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Comic Art Collecting Frequently Asked Questions

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- Definitions
- Glossary
- How to Obtain
- Caring For
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As with most things in this hobby we owe a debt of gratitude to those collectors and comic art enthusiasts who came before us. Much of what follows in this Original Comic Art FAQ was started by collectors in the late 1990's - on sites like,,, and - who wanted to help others understand the hobby better. Credit is given where possible. This FAQ will continue to evolve and has been edited to be more in line with this website and today's collecting trends. If you'd like to contribute please let us know.

Obtaining Original Comic Art


It can be very satisfying to obtain a piece of original comic art from its creator. Many times you can get them to discuss their work and tell you a little about your piece. In addition, prices are frequently lower than if the piece has gone through a couple of collector's or dealer's hands. Of course, not all creators are quite so forthcoming but that's part of the collecting experience, also.

Conventions are the best places to meet creators; the list of guests is usually published well in advance so you can plan ahead. It is common for schedules to change at the last minute, though, so it pays to double-check. It pays to do your homework before contacting a creator. Familiarize yourself with their body of work and have a goal in mind if you're interested in purchasing some art. And be prepared to take "no" for an answer; after all, it's their property and they can choose to do with it as they please.

Also, don't forget that much of today's comic book art is split between the penciller and the inker (1/3 for the inker is a rule of thumb), so you'll want to check both places if you're looking for a specific piece of art. As a matter of fact, it is thought that inkers tend to charge less for pages than pencillers.

Art Representatives

Some creators will hire agents to represent them in the sale of their art. An agent doesn't buy the creator's work to re-sell it; instead, he sells the art on behalf of the artist. Of course, the agent charges for this service by taking a percentage of whatever the art sells for. An agent may (or may not) also be a dealer (see below).

Comic Art Dealers

A dealer buys, sells and trades comic art. They do this to make a profit. Dealers normally have an inventory of pieces available for sale on their website, and you'll find several Dealers listed in our Comic Art Dealer For Sale database. Dealers will try to work with you to find pieces that you're interested in; some will keep your want list in mind when they do their dealings (especially if you've done business with them before).

Private Collectors

A private collector purchases comic art for their own pleasure. They may keep it forever, or he may trade it or sell it after a time (they may sell it at a profit -- usually to finance the purchase of more comic art, but sometimes just to pay the mortgage). Some private collectors have websites where they they display their collection and many collectors also have a comic art gallery on Premium members of CAF are also able to use the Comic Art Classifieds which is the easiest place online to location original art for sale from a collector. Unless specifically stated otherwise, most CAF members don't mind being approached with suggestions for deals for pieces from their collection. It is considered a breach of etiquette, though, to not take "no" for an answer. A common strategy used by collectors pursuing privately-held comic art is to ask the owner to "think of me first" should he ever decide to sell. Using the CAF messaging system easily allows a gallery owner to save past emails from other interested collectors just for this purpose.

Networking is so important to collectors. If you get to know your fellow collectors -- talk to them, exchange mail, meet at conventions -- you're much more likely to be able to get that special piece that seems to move from collector to collector without your ever knowing about it.


Original comic art may also be obtained via auction. For many years, the periodic comic-related auctions from well-known auction houses (such as Sotheby's) stood alone in the quality and quantity of high-end comic art items offered. The dynamics of this situation have changed dramatically in 1998, though, with emergence of on-line auction sites.

Auction Houses

Today it is most common to see comic art auctions from online services such as Heritage, ComicLink, ComicConnect, eBay, Catawiki, Hakes, Russ Cochran, Nate Sanders, Urania, and others. Most auction houses utilize to promote their auctions in advance of any auctions featuring comic art.

In the past, traditional-style auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's held comic-related collectible auctions in the late 80's through the 90's. Their auctions focused on high end items and were conducted using the standard "bid until one participant is left standing" technique. The pieces were first advertised via catalog, then displayed at the auction house. Most bidders were physically present for the auction (usually in New York). Items are auctioned one after another until all items are sold or withdrawn.

Notes About eBay

eBay is the most popular and well known of the on-line auction sites. eBay is a topic unto itself and there are many eBay FAQs and introductory sites. For this FAQ, we're mainly interested in some of the basics that have been discussed frequently online.

Basics - Buying

Original Comic Art has its own category on eBay - Collectibles : Comic Books : Original Comic Art. Normally, there are approximately 25,000 items in this category at any one time. Not all of the items are strictly original comic art, though; there are a number of items in the "not quite original comic art" category -- color guides, color separations, lithographs, posters -- and some items that aren't close to being original comic art at all, such as comics, trade paperbacks, etc.

