Tuesday, August 28, 2012

INTERVIEW: MIKE BURKEY--ROMITAMAN!

If you're a seasoned comic art collector, or even new to the hobby, you've probably heard the name Mike Burkey.  Known as ROMITAMAN due to his passion for collecting Spider-Man originals drawn by the legendary John Romita Sr, Mike is one of the largest art dealers in the OA game.  I personally would not have the collection I have today without the purchases and trades I've been able to do with Mike over the years.  Mike is someone you absolutely must know in the hobby.
 

BRUNSWICK:  At one point you were simply a collector that bought and sold art. Is there a moment in time, or a specific deal, that made you think it was time to turn into a comic art dealer?
 
BURKEY:  Early on in collecting, I realized this hobby was too expensive and I couldn't afford to collect comic art unless I could subsidize my spider-man collecting by buying and reselling OTHER art I didn't collect to help pay for the art I do collect!
That's how it all started..... I always tell people...my philosophy was..."I'LL BUY A ROCK ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD IF I CAN SELL IT TO MAKE A PROFIT"
So I kept buying and trading for art I DIDN'T collect, so I could use that art for trading... Many collectors back in the day never wanted to sell...but they would TRADE their art for other art they collected....so that's what I did!
My inventory just kept growing and growing and I kept doing so many private deals over the phone and at comic shows before the Internet came about.... And when "the Internet" started up, my tax accountant told me I should make this a business .... so I did!
I always remember...... BEFORE the Internet...... I ALWAYS had 300-500 dollar a month phone bills as that was how you connected with other art collectors to get art deals done....MY HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED! LOL
 
 
BRUNSWICK: What's your take on the recent prices of OA? Does it seem to you that the high end pieces are accelerating faster than they were in the past? What about the lower end?
 
BURKEY:  Absolutely....Just an example pertaining to what I collect.....
My first 5 years in the hobby I told myself that if the Romita Amazing Spiderman art I was collecting and enjoying would ever be worth 1000 per page In the future, that my retirement would be set....
(But remember.....I was paying between 40-125 dollars for small AND LARGE SIZE ASM pages in 1989-1992.... and no one really liked Romita ASM art back then.....I constantly got laughed at (in fun) by art collector friends and dealers for collecting Romita ASM art when I came into this hobby.... as DITKO and KIRBY were KING and Steve Ditko was the ONLY "REAL" Spider-Man artist people would tell me all the time. :O)
In 1993 I remember paying 2000 dollars total for 4 great historic pages to ASM 50..and an art friend of mine told me I was nuts to pay that high and I'd never get my money back out of them.... 1996 was the first time I ever paid 1000 dollars for a large art ASM page. Again my friends told me I was nuts..... I always tried to stay 1 step ahead of other people collecting ASM art in the 1990's.. It certainly helped a lot that I got a good job working in a major hospital after I got out of the Army in 1989, and finished medical schooling in 1991, so I finally had disposable income.....

However...... I did make a decision and traded/sold away all of my Romita Amazing Spiderman covers in 1997-98 to buy and trade for Romita ASM interior art when covers hit 5000 dollars!
I felt that collectors would be able to afford buying small art ASM Romita art at 1000 a page 1 day when I would ever decide to sell...., but NO WAY would a collector be able to pay over 5000 for a Romita ASM cover... LOL....
Needless to say..... I was very wrong there! It's easy to see NOW that my estimations have been exceeded by over 10-fold on covers...... and pages!
 

BRUNSWICK: What do collectors need to know about using trade with you? Are there certain types of pieces that get your attention more than others?
 
BURKEY:  I'll trade for ANYTHING if I can use it!
Usually the older the art..so long as its Marvel, DC or EC art being offered to me, I'll trade for it as that's the art I like looking at the most.
I don't like having art sitting on my website for a year or 2 like many other dealers do...I believe that if I keep putting new art on my website I will attract more customers to keep coming back and this to me is a good thing. So I try to move inventory as fast as possible to keep things fresh for people coming to my website!

BRUNSWICK: What do you personally collect these days?
 
BURKEY:  ASM interior art from #39-297, any ASM strip art from 1977-1980, and Incredible Hulk covers from 102-231 (The Herb Trimpe era mostly)
 

BRUNSWICK:  I've noticed that you've been selling a number of Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man pages--pieces that were once exclusively collection pieces. Why have you decided to sell collection pieces now? Are there still things in your collection that you consider untouchable?
 
BURKEY:  Nothing is untouchable if the price is right.  I've sold certain pages because I've gotten a price that I never dreamed I'd get for them when I first started collecting. but they are market value now..... I grew up with nothing...I never even saw a 100 dollar bill until I joined the army when I was 20 years old....as my parents couldn't afford to send me to college.
So NOW.....when someone offers me good cash or good trade for a small art ASM interior art page I paid 100-200 bucks for in the early 90's..i'm definitely going to consider it.
I have a lot of ASM art and I don't think I want it all going to go to my grave with me when i'm hopefully very old..LOL
I have my favorite pages from certain issues I will keep til i'm an old man I hope.
 
BRUNSWICK:  Will you be releasing other collection pieces to market soon?
 
BURKEY:  I really wont actively release any collection art to the public.... .that's what my website is for.... If someone wants to contact me and make me a fair offer for pages I will at the very least discuss it with them. Most people refuse to even entertain offers for collection pieces...I at least will chat with people and see if there interest is high enough for us to do a deal.
I've probably sold and traded about 20 pages from my collection over the past 3 years so being reasonable if 2 people can agree to a deal like that.
 

