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Original Drawings of Strips on the Rise as Art Investments

June 28, 1986|CHARLES SOLOMON

Cartooning is not a respected art form.

--Matt Groening, creator of "Life in Hell"

Most cartoonists would agree with Groening's statement, but more and more people are buying original art from comic strips, and the prices are rising. (Despite the disclaimer, an exhibit of Groening's work opens Sunday at the Art Store Gallery in Pasadena.)

"Most of the older comic-strip art has shown an appreciation in value that has pretty much kept up with the market--about 10% to 20% a year," says Stu Reisbord of the Cartoon Carnival Gallery in Pennsylvania. "The blue-chip pages--'Prince Valiant,' 'Pogo,' 'Peanuts' and Elzie Segar's 'Popeye'--seem to be appreciating disproportionately. You could have bought them for a few hundred dollars a couple of years ago; today they may run a few thousand."

At an auction at Guernsey's in New York this spring original panels of Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland" sold for between $3,750 and $4,750; an original drawing for Walt Kelly's "Pogo" book "Stepmother Goose" brought $4,500. A complete run of Hal Foster's "Prince Valiant"--a set of all 1,790 printed Sunday pages--went for $3,250. In comparison, LeRoy Neiman serigraphs start between $1,800 and $2,500, Charles Bragg etchings at $200 to $500.

"It seems that more and more of what's termed the yuppie generation are being turned on to original comic art," Reisbord adds. "They seem to prefer the more current strips, like 'Doonesbury' and 'Bloom County,' rather than the real vintage strips. A black-and-white daily from either of those strips may run $500, a color Sunday page about twice that. For the same price, they could buy a Rube Goldberg from the '20s."

Berke Breathed, the creator of "Bloom County," seemed a bit taken aback when told the price his drawings now command: "If you produce so many a year, it's hard to believe they're worth that much."

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