The Collector’s Corner: McMania!


What’s Hot: The Howard Review #1, World’s Rarest REH Fanzine #1, Cryptic chapbooks, REHupa ephemera, Bison’s Lord of Samarcand, The Phantagraph.

As I predicted in last week’s Collector’s Corner, Dennis McHaney’s Howard Review #1 was bid into the stratosphere. $877.77! If memory serves, an original Howard typescript sold for around that much a few years back. Who could have guessed that all those drugs taken by Howardheads in the 1970s would pay off in such spectacular fashion? Dennis is on a major eBay roll, with sale after sale marking new collecting highs in Howardland. It’ll be fun to see what he pulls out of the archives next. Probably a Jenkins Gent From Bear Creek. In any case, this clearly marks The Howard Review as THE major REH fanzine collector-wise, past or present. Nothing else even comes close.

McHaney also sold another rare item this week, a proof copy of an attempt at an REH magazine called REH: World’s Greatest Pulpster, with an interesting history of the sort that collectors go ga-ga over. As Dennis put it in his auction description:

ROBERT E. HOWARD: WORLD’S GREATEST PULPSTER became the title of a book in 2005, written by Dennis McHaney.

The title was first used in a proposed small press Howard journal in 2001. Material was gathered, proof copies printed, and then the project was abandoned when the publisher decided he didn’t want to do any more “small scale” Howard publishing.

Most of the material in the aborted magazine later appeared in the 12th and 13th issues of The Howard Review, and the title was used for the publisher’s award winning book on Robert E. Howard. Even the cover art was used elsewhere, in an amateur press association publication for The Robert E. Howard United Press Association.

In the Fall of 2001, the publisher printed five proof copies of the magazine Robert E. Howard: World’s Greatest Pulpster 1, a 48 page magazine which was given a lot of attention, in the fan press and on the internet. You can still find mention of it in outdated and neglected websites. The Howard small press was really stagnant at the time, and the actual publication of this magazine would have breathed new life into the field. The guy behind the magazine decided to take a long vacation instead, and the completely finished new Howard fan press magazine just simply went into limbo.

This magazine title may be resurrected in 2008, with volume 2, # 1, but this auction item is Vol. 1 number one.

Of the five copies of this magazine that were printed, three were sent to proofreaders, and the other two copies were retained in the publisher’s personal files. This is one of those copies. The magazine contains two Robert E. Howard stories, “The Tomb’s Secret,” and “Black Talons,” four Howard poems (see scan of contents page), and articles by Fred Blosser, Charles Gramlich, and Dennis McHaney.

There was a lot of Roy G. Krenkel art in the issue, published there for the first time, but also used in the two Howard Reviews that followed this.

This is a unique item. Is it the rarest Howard fanzine in existence? Could be.

Indeed it could, and when the bidding had ended, collectors had responded to this tease to the tune of $103.51. I picture Dennis in his apartment in Austin, tossing money into the air and cackling wildly. And I like the mention of his award-winning book — the Cimmerian Awards continue to gain traction in the Howardian marketplace of ideas.

Last week I said that if the next Cryptic chapbooks to be auctioned sold for more than $50, then it would be a strong confirmation that they continue to hold value in the modern Howard marketplace. The results are in, and the booklets that Reverend Bob wrought are doing OK. North of Khyber: $127.50. The Coming of El Borak: $105.50. The Adventures of Lal-Singh: $100.00. Lewd Tales: $89.00. Pay Day: $65.00. Even The Sonora Kid squeaked in over my benchmark at $51.00. These ugly little buggers are performing all the more admirably when you look at some of the items they are selling better than (more on those in a bit).

Every once in awhile something sells on eBay that is a little bit of something published in REHupa, a few sheets of a ‘zine or a piece of artwork, whatever. Dennis McHaney, still riding high from his other auctions, popped up with a tiny little booklet printed by him and run in REHupa several years ago, a reprinting of the charming Howard story “‘Golden Hope’ Christmas.” This short-but-sweet tale was written by Howard when he was only sixteen, and it’s a great thing to read over the holidays. (Here in Los Angeles Rah Hoffman, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Terry McVicker, and myself did exactly that a few years ago right before Christmas, taking turns reading aloud until we got through both “‘Golden Hope’ Christmas” and Lovecraft’s “The Festival.” Great fun.) With things like this it’s nearly impossible to guess how much it’ll go for. But hey, this is Dennis (as in Denni$$$$$) we’re talking about, right? The booklet ended up selling for $51.65, a fairly astronomical figure when you’ve seen in person how small and unassuming the thing is. But it’s well-made for what it is, with nice color artwork on the cover by J. Allen St. John, and it has the whole rare/REHupa/McHaney cachet attached to it. I’d guess that the entire mailing the booklet appeared in would sell for around the same price or perhaps a little more. Maybe a lot more now that people have seen how much the booklet sold for.