BRUNSWICK: What do make of the recent Kirby controversy? The thought being that Kirby had help pencilling some of the commissions he did later in his career. Do you think this will hurt the sales and legitimacy of later Kirby work?

BURKEY:  Well that dropped a major bomb on the Kirby collecting part of our hobby. and i've had my share of being dogged by people thinking I'm selling fake Kirby drawings which is quite unsettling...but you gotta make it right if you feel someone bought something that was not as advertised.
This doesn't affect the PUBLISHED Kirby art in our great hobby in any way shape or form...But it does change the entire dynamic for Kirby commission and sketch drawings by Jack now, as there will ALWAYS be suspicions about what Jack really drew on each piece that's not published.

BRUNSWICK:  I've heard you say that this is the greatest hobby ever. Can you elaborate on that?

BURKEY:  I was lucky enough that I got into this hobby when it was easy to buy art at cheap prices..... but I didn't have a lot of money really to spend on it so it was all relative....like any hobby..its all about TIMING!
I had no idea what comic art was when I was curious and decided to buy my VERY first piece of comic art out of the comics buyers guide in October of 1989 for 100 bucks (a GREAT battle page from ASM 46 with Spiderman battling the shocker) when I got it in..my jaw dropped...... I knew this was HISTORY I was holding in my very hands....... I'm holding this actual one of kind piece of art that john Romita slaved over for MANY HOURS drawing in 1966, and Stan Lee's writing of the story was partially written in the side columns...... I loved it so much I called the dealer (Scott Dunbier) and I asked him if he still had the other 2 pages he had 110 each on..and he said he still had them...so I bought them also. I'm proud to say that 20 years later I had amassed 19 pages to that issue..... and I only needed the splash...... and In the fall of 2010 I bought the splash to ASM 46 from a long ago marvel staffer, and I completed the book...now THAT'S what makes this hobby AWESOME! :O)
 

BRUNSWICK:  Moving forward, from a strictly investment perspective, where do you think people should park their money?

BURKEY:  Honestly..if you can afford it...ANYTHING from the 1960's era of MARVEL with major super hero titles (particularly LARGE ART covers splashes and pages) I feel will be GOLD in the future, as this was when Marvel was in its infancy and just starting out.
obviously COVERS and SPLASH pages from any era for the most part will always be very sought after also

BRUNSWICK: When do you think a single piece of American comic art will break the million dollar threshold? What do you think it will be?
 
BURLEY:  I feel that the first million dollar comic art piece will be a will be a very key early Ditko Amazing Spiderman cover or a key early Jack Kirby cover from the Fantastic Four.
 

BRUNSWICK: From a collector POV, is there one piece of artwork you would like to see in your lifetime? What would it be?

BURKEY:  Ok I'll be daring...THE COVER TO AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 or AMAZING FANTASY #15! LOL
 
But realistically..... i've always loved the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #50 as my favorite cover!
 
A close friend owns it but he doesn't want to sell it...but when it comes to one of a kind collectibles which is the essence of our great hobby....that's how it goes...... and that's why this hobby is so fun.....because EVERYTHING is 1 of a kind, and owning a key 1 of a kind piece of art has an even greater attachment when YOU own it! :O)
 
Many thanks to Mike for the interview and the wonderful scans he provided from his collection!  To see more of Mike's collection or simply browse his website for the thousands of awesome originals he has for sale go to www.romitaman.com

 

8 comments:

  1. Mike's enthusiasm for the hobby always shines through. He's a shrewd, clever guy, but always energetic and fun to deal with!

    Some of my favorite pieces came to me from Mike, and he was very helpful in recent years when I consigned art to his site to help fund a house-move.

    He locates some great stuff, so his web-site is always well-worth a look-in.

    Respect to the guy.

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    1. I agree, Terry. Once Mike figures out what kind of stuff you like he begins to offer you things that are in your collecting wheelhouse--even before he puts them on his site. He loves the hunt and the chase, and really likes to move the stuff around quick.

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  2. One of the things I like about Burkey is his intense love and FOCUS on what he collects. Unlike a lot of collectors who look for one or two examples of all their favorite artists and characters, Mike really made a very interesting and in the end wise move to only collect what meant the most to him. Even better, the fact that Romita wasn't as highly regarded when Mike first started collecting and wasn't swayed by the opinions of others is refreshing. It seems that a lot of collectors today who don't seem to have a clear idea about what they even like or think is good. They are often swayed by what they think is hot. Not usually a recipe for collecting success or happiness IMHO.
    Scott

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    1. I really agree with Scott's comments above - it seems to me that so many collectors adopt a scatter gun approach to collecting. Those collections which really stand out to me are those which have an intense focus whether that be a particular artist, period or comic book

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  3. Charles David VieraAugust 30, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    This was a great read!I've had many dealings with Mike but never had the opportunity to speak with him at length.
    I was particularly interested in his comments on the investment value of certain pages. With your recent post concerning the smaller pages out pacing large art in value
    it was good to hear that large silver age Marvel art is hot!
    Keep up the good work Glen. I hope this is the first of a series, as I would love to read the views of Anthony Snyder,Al Moy and the views other dealers as to where this hobby/market is going.

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  4. An awesome article on one of the true "good guys" in this hobby. People are always wheeling and dealing, and wrangling to get the best end of a deal, but Mike is one of those curious individuals who not only loves and covets the art that he collects, but truly strives to make sure everyone feels satisfied at the end of a deal..he realizes how important a happy customer is, and for the majority of dealers that's really forward thinking on his part...a rare commodity in today's market.

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  5. Anche a me piace tanto come disegna il grande John Romita Sr, è stato il mio maestro....

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