If you're unfamiliar with the seller of a piece, conventional list wisdom suggests that you e-mail him (or her) and ask about the condition of the piece. This accomplishes two things: 1) a caveat emptor mentality tends to exist on eBay and you might extract some details about the piece that you might otherwise miss and 2) it allows you to check on the responsiveness of the seller. This latter item is important in a wide open environment such as eBay where you might not have any idea with whom you're dealing. It's also a good idea to ask about shipping charges if they aren't explicitly referenced in the auction listing. It has been the experience of some collectors that they've been subjected to exorbitant shipping charges. Prospective buyers should always check the eBay feedback ratings of the sellers.

Basics - Selling

Since many eBay customers will be collectors, it makes sense to write a fair and explicit description of the piece that's being offered (although everyone expects it to be "punched up" a bit). Always provide a scan of the piece you're selling.

For "low end" items, collectors tend to set the opening bid at the amount they'd be willing to accept for the piece. For "high end" items, collectors tend to use a reserve -- a price higher than the opening bid that is the minimum for which they'd be willing to actually sell the piece. It has become common for the opening bid to be set at $0.99 for reserve auctions -- the theory is that this will generate more interest in the bidding. Available eBay extra-cost options such as "Featured Auctions" and the "Gallery" are used by some collectors and not others.

It is important to spend some time deciding when the auction should end. This is the same time of day as when the auction starts. It is difficult to pick a single time that will satisfy bidders from around the world. Late night Eastern US time is used frequently and works great for giving North Americans an equal shot but doesn't work so well for Europeans, late afternoon Eastern US time might find West Coasters at work and Australians asleep, and so on. It is also important to choose which day an auction should end. Current list wisdom suggests that a Monday ending day works well -- it gives the weekend surfers a chance to see and think about bidding on your item.


Sniping is a technique that is particularly well-suited to a fixed ending time auction such as the ones that eBay holds. It is the practice of waiting until the last second to place a bid. It is a favored buyer's technique because it keeps the price of an item down by avoiding competitive bidding during the week of the auction. Many experienced eBay bidders will only bid via sniping.

Sniping tends to thwart a reasonable approach to participating in an auction that collectors favor: decide on your highest amount you're willing to bid ahead of time, place the bid and then wait to see if you win the auction. Sniping defeats this strategy because the sniper will wait until the last minute and then make the minimum increase to your bid. So, let's say you decide that you're willing to pay $300 for a particular item. The sniper then wins the item with a bid of $301. It may be that you would have been willing to pay $302 for the item (even if you decided that $300 was your maximum) but you never had a chance to make that decision.

Almost all eBay participants on the list don't like sniping, and most have been bitten by it, but many now feel forced to use it when bidding, almost out of self-defense. Be warned, though, that eBay sometimes has problems with the amount of internet activity that occurs on its site and you might find yourself shut out of your last minute bid.

Ending Auctions Early

There have been a number of auctions involving comic art where the seller decided to end the auction early. This tends to be done by inexperienced sellers who don't realize that most bidding takes place in the last few hours/minutes of the auction. The scenario is something like this: After three days in which no bids have been placed, a buyer contacts the seller via e-mail and offers an amount of money if the seller is willing to end the auction immediately. The seller, not realizing that there are bidders out there who are waiting until the last day, agrees to the deal. Most experienced sellers will just suggest that the buyer place the bid at the suggested price.

Ending auctions early is frowned upon by most collectors for various reasons. For one, many collectors only check eBay once every few days - they might never even see the piece offered. The main reason, though, is that interested bidders want a shot at the item in the last few minutes of the auction.


Given the anonymous nature of the internet, the buying and selling of art via eBay can sometimes be a risky business. eBay provides a mechanism that allows participants to provide feedback on one another - both positive and negative feedback. collectors agree that it is good netiquette to provide positive eBay feedback for a successful transaction.

At the same time, negative feedback is not to be given lightly. It is almost always the case that a negative comment is returned in kind by the other party in the deal. eBay has an appeal procedure for undeserved negative feedback but it is a hassle. Most collectors use negative feedback as a last resort only when all other avenues have been exhausted.


Trading is an essential part of any collectible hobby. It's a fun way to acquire comic art, as well as a good way to get to know other collectors. It can also help keep your collection fresh, even at a time when your cash flow has been reduced to a trickle. In addition, there are many pieces that are only available via trade.

The golden rule for trading comic art is: propose fair trades. It's OK to approach almost anyone about a trade (remember to take "no" for an answer) but we're a relatively small, very involved community and there are very few bargains. If you stay involved in the hobby for even a few years, you'll find yourself dealing with the same people frequently. Earn the respect of your collecting peers by doing your homework - get an idea of what the relevant pieces are worth and learn the wants of the person with whom you'll be dealing. Don't try to pull a fast one.

Multi-piece for one piece trades are common (such as, multiple panel pages for a single splash), as are piece+cash for piece trades. Be flexible and be prepared to barter. Deals can take weeks, months, even years to complete. You might even find yourself pursuing someone else's Holy Grail in order to complete a deal!