I hadn’t noticed until Cimmerian contributor (and two-time Cimmerian Award winner) John Haefele brought it to my attention, but one of the Bison Books (released in 2005) has actually gone out of print in hardcover: The Lord of Samarcand and Other Adventure Tales of the Old Orient. In my opinion it’s indisputably the best book of the bunch simply due to the incredible stories it contains in one place for the very first time. As [redacted] mentioned in The Cimmerian awhile back, this book makes not one, not two, but three earlier books of Howard’s Crusader-era tales superfluous. For those of you who haven’t read these stories, you’re really missing out. They rock, and achieve all of the blood-and-thunder and exotic mysticism of the Conan tales, in addition to some darker themes and bitterly and poetically brutal endings that many of the Conan stories lack. John was lamenting to me that he never acquired the hardcover state of this book while it was available. Now he’ll have to go to the used markets, and they have already priced in the tome’s out-of-print status — most copies are now listed for $50 and up.

Our last hot item for this week might seem strange, because it hasn’t been up for sale in a while. But in conversation with a Cimmerian reader about some private REH purchasing he was engaged in, I realized that while issues of The Phantagraph are available at fine genre book dealers such as L. W. Curry, none of the issues that feature Robert E. Howard’s “The Hyborian Age” are available anywhere on the Internet so far as I can tell. Not a single copy, in any condition. This is about as rare as you can get in this modern eBay and AddAll.Com age, and it made me wonder how much those issues would sell for if auctioned. At L. W. Curry the highest priced Phantagraphs (featuring things like Lovecraft’s appreciation of William Hope Hodgson) go for $100 and up, depending on grade. Even though The Phantagraph never finished printing the entire Howard essay (the three-issues that featured parts of it only took readers up to Conan’s time) I’m guessing they are still worth a bundle. A few years after the REH Phanatagraphs saw print, the fanzine’s publisher Donald Wollheim printed the whole “Hyborian Age” essay in a book by itself that now sells for $800 and up. If and when individual REH issues of The Phantagraph hit eBay again, I’d expect them to go for the same kind of prices that McHaney got for early numbers of The Howard Review. $500 and up for each would not be out of line I expect.


What’s Cold: Wandering Star Complete Conan of Cimmeria, Howard Boom paperbacks, Valeria statue, Red Sonja pastiches, Necro Press REH Selected Letters 1923-1930, REHupa #183, New Howard Reader #1, Amra.

The fall from grace in Howardia of the Wandering Star series continues apace with the startling auction last week that saw a copy of Conan II sell for an anemic $97.89. We’re talking about an unopened, pristine deluxe copy in slipcase, with color plates and all the trimmings, and signed by artist Gary Gianni. If this becomes the normal selling price for this item — and I think it will, or indeed drop even further — then those of you who purchased this for $200 and up back when it came out will be feeling pretty grim. At this price point I’m tempted to buy it just so I’d have Conan II in hardcover. For the record, there has been a lot of talk among fans of somehow getting people to pre-order copies of Conan III in an edition that more or less matches the first two Wandering Star volumes, and then use the pooled money to get the run printed for those who want to complete their sets. Nothing definite has come of this talk, but who knows, perhaps someone will get it done.

I talked a bit last week about how a new REH reader determined to get a large amount of his fiction quickly could do so cheaply by grabbing a few paperback lots off of eBay. This remains true, and the inexpensive nature of these items is highlighted by what sellers are not able to get away with. Case in point: the recent auction where a seller tried to sell a lot of “23 Conan and various authors” at a minimum price of $75.00. Sorry bud, but these books generally go for $2.00 or so per paperback when sold in bulk (and often when sold singly). At that rate, $50 (or to be honest, much less) would have been a much more reasonable start price. Of course, I always think the best starting price for any auction is .99 cents, with the logic that the market will nearly always find the proper sell price for each item. Very rarely the seller gets screwed by that strategy, but in my experience not often enough to kick about. I’m always amazed at the guys who list something again and again for a price way beyond what anyone would reasonably pay, hoping to catch a sucker off guard. A second lot of 18 Conan-and-related books did sell, and for a much more reasonable price of $39.00.

