Henschel Auction racks up $190,000

Sweet little Irene Henschel walked around the Wichita Airport Hilton, smiling, welcoming visitors to the auction of her late husband's comics.

She didn't get why people were so worked up about these little funny books -- now encased in plastic. Her and her second husband, Fred, were church people, she said, and all the money they were expected to fetch didn't really have much of an effect on her.

Almost $200,000 later, and her demeanor still hadn't changed.

"That was fun, wasn't it?" she asked.

About 50 comic fans were in attendance at the hotel in hopes of buying one of the Henschel Pedigree Collection comics found under Irene and Fred's bed earlier this year. A more ominous group of 10 sat along a wall, cellular phones in hand. These were the comic dealers attending via a tenuous cellular phone connection and bidding through a third party. Baltimore Orioles part owner and Diamond Comics Distributors owner Steve Geppi's man had a ringside seat. Across from them was Ryan Iwansky, of Proxibid.com. He represented the 45 live bidders via an Internet connection.

With all the players in place and ready to go, the auction was underway. The first comic out of the blocks, an issue of "Action Comics" #15 graded at 6.5 brought in $2,600. Four hours later, the auction would be over, with comics selling for as much as $42,000 ("Flash Comics" #1, CGC graded at 6.5) and as low as $30 ("Ace Comics" #23, CGC graded at 2.0).

While Geppi dominated the last auction, this one was much more even-handed, with no buyer nabbing more than a third of the collection. The early hit of the auction was a CGC 2.0 copy of "Superman" #2 that sold for $1,150. Lot number 27 was the first comic to have a winning bidder that was in person at the auction, much to the appreciation of the bidders on-hand.

The biggest moment was, of course, the sale of "Flash Comics" #1. After the book reached into the $30,000 range, auctioneers and Swenson auction employees started swarming around the book like fruit flies. The $1,000 increment bids were between Geppi and an on-line bidder in California. The on-line bidder won out with authority, quickly raising his opponent with every bid.

"It was pretty overwhelming," said Iwansky, who was making bids for the on-line bidder. "I have a light on my screen, and I can tell when his mouse is on the bid button... he didn't stray very far from that button."

With all the different parties, some technical difficulties had to be expected. The most frequent problem: dropped cell phone calls. The moment a big bidder lost his signal, the whole auction screeched to a halt.

At one point, with a phone bidder's cellular phone down, the auction took about a five minute break right in the middle of a pricey book's sale. As auctioneer Rex Childs strolled the floor waiting for the action to pick back up, he asked a buyer if he would bid against the absent phone bidder, and raise the price of a book up to $4,000.

"I might have to if someone doesn't get him back on the line soon," the buyer joked.

With people volunteering their own cell phones just to get the action started back up again, the phone bidder was finally reconnected and the auction resumed.

Ryan Gomez, of Mulvane, Kan., said that while the big books all were snatched up by phone bidders and on-line participants, there were still some decent books to be had by the small group of collectors attending in person.

"There were about six or seven of us there at the end that were duking it out for the low end books," Gomez said. Gomez walked away from the auction with an issue of "Popular Comics" #84 graded at 5.5 that sold for $60. "I was happy with my purchase. There were some guys willing to drop $60 for a book with talking ducks on the cover, but at least I managed to get something that represented World War II and the mood in this country at the time."

Gomez said the book he really wanted, "War Comics" #4, was ran up to three times the guide price -- to $180 -- by he and another collector before he relented. "These things, you just get competitive, and it becomes more about winning the fight then it does the actual value of the comic."

Mark Brown, owner of Prairie Dog Comics in Wichita, was the first person to be called in when the collection was originally found. In fact, it was Brown that personally drove the collection to Florida to have it CGC graded.

"I've been dealing with this for six or seven months, more as a consultant than anything else," Brown said. "Honestly, I'm just glad it's all over."

Brown did make some purchases, including an F+ issue of "Flash Comics" #7 from the last auction for $3,000. The books he bought were not for his own collection, but for re-sale purposes.

Brown said that for this part of the country, the Henschel collection was an amazing find.

"With other collections being so fragmented, it's hard to put this one in perspective," he said. "This is one of the better we'll see for quite some time. I'm not sure if I've ever seen so many #1s from an original owner before."

Mrs. Henschel gave some insight to her husband's collection before the auction when she stopped to chat with CBR News.

"When he was 14-years-old, Robert (Ford) lived in Flint, Mich. He worked for Western Union -- when we were kids, everything came by Western Union. He would ride his bike to deliver telegrams, and once in a while he had to do singing telegrams. For a singing telegram, he'd usually get a two or three cent tip, and he'd save his money and go buy himself a couple of these comic books."

As adults, it became Irene's job to keep track of the comics.

"Robert (Ford) was an aeronautical engineer, so whenever he got a new job working on airplanes, he quickly moved and I would stay behind and pack things up," she said. "We kept these in a box, always in the air conditioning, wherever we had room. Sometimes in a closet, sometimes under the bed. Once in a while he would get a few out and read them, and when time ran out he would put them away. He never let kids get into them, because he didn't like them getting messed up."

But did she ever just want to throw the silly things away?

"Oh, Heaven's no, never. I would never do that to someone's personal possessions."

Back in April, Irene told the Wichita Eagle that she hoped to buy a red truck with the money made from the auction. Now, after the total collection has grossed almost $300,000, she still hasn't bought the truck. But they are "currently in negotiations," she said. When asked what she would do after they had the truck, Irene once again displayed her Midwestern charm.

"Robert died of Alzheimer's," Irene says. "We're going to support the Alzheimer's walk very generously. That's very important to me."