The legitimate ownership of some pieces of comic art comes into question from time to time. This is especially true for pieces created prior to the mid-80s, at which time creator's rights were more clearly defined and strengthened. Basically, for many years publishers believed they owned the artwork submitted to them by creators. The originals for the artwork were not highly valued at that time and were frequently destroyed or given away to fans. However, some art was taken by various members of the comic production chain and, ultimately, sold. Some artists believe that some of this artwork, which shows up for sale now and again, really belongs to them. The most prominent example of this involves Jack Kirby's missing Marvel artwork, which was documented the The Comics Journal #105 from February 1986.

This issue has made some collectors skittish about discussing the extent of their collections, while others believe that there are so many holes in the ownership chain that it is very difficult to substantiate claims.

Neal Adams

In March & April of 2000, a major controversy erupted in the comic art collecting world when Neal Adams, comic art legend, along with his son Jason, attempted to reclaim original artwork that they believed was stolen from Mr. Adams. This ignited many discussions on the Comicart-L mailing list, with both of the Adams participating.

The issues discussed were both ethical and legal - although the lines between the two were frequently blurred. A very lively and contentious discussion ensued (over 500 messages), with different collectors taking different sides at different times. A check of the eGroups archives during the months of March and April 2000 will give a feel of the ebb and flow of the discussion.

Even though Mr. Adams called off his pursuit of the art in April, 2000, the question of the provenance of original comic art continues to be a controversial topic on the list.


The comic art collecting hobby tends to be more collaborative than competitive. This is something that list members are proud of, but it can also cause some ethical questions to arise - especially when auctions are involved. List members have been known to "step aside" when bidding against a fellow list member who indicates that the piece in question is of some special significance. This gesture is usually rewarded with a reciprocal gesture somewhere down the road. This is all great for the buyers, of course, who get their art at a lower price (because competitive bidding was avoided). On the other hand, it's not so great for the sellers.

The ethical nature of this behavior became a hot topic on the list. It was even debated whether this kind of collaboration qualified legally as collusion. In the end, most discussion participants agreed that this approach to collecting was commonplace and had an overall positive effect on the hobby.

Truth in Labeling

Because comic art collecting involves one-of-a-kind items, the condition of a piece is not as important as the condition of, say, a comic book. However, disputes still arise when items like glue stains or missing word balloons are not accurately described in a piece's description.

A more significant labeling issue involves claims of what a piece of art is or who is the creator of a piece of art. An example of the former is when a color guide is presented as original comic art. An example of the latter is when inking is performed over a duplicate of the original pencils or when a lightbox is used. For example, if John Doe re-inks a duplicate of Kirby's pencils to FF #48, is it a "Kirby/Doe" piece? Or is it "Doe after Kirby"? Consensus is: the more explicit the description, the better in cases such as this.


Copyright laws can be confusing to those of us who don't have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. Even though you purchase a piece of art, the publishers retain certain rights to the characters portrayed on the art and the creator retains certain rights to the reproduction of the piece. You didn't really expect to be able to reprint your pages and sell your own comic, did you?

It's not always that simple, though. Dealers publish catalogs with art images and private collectors create web sites with digitized images of their collection. While this might skirt the letter of the law, no collector has yet been asked to "cease and desist" because of copyright infringement. Let common sense be your guide - a reasonable, respectful presentation of your collection is not going to attract too much attention while a blatant attempt to make good off of someone else's work is just asking for it.


The contentious subject of "hoarding" comes up frequently on the list. At issue is whether a collector in pursuit of large amounts (or even all) of the output of a certain creator in a given situation is just being a dedicated art lover or, instead, is being selfish and inconsiderate. It seems that the majority of posters on the list don't see anything wrong with "hoarding", although there is a minority that thinks otherwise. In the end, it seems to be a fact of the collecting life (and not just comic art collecting) that some people are going to be more fanatical about the hobby than others.


Forgery is becomming more common in the original comic art world. It is very common to see pieces for sale on ebay that are clear forgeries. It is almost safe to say that you will not see many pieces by Jean Giraud (aka Moebius), Charles Schulz, Jack Kirby or Suess, on ebay, yet forgeries are there regularly. If you have a concern about the authenticity of a piece, DO NOT BID or BUY that item.

Latest Updates


Kit Walker

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eBay Auctions

JACK KIRBY Original Art Marvel Comics' X 51 Machine Man

Heritage Auctions

Ernie Colon, Stan Drake and Marie Severin Damage C

ComicLink Auctions


Comic Connect Auctions

Walking Dead #103 Variant Cover by Chris Giarrusso

Hakes Auctions


Commission an Artist

For Sale Updates

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Ben Chamberlain

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Zaal Art

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Dealer Updates

Coollines Artwork

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Dave Karlen Original Art

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Tri-State Original Art

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