them on our Web site. Within two hours I'm getting dealers calling me from all over the country. I was getting 40 to 50 calls a day at one point."

A local comic store owner was called in to consult on the grades and values of the books. He immediately advised them to not auction off the collection too hastily, that the books -- including a copy of "Superman" #1 that did not go on sale -- were too valuable and they needed more time to properly grade and advertise the auction. But Swenson Auctions felt obligated to sell at least some of the comics since it had already advertised the books on their Web site.

"What I didn't realize," Swenson said with a smile, "was that the next 300 comics are the 'good ones.' The books we're auctioning today are the cheap ones."

Swenson wouldn't elaborate on what books were left in the collection but did say the copy of "Superman" #1 has an unfortunate rip on the front cover. Besides that, he wasn't sure what other titles would be available but did say they planned to get many of the books CGC graded before the next auction, to take place sometime this fall near the Wichita airport.

"For what little notice we gave, we've had an amazing turnout," said Don Howell, auctioneer. "There's going to be a full range of prices here today. We had dealers come in last night just to inspect the conditions of the books."

Indeed, it's rare to see copies of "Batman" #3, "Superman" #3, "Captain Marvel" #1 and a very fine copy of "Detective Comics" #65 stored in oversized Ziplock sandwich bags on wood tables in a garage. But Swenson Auctions certainly had one thing right -- there were more security guards then at a 50 Cent concert. Attendees to the auction had to wait in line before they could enter the rickety garage. Once in the garage, the only thing being ogled harder than the comics were the bidders, by plain clothes and on-duty police.

Over 100 people attended the auction, including absentee bidders by phone. A few young comic fans sat in the front row, hoping to get a deal on a golden age treasure. The sound of their young hearts breaking was almost audible as the third comic on the block went for $4,100, well out of the price range of casual collectors.

Absentee bidder No. 98 -- rumored by bidders to be Steve Geppi, owner of Diamond Comics Distributors and part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles -- overwhelmed the auction, acquiring two-thirds of the comics on the block.

"Just think, if it wasn't for the Internet and Swensonauction.com, we'd never had been able to get the word out to so many people," Howell told the bidders midway through the auction. "The Internet is great, isn't it?"

ComicIssue #GradePrice
Ace Comics42VG+$60
Action Comics14G+$1,200
Action Comics20F-$1,300
Action Comics21VG+$1,200
Action Comics22F 
Action Comics23F-$4,100
Action Comics24VG-$600
Action Comics26G+ 
Action Comics29F$1,100
Action Comics31F$1,200
Adventure Comics44VG+$2,900
Adventure Comics47G+$1,000
Adventure Comics49F$1,800
Adventure Comics51VG+$2,200
Air Fighter Comics10VF$550
All Star Comics2VG$800
Amazing-Man Comics17VG$220
America's Greatest Comics4F$550
Big Shot Comics1VG$650
Big Shot Comics1VF$1,400
BlueBolt (Vol. 2)2F+$210
BlueBolt (Vol. 2)4G+$85
Captain America Comics5VG+$1,800
Crack Comics15F$225
Crack Comics24F$225
Crack Comics25VF$600
Captain Marvel (loose cover)1G$3,000
Detective Comics47VG$1,200
Detective Comics48F-$1,200
Detective Comics49F+$1,600
Detective Comics65VF-$3,600
Detective Comics66VF$2,700
Detective Comics67F+$1,500
Famous Funnies15Poor$40
Famous Funnies27Poor$40
Famous Funnies50G$35
Famous Funnies55Poor$10
Famous Funnies70VG$105
Famous Funnies76F+$85
Fantastic Comics10F+$600
Flash Comics7F+$3,000
Flash Comics8VF-$2,800
Flash Comics9VG$1,500
Flash Comics14VF+$2,000
Flash Comics16G+ 
Fun Comics83VG+$100
Heroic Comics4F$410
Heroic Comics8F+$350
Jungle Comics1VG$500
Jungle Comics2F+$1,000
Jungle Comics3F+ $400
Jungle Comics4VG+$300
Jungle Comics5G+$200
Jungle Comics9G+$240
Jungle Comics10F+$475
Jungle Comics11G+$95
Jungle Comics14VF$400
Magic Comics5G$50
Magic Comics6VG$80
Miltary Comics14VF$600
More Fun Comics24G$210
Mr. And Mrs. Beans1F-$270
National Comics6VG+$600
Nickel Comics8F$500
Pep Comics6F$550
Pep Comics8VF$900
Popular Comics78F+$290
Prize Comics4VF- 
Real Life1VF$165
Red Rider1VG+$1,150
Science Comics8F$425
Sky Blazers2VG$150
Smash Comics6F 
Smash Comics9VG$175
Smash Comics10VG$125
Special Edition Captain Marvel1VG+$3,000
Speed Comics16Poor 
Star Spagnled14VF-$800
Super Comics21VG$80
Superman 3F$3,200
Target Comics1G$500
Target Comics7G+$1,800
Target Comics (Vol. 2)11F+$850
True Comics13G+$25
The Comics5F$220
The Doll Man3F+$1,200
The Flame1VG+$600
The Funnies44VG$300
The Funnies46F+$400
The Funnies52VF$300
The Funnies50VG+$210
The Funnies58F+$550
The Funnies60VF$650
Tip Top46Fair$25
Uncle Sam Quarterly3G$130
Whiz Comics2VG-$1,100
Whiz Comics3F-$3,300
Whiz Comics4VG$1,000
Whiz Comics6VF+$1,700
Whiz Comics7VG+$600
Whiz Comics8VF+$2,000
Wings Comics11VF$400
Wings Comics17VF$110
Wings Comics19F$160
Wings Comics21VF$200
Wonderworld Comics11G$275
Zip Comics8F+$900

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