Tuesday, May 3, 2016

HAS VELLUM TURNED THE COLLECTIBLE CORNER?

About three years back I did a post about vellum covers, here...http://originalcomicartlocator.blogspot.com/2013/02/whats-issue-with-vellum-anyway.html

At the time I was wondering whether or not vellum covers still had the negative stigma for purchase they had in years past.  Historically collectors had to be cautious when considering acquiring a vellum cover at a premium price...even if it was a highly desirable cover.  A majority of the collecting community would not purchase art if it was on vellum and this was clearly reflected in the resale purchase price.

Recently, however, some high profile vellum covers have come to market and seem to defy the collectible rule to stay away at inflated prices.  I wonder why this is.  Has vellum found respect with the collecting base?  Or has new blood entered the market that doesn't worry about this old rule?

In November, 2014, Heritage Auctions sold this Wilson/Romita AVENGERS 118 cover, below, for $65,725--certainly a record for a vellum cover--most figured it being the best cover from the coveted Avengers/Defenders War storyline was the reason it overcame the vellum handicap.



But I'm not so sure--just nine months later, the AVENGERS 123 cover, below, also on vellum by Romita came to market at Heritage and sold for $35,850. This cover does not have the same pedigree as the 118 cover in terms of importance--yet I would argue that it way over performed it's expected market price at this time last year.  It seems that the vellum did not stop this cover from reaching a premium price.



The question is about to be tested again--in the next couple of weeks, two prominent vellum covers are coming to market, one at Heritage Auctions, DEFENDERS 10, and the other at Comiclink, CAPTAIN AMERICA 171.  The Defenders cover is already at 38k with ten days left before the auction.  I think it's safe to say that vellum will not be a factor on this cover which is the considered by some to be a key bronze cover.

Here is the Defenders 10 cover, in the May Heritage auction, before and after restoration:


Here is the Cap 171, in the May Comiclink Auction, before and after:



I'd love to hear some feedback from the collecting OA community--is vellum now a non-issue?  Would it stop you from chasing down a cover you had to have?  I'd like to hear from the old-timers and the new guys.  I suspect that the newer collectors are less adverse to collecting vellum.







ADDED DISCUSSION:
A number of vellum covers were assembled from pieces of vellum that were in the hands of different collectors.  In some cases if the complete cover pieces could not be found, partial stats were made to go with the vellum pieces in order to give the look of a complete cover.  Here are a few examples that I know about:

ASM 135 - In this case the original art pieces to Tarantula and Spider-Man were missing.  The original art pieces that exist here were all drawn on a separate sheet of vellum that was split up and placed on with art board with the missing stats to give the appearance of a complete cover.


ASM 136 - This is an interesting one.  This cover was drawn on two separate original pieces of vellum.  The Spidey fighting Goblin image was much bigger than a standard cover and would not fit on a regular size board--an oversize board was created with Parker and Harry statted at the bottom, the first cover below.

Additionally the second piece of vellum, the original image of Parker and Harry, which was the right size for a standard board was placed with a stat of Spidey fighting Goblin--the second cover below.

ASM 136 exists on two separate covers--each with a part of the original.





ASM 138 - This is the most successful of the three covers as all the original pieces of the cover were reunited on a single art board and can be consider a complete original cover.  The head of the Mindworm was on a separate piece of vellum from the main image of Spider-Man being attacked originally.



After work is completed on vellum covers they often are sold in the marketplace.  As they change hands from one collector to another the history of what was done becomes lost. When buying a cover like this it's important to ask questions in order to figure out if you are getting a cover that has been assembled long after publication to make a larger profit in the collectibles market.  In other words, let the buyer beware.

27 comments:

  1. I think enough of the old timers that remember the stigma vellum had are out of the hobby or not dealing in it so that's why it feels like it's "turned the corner". Newer guys don't remember tattered scraps of vellum you wouldn't blow your nose with being "manufactured" into finished covers so they don't see the difference.