GradePrice1Action Comics156.5$2,6002Flash Comics135$5003Flash Comics47$1,7004Flash Comics23.5$1,0505Flash Comics66$1,4006Detective Comics438$2,1007Detective Comics448$2,0008All American Comics218.5$2,8009Detective Comics539$2,40010Detective Comics549.2$3,10011Detective Comics327.5$6,50012Detective Comics404.5$1,40013Detective Comics468$1,70014Action Comics277$1,10015Action Comics288$2,20016Action Comics296.5$1,10017Flash Comics219.4$4,50018Action Comics121$45019Superman48$6,50020Police Comics69.2$2,10021Wings Comics18.5$2,30022Flash Comics109$3,60023Planet Comics27$1,80024Nickel Comics15.5$85025Nickel Comics16$95026Superman57$2,55027Superman22$1,15028More Fun Comics545.5$3,50029Action Comics197$2,55030More Fun Comics627$1,25031National Comics15$1,00032Action Comics131$1,00033Action Comics335.5$60034Action Comics143.5$75035All Star Comics17.5$7,10036Skyman17$38037Whiz Comics97.5*38Flash Comics53$41039Hit Comics247$37040More Fun Comics576$1,50041Military Comics36$65042All American Comics156$34043National Comics36.5$65044Police Comics158.5$47545Detective Comics414$57546Detective Comics436*47Police Comics125.5$27048All American Comics148$70049All Flash Quarterly66.5$32550All Flash Quarterly17.5$7,30051National Comics47$55052More Fun Comics485$50053National Comics57$65054Superman145$1,20055Nickel Comics68.5$55056Whiz Comics118.5$77557More Fun Comics623.5$40058Planet Comics116$60059Police Comics136.5$35060Pep Comics127.5$65061Whiz Comics50.5$8562Target Comics55$80063Startling Comics16$75064Smash Comics72$6065Smash Comics82.5$8066Planet Comics36.5$1,10067Nickel Comics53.5$11068Smash Comics144.5$50069Nickel Comics46$22570Thrilling Comics17.5$1,05071Nickel Comics77.5$40072Target Comics63$15073Smash Comics45.5$11074Zip Comics94.5$27575More Fun Comics557$7,90076Sure Fire Comics37.5$40077Wings Comics14$37578Planet Comics98.5$1,80079Smash Comics66$17080Smash Comics36.5$21081Sub Mariner64$70082Planet Comics24$75083Thrilling Comics16.5$1,05084Jungle Comics77$52585Hit Comics16.5$2,30086Buck Rogers38$63087Blue Bolt25$35088Fight Comics16$81089Nickel Comics36$28090Military Comics106.5$37591The Funnies515$8092Buck Rogers14.5$64093Buck Rogers28$75094Nickel Comics25.5$35095National Comics265$20096Military Comics66$32097Jumbo Comics168.5$72598Champion Comics85.5$40099National Comics77$2,000100Military Comics17.5$5,750101Jungle Comics67.5$410102Military Comics56.5$520103The Funnies536$110104The Funnies436$160105Military Comics138$525106War Comics46$180107Champion Comics106$450108USA Is Ready16.5$200109Target ComicsVol. 2 #47$210110Startling Comics25$225111Thrilling Comics42.5$60112Tip Top Comics424.5$40113Uncle Sam Quarterly45.5$275114Thrilling Comics66$150115Smash Comics135$190116Popular Comics669$160117Target ComicsV. 2 #14$40118Tip Top Comics777$140119Thrilling Comics186$50120Popular Comics675$130121Super Magician26$100122Smash Comics95$100123Popular Comics688$80124Smash Comics164$200125Superman10.5$7,000126Popular Comics797$60127Target ComicsV. 2 #21.8$80128Thrilling Comics56$130129Popular Comics845.5$60130Target ComicsV. 2 #75.5$90131Target ComicsV. 2 #96$90132Ace Comics216$70133Blue BoltV. 3 #68$100134Famous Funnies737.5$100135Famous Funnies713.5$50136Jumbo Comics167$425137Ace Comics678$70138Blue Bolt23.5$310139Target ComicsV. 2 #87.5$350140Wings Comics145$145141Big Shot Comics166$120142Blue BoltV. 3 #89$110143Crackajack Funnies173$65144Thrilling Comics158$490145Ace Comics357.5$50146Ace Comics396$50147Ace Comics405.5$50148Blue Bolt31.8$100149Wings Comics167$250150Flash Comics16.5$42,000151Blue Bolt44$200152Blue BoltV. 3 #48$80153Wings Comics105.5$150154Famous Funnies484.5$40155Famous Funnies524.5$40156Zip Comics124.5$130157Comics on Parade223$35158Ace Comics232$30159Famous Funnies725.5$40160Mutt & JeffNo #0.5$75161Whiz Comics114*162Wonder World112.5$175163Feature Book284$30164Fight Comics66.5$180165Famous Funnies776$50166Famous Funnies756.5$90167Famous Funnies845$35168Popular Comics575.5$65169Magic Comics376.5$65170Mystery Men Comics122$95171Jumbo Comics164.5$190172The Funnies354$80173Fight Comics42$100174Famous Funnies746$45175Famous Funnies866$75176Famous Funnies887$50177Famous Funnies1008$110178Popular Comics464.5$60179Popular Comics475$50180Popular Comics504.5$40181Popular Comics514.5$45182Popular Comics526$80183Popular Comics547$95184Popular Comics554.5$40185Popular Comics565.5$60 $193,700 * price could not be confirmed

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