The value of an item, the adage goes, is never less than what someone is willing to pay for it.
And for rare comic books, that value is skyrocketing.
At a sale at French auction house Artcurial on April 30, comics — especially those written by the famous Belgian cartoonist Hergé — will receive attention and prices rivaling those usually reserved for fine art.
“The world of comic strips has recently witnessed a renewed enthusiasm,” said Eric Leroy, an expert in comics at Artcurial.
“Collectors come from all backgrounds; some of them have previously been collecting contemporary and modern art and appreciate the graphical and historical side of collecting comic strips,” Leroy said.
Artcurial set up a dedicated comic strip division in 2005, responding to a rapidly expanding market and a growing need for in-house expertise to identify, authenticate, and curate some of the most desirable comics in the world.
“Quality works are getting harder and harder to find, but some aspects of comics are always important: the rarity, the album it originates from, whether the hero is depicted, the talent of the artist and the condition of the work,” Leroy said.
The auction this month will include items from the personal collection of French pop singer Renaud. It heavily features the work of Hergé, creator of “The Adventures of Tintin,” a series of graphic novels depicting the worldwide escapades of young Belgian reporter.
The series has to date sold well over 200 million copies in more than 70 languages, and remains in wide circulation.
At the top of the docket is a rare double-plate from the 'Tintin' comic 'King Ottokar's Sceptre,' estimated by the house to sell for between $650,000 and $865,000.
A similar, double page from a different episode sold for an astonishing $1.5 million last year, doubling its presale estimate, the BBC reported.
Hergé, who died in 1983, is certainly one of the most important names in the European comic-book tradition.
'Hergé had a career spanning 40 years with a formidable output,' Leroy said. 'Many generations have grown up reading 'The Adventures of Tintin.''
The devoted attention Hergé paid to European cultures, as well as those of the many places to which Tintin travelled, made the series a veritable record of the twentieth century.
In the 23 completed works, Tintin trekked in the Himalayas, witnessed Native Americans evicted by the United States Army, saw Japanese soldiers occupy Manchuria, and even walked on the moon.
While the 'Tintin' comics have revived only a limited following in the US, the series was developed into a 2011 Hollywood feature film by Steven Spielberg, an avid fan of the books.
Unlike the European tradition, in North America comics have always favoured an array of superheroes.
'Actually, US comic books are not really very different from European comics,' Leroy said. Even if the subjects may differ.
In fact, comic strips were born in North American newspapers in the 19th century, only later migrating across the Atlantic.
Today, early American comics, especially those that feature the genesis of some of the most famous superheroes, attract similar prices to their European counterparts.
'In a way, comics are timeless and, moreover, universal,' Leroy said.
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