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  2. That's part of the reason I like to show the before and after so that at least collectors, new or otherwise, know what they're getting into. But you're right with many of these covers being restored it's hard to tell the difference with the vellum and the board covers. I just wonder if those that have been in the hobby for a while have a different opinion of vellum covers now that they see what can be done to make them appear more attractive.

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  3. There's probably less of an issue once the vellum has been restored. Anyone know if the vellum will brown again over time?

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  4. Good Question, Terry. My feeling is if the work was performed by a good restorer it should be fine in out lifetime. I think they stabilize the acidity in the paper during the process that should halt any deterioration.

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  5. Glen, hi, this is nick katradis. A friend sent me this link. I don’t chime in often anymore on any thread, but I will do so here.
    Since 2002, when I started collecting comic art, I have seen some nice covers come to market that were done on vellum. I have never bought any, and sadly, I still won’t.
    To me, the “tracing paper” the vellum art is created on presents two problems for me. First, I don’t know if the pencils are on the page or just the inks. The pencils can very well exist somewhere separately. Frankly, there is no way to know for sure. The inker, even if he is the same as the artist, may have lightboxed or “traced” over the pencils. Again, who knows for sure.
    Second, vellum, unfortunately, is not forever. In the long run, it is dust. I’m sure it can once again be preserved when the paper starts to yellow again, but it’s just not the same as having a penciled and inked cover. This is my opinion, of course.
    The two covers you mentioned, the Cap 171, and the Defenders 10 covers, are both highly coveted covers for me. However, I was devastated when I found out they were both done on vellum. Although I would have loved to own both of these covers, the fact that they are produced on vellum prevents me from bidding. I will watch from afar and wish the best of luck to the winners.

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    1. Hi Nick,
      Really happy to have you chime in. I agree with you when it comes to the pencils. I believe that most of the vellum covers do not have the pencil contribution of the original artist. This always struck me as a primary reason why collectors would value these covers less. John Romita vellum covers almost always had the pencils on separate pages. I have seen many such covers consisting of only pencils.
      As far as the pieces lasting, I think that vellum, once treated by a restorer, is almost as good as a board cover in terms of the life of the piece. I don't think the vellum will crumble away to dust anytime soon.
      I think your view is the old school view that many collectors swore by for quite some time. It is a view that kept prices of vellum lower. It does appear, at least recently, a view that is changing somewhat.

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  6. Glen, let's be serious. I will come out and say it.
    The real reason the "old school" collectors (like me) think vellum is a joke is because tracing paper art can be copied. or retraced. How do we know that this art inked on tracing paper is the real thing? At these price points, you don't think someone would try to pass one over on the collecting community? It may have happened already. Can you be certain it has not.
    Thats why "old time" collectors stay away - because they use their common sense.
    Why would i pay 30-50k on a cover that I'm not 100% certain of what I'm getting. Especially if I don't even know if its genuine.
    The cardinal rule in any purchase is know what you are buying. If you don't, you stay away!

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    1. If it's Romita were talking about--as is the case with the Defenders 10 and the Cap 171 we can be sure those are his inks. You can compare them with the published and all the lines are the same. Also he can confirm whether they are fakes as he is still with us. Look, fakes are not going to go away and they can be done with board covers as well. As prices rise we will see more of them. But if you compare the published cover with the original, most of the time you can spot the forgery.

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  7. But the main reason I stay away, is that if the pencils are not on the page, then what I'm I really paying for? just the inks?
    To me, comic art is pencils and inks. period.
    A page without the pencils underneath is incomplete, and almost worthless to me.
    Just my opinion, again.
    nick

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    1. I think that's completely valid, Nick. Some would argue that the published inks are what you are paying for. With John Romita this argument makes sense since he is the original penciller as well--you are getting HIS artistic vision. If we are talking about a cover by Gil Kane that Romita finished than you are getting a piece that the original artist never touched and it becomes more muddled. Still, I don't think it's worthless--maybe just not worth as much.

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  8. I agree for the most part on the issue of vellum in terms of its continuing negative stigma because of what Nick said: the art is pencils + inks. I'd never want one without the other. I would never care to own a Jack Kirby pencil only piece any more than a Frazetts pencil only.