Another item that was priced way too high to begin with was a pastiche of Red Sonya (if you can call it a “pastiche,” since Howard never invented the Sonja with a “j” character, which originated in the Marvel Comics — his Red Sonya with a “y” appeared only in the excellent REH short story “The Shadow of the Vulture,” one of the stellar tales in the aforementioned out-of-print Bison book). Writers David Smith and The Cimmerian‘s poet laureate Dick Tierney wrote this particular Red Sonja novel, but it understandably failed to sell at a minimun buy point of $49.99. Meanwhile a Howardian pop culture item, a bust of Valeria of the Red Brotherhood from the story “Red Nails,” went unclaimed at a listing price of $49.99. Small wonder — a quick Internet search turned up brand new copies for $37.00 and change.

A slew of Howard items sold for prices that either arguably signal a reduction in their value and general collectivity, or else are a one-time fluke. Necronomicon Press’ REH Selected Letters 1923-1930 now finally has some competition from the Howard Foundation’s Complete Letters, and the effect might prove dramatic. This copy sold for $45.66, which sounds like a lot on the surface, but which I think is about half what I saw it selling for a few years back at the height of its popularity. REHupa #183, on the other hand, doesn’t have new competition per se, but the #180s are of fairly recent vintage and there have been a number of them sold on eBay over the last year or so. This one went for what I consider the low end for REHupas in this day and age, $26.00, which a scant few years ago was considered the high end. I’m going to be selling more REHupas in the near future, most of them much older and rarer (some from when the a.p.a. had only ten or so members!) so we’ll see how those fare.

Joe Marek’s late 1990s fanzine The New Howard Reader was by all accounts one of the most content-rich REH fanzines ever — and also one of the ugliest. Each issue was jam-packed with rare REH stories, poems, fragments, and letters, things that were only available in widely scattered, hard-to-find sources. Joe did a service by making the deal with the Baums and doing the legwork to bring all of that material together in the same place. Unfortunately, two things worked to the series’ detriment. First was the scarcity — each one was printed in a limited run of about fifty copies. The second was the editing and production value. Tons of typos in the earlier issues, and everything printed on the cheapest possible paper with paper-thin covers fronted by badly scanned and pixelated artwork. I was amazed when Joe once reported in REHupa that he lost money on these things, going deep in the hole to get them printed. By the look of them you’d think he paid a buck or so each to make them, then sold them for around $15. They are in fact so unremittingly butt-ugly that I refuse to buy them on principle, and to this day I don’t own any copy of much of the material included in that magazine’s run. I love Dennis McHaney’s comment in the auction description:

I would describe the condition of this copy as near mint, except that it was folded and stapled crooked, as you can see in the scans of the front and back covers. Given the sloppy production values of the fanzine, this is probably not an unusual condition….

Ain’t it da truth. Because of their content and scarcity, they have been going for really high prices ever since they drifted out of print. $100 for one issue was not unheard of not too long ago. So it was a surprise this week to see #1 sell for a comparatively meager $21.48. [redacted] or some other knowledgeable blogger will have to figure out if most of the stuff in this issue has now been made available in other areas, which would partially explain the low selling price.

Finally, a tried-and-true low seller continues to struggle in the Howardian bazaar of the bizarre: Amra is now failing to sell at minimum prices of $12.00 (for #62) $9.95 (for #65) and even $2.00 (for #106 and $107). #24 and #26 each sold for $16 a few weeks ago. Not very impressive for this ostensibly Howardian fanzine.


Things to Watch:

Complete Set of Grant Conans: Put this under the “insane in da membrane!” department. Homeboy has a complete set of Grant Conans listed for $349.95. This for a series that was full of terrible art, gargantuan typographical errors (their edition of The Hour of the Dragon left out over 500 words!) and which ultimately was never finished. That minimum price breaks down to around $32 per book. Meanwhile, individual titles in this same series regularly go unsold for $20 each. If I wanted an incomplete Conan set for hundreds of dollars, I’d get the two Wandering Star volumes.

Cormac Mac Art and others: the insanity continues with this idiotic listing of a complete set of Baen paperbacks (you know, those of the corrupt texts, cheesy Ken Kelly covers, and prematurely browning paper) for a heart-stopping price of $49.99. That’s $9 per book — at a time when individual volumes are ice cold, regularly failing to get bids of even $3. Toss in the fact that the spines on all of these are creased, and you’ve got a radioactive auction. Stay far away, unless you’re Homer Simpson.

