June’s Heritage Signature Auction included some significant pulp magazine sales. Let’s take a look at this burgeoning segment of the collecting hobby to see what’s moving in the market.

First Doc Savage

Often lauded as a prototype of the superheroes that would arrive later in the decade, Doc Savage burst on the scene in March 1933 beginning with Doc Savage #1, published by Street & Smith. On June 23, a 4.5 graded copy of this seminal pulp sold in the Heritage Signature Auction for $39,600. It is the first recorded sale of any of the three graded copies currently in existence and bested the previous high of $33,600 for a VG/FN in a 2021 Heritage auction. One of the mega-keys of the pulp world, it bears watching future sales. There is a 5.0 graded copy out there, and there could be other copies that are sent in to CGC for grading.

Weird Tales

There were a large number of issues of Weird Tales available in the June Heritage Signature Auction, highlighting the fact that the publication is quickly becoming the premier series in the nascent graded pulp collecting hobby. The one that drew the most attention prior to the auction was a 7.5 graded copy of Weird Tales #118. This was being offered up just a couple months after a 7.0 sold for $30,000. So, what happened in the June auction? The 7.5 sold for $30,000 – the same price for a higher grade. This is less a case of decreasing demand – it did sell for $30,000 after all, not exactly chump change – and more a case of increasing supply. From the time of the April auction – when there were 14 graded copies – to the June auction another seven graded copies were added to the census. That’s a 50% increase. You can’t have increasing supply but a finite number of people with the wherewithal to purchase big dollar pulps like this without it affecting prices to some extent. That’s why your best bet may be to watch this market carefully. We have no history of peaks and valleys for graded pulps and very little data to make educated purchases. People will continue to buy as we all do, at least occasionally, for reasons outside of current fair market values. There’s an emotional component to collecting that can’t be measured or quantified. However, plentiful data helps collectors to make educated decisions when it comes to their purchases. And right now – when it comes to graded pulps – we don’t yet have a significantly large enough data set to lean on. We’re getting smarter, though, as we collect more data. The final purchase price shows that the buyer in this auction understood that supply was increasing and didn’t overbid out of a covetous need to have a copy of Weird Tales #118.

Lest you think the “Batgirl” cover was the only key Weird Tales sale in the June Heritage Signature Auction, there were a couple others that reached the five-figure value when the hammer dropped. A 6.5 graded copy of Weird Tales #108 – the first appearance of Conan – sold for $14,400, setting a new record by topping the previous sale of a 4.5 for $7,800 on April 2. This issue is settling in as the second most desired issue of Weird Tales and bears watching.

A 9.0 graded copy of Weird Tales #125, featuring the first cover appearance of Conan and drawn by Margaret Brundage, sold for $11,400. It is the first recorded sale of a graded copy. There is one copy graded higher, however – a 9.2. While only time will tell if the price paid in this auction was too high or a steal, it will be interesting to see what happens if that 9.2 ever comes up for sale.

Strange Tales

The first issue of Strange Tales (sometime referenced as Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror) sold for $4,800 in the June Heritage Signature Auction. One of Weird Tales’ chief competitors, Strange Tales was first published by Clayton Publications in 1931. The 7.5 graded copy of Strange Tales #v1 #1 that sold was the highest on the CGC census out of the nine that have so far been graded. While not at the level of Weird Tales in the eyes of collectors, there are some issues like this first one to consider adding to your pulp collection.

The Shadow

Vying for the title of first pre-comic book superhero is none other than The Shadow. A 7.0 graded copy of The Shadow #250, with its classic skeleton cover by George Rozen, sold in the auction for $2,640. It was the first of seven graded copies of this 1942 issue to sell. There are two copies graded higher – an 8.0 and a 7.5 – so this is likely not the highest sale we’ll see.

All-Story Weekly

Finally, we come to the granddaddy of all pulps, All-Story Weekly. The birthplace of Tarzan and many other Edgar Rice Burroughs works, the sale of any graded copy is an event. A 4.5 graded copy of All-Story Weekly #221, published in April 1916, sold in the June Heritage Signature Auction for $2,760. This particular issue contains part one of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the fourth chapter in Burroughs’ Barsoom saga begun with Under the Moons of Mars and published in All-Story in 1912. It is the only currently graded copy of All-Story Weekly #221. While we have yet to determine what a census will look like for pulps, my guess is that it will remain small for those dated prior to 1930. The manufacturing process was poorer, leading to more rapid degradation, and these just weren’t things worth keeping when the paper could serve other functions, such as kindling or for hygiene. This could lead to higher prices down the road when their real rarity sets in.

Final Analysis

We’re still in the very early stages of graded pulps. We will see growth in census counts while – at the same time – the act of grading makes them more desirable as collectibles. We’re already seeing more interest in pulps from comic collectors looking for cheaper options, leading to more overall interest in the pulp collecting hobby than ever before. It really comes down to a race that bears watching – will the pace of copies being sent in for grading keep up with growing demand? In some cases, as with Weird Tales #118 mentioned above, the answer will be yes. In the case of others, though, the answer could be no due to a lack of raw copies in the marketplace. Those will be the pulps that will eventually set new records.

Do you collect pulps? What are some of your favorites? Let us know below.