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  9. Hmm...gotta differ with you there, Jason. I love Jack Kirby's pencil only pieces and own a number of them. There is something about seeing Jack's true intent in the pencils that really does it for me. I feel it brings me closer to him. I'm not a Frazetta man, but some of his pencils really work for me as well. Different strokes.

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    1. I agree - I actually prefer to see Kirby pencils vs Kirby piece inked by an inker who erased a bunch of detail!

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    2. Even with an inker that didn't erase, there's something about the pure power of Kirby's pencils.

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  10. Thanks for an enlightening post. I think the comments are almost as much fun as the blog itself.
    I didn't realize vellum was a problem when I bought my one and only piece. The published inks were on vellum, which was attached to a board beneath that held the original pencil work.
    Until this post, I thought all vellum covers came as a twofer.

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  11. It is not a truism that inks on velum are always just tracings over pencils. I have a couple of velum covers where the pencils are visible underneath (on the velum). Often artists (including Romita) that used velum would do the finished pencils on the velum, tracing over the rough lay-outs.

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    1. Hi Paul,
      I didn't mean to imply that all vellum covers are without the pencils. I've seen some covers with the pencils as well. A majority of vellum covers that I've seen are without the pencils, however. So I do think that you need to check closely to see which you are buying into.

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  12. I have always been fascinated by the vellum conversations. I don’t have any experience with vellum so I don’t have a lot of context on how the vellum process worked or what the paper even looks/feels like (I imagine it like the decorative paper used to put in a gift bag, etc. but I can’t imagine it being quite that fragile). I need to make a point at a show to check out a piece of vellum art. In reading the comments, apparently there are more concerns about vellum. The comments about not knowing if the art is original gives me serious pause, especially if I were ever to consider a purchase of a vellum piece. I have to wonder if the 2 examples are a change in the tide regarding vellum as a whole, or if they are just such stellar examples of early Marvel art that have people making an exception if they have general reservations. Maybe people are warming up to restoration more than vellum concerns – easier to overlook due to the really nice restoration. I would imagine many of the people throwing in on these pieces might not have if the art wasn’t restored. Too many factors to pinpoint to vellum IMHO.

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  13. The art is still original--even if we are just talking about the inks it's the original inks, not a copy. I think if the penciller and the artist are the same you are getting the original artist's intent even if you just have inks on the page. If, on the other hand, the penciller and inker are different then it becomes an equation of whether or not it is important for the penciller to have touched the finished product. From my point of view, if you are buying the art for the penciller and only getting the finished inks of a lesser artist then you shouldn't be paying a price that reflects the penciler's marketplace--it should be reflective of the inker's marketplace.

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  14. What percentage of these vellum "covers" do you think are on the original boards with original stats and backgrounds and such? I know several covers existed only as scraps of loose vellum that were then made to look like covers and then not disclosed. That's even a bigger issue.

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    1. Added some examples of the kinds of things you were talking about here, Ruben.

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  15. I don't know the percentages. I've seen a lot of scraps from covers as well. I can think of three ASM covers off the top of my head that were assembled with varying degrees of success--ASM 135, 136 and 138. I'll add their scans in to the bottom of the post so we can take a look at them.

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  16. Is anyone besides Romita known for doing much work on vellum?
    & to answer your question, as a semi-oldtimer, I can't imagine a vellum piece that I would want. But then, I don't collect Romita.

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  17. It was used occasionally by other artist. Romita used it almost exclusively on all cover work he did after 1974-75. If you like Romita cover art from this period it's either vellum or nothing.

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  18. I was told by a few long time collectors to stay away from vellum. I passed on a few pieces.I have 2 pieces from Romita Sr Hulk and Buckler Deathlok that they are the inker as well. These pieces are some of the best produced by both. Another long time collector also recently stated that some of Romita Sr best work is on vellum I agree. No regrets at all Dom Masullo

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  19. Vellum when treated right can absolutely look great. If you plan on keeping it I have no doubt you'll enjoy it a long time. My concern is more for those who want to get out or flip their vellum. How will the market continue to react in time.

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