Howard Review #7: Will this rare item hit the level of #1 and #2, or will it peter out in the low double digits the way recent sales of #5 have? Hard to tell — as I said last week, there is serious blood in the water from those last spectacular auctions, and the moneyed sharks are circling. But I think this is going to go for less than those earlier ones. I’ll take a guess that it will top out at around $100. If it does exceed that and becomes another legendary haul for Dennis, I’m going to kick myself for not begging him for old copies back when he was drunk and susceptible to chicanery at Howard Days.

REH Selected Letters 1931-1936: The first chapbook in this set went for under $50 last week, and that one is rarer in my recollection. Look for this to underperform, too. At a $15 minimum asking price, it may not even get a single bid. After all, if you want to read the letters you can get the unabridged Complete Set from the REH Foundation, and the cheap quality of all the Necro Press chapbooks are nothing to write home about.

Arkham Skull-Face and Others: I list this here because the guy selling it did a ballsy thing which I like: even though this is an expensive and much sought-after collectible, he listed it with no reserve and is letting the market take its course. That should make for an exciting auction. We’ll see if it goes for the usual $400+ for a slightly battered copy with pretty good dj, or if it creeps higher in furious bidding. At this writing there is already one bid for $9.99, so keep an eye on it and see how high it goes. My guess? $550.

The Layers of REH Collecting

Guest blogger Paul Herman ponders some of the reasons why REH collectibles rise or fall in price:

PAUL: To comment on your blog today about collectibles on eBay, I think you correctly spot that once a newer, better edition comes out, a certain number of folks lose interest in interim editions that previously had some claim to fame. Note that some things that are true first appearance, like pulps or Always Comes Evening, those just keep going UP in value. Even the reprinting of the entire WT run by Girasol, straight Xerox of the original pages, didn’t hurt pulp values any.

Note that, IMHO, there are “layers” of collectors (like Shrek’s onion). The Every-Publication Completists want a copy of every publication, no matter how minor. While there is not a lot of them around, there is enough of them with big money to make sure that rare items will always drive a high price. The Every-First-Appearance Completists want the first appearance of each work, and don’t need the later editions. They might purchase the latest version to get the best text, but they still want that first appearance. So things like pulps continue to have high prices, even though all the stories are heavily reprinted and readily available, even when the entire pulp is exactly reproduced. There is a lot more of these folks than the first group, and can get by on a smaller budget. A subset of those folks would be the folks who want only hardback, but I don’t know that I’ve ever met one of them.

Then comes Completists — Level II, who want a copy of every work, but don’t need six versions of the same story. A much more massive group. They are the ones selling Baens now, and there is no one to buy them. A subset of that group is the Perfectionists, who are always chasing the latest version of “perfect” text, and only want one copy of each work. Again, these folks are now dumping Baens, and no one to purchase them.

So, I think you’re correct that things like the Baen editions will go down, but we’ll have to see about the Cryptics. They have rareness, AND First Appearance cachets, so they may or may not go down once the stories are reprinted, we’ll have to see. The Grant Conans have dropped, but some of the others, like the early poetry volumes, stay high. It will be fun to see how all the various Lancer, Ace, Zebra books do, as time goes on.

AND LEO ADDS: I think that the Cryptics will magically become less rare once, as Rob says, other volumes make them superfluous to guys you call Completists — Level II (gents just looking to collect the best copy of each REH story or poem). And with less rarity will come less value, leaving some guys stuck with Cryptic chapbooks they paid $100 for while $10 copies float around eBay unsold. The Wandering Star books are like that now — guys paid $1000 for a copy of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, but now that the Del Rey Kane is in trade paper (with better text than the WS version) the market seems glutted with WS copies looking to be unloaded, in some cases for pennies (or perhaps dimes) on the dollar.

The threat of a Complete Letters set in hardcover is set to eviscerate the price structure of a host of previously in-demand items, such as Jonathan Bacon’s Runes of Ahrh-Eih-Eche and the Necronomicon Press Selected Letters chapbooks. A Complete Poetry might very well do the same thing for all of those high-priced, thin gruel poetry collections that have appeared over the years. I imagine the Lancers will gradually become more like collecting pulps: it won’t be too hard or expensive to procure poor quality versions, but the real Holy Grail will be hunting for Very Fine copies of same.

And running with your “layers of collectors” notion, the one big factor that is always subject to change is how many guys are in any one layer at any given time. So if, say, a new REH movie lures a bunch of folks to start selling their comic books or old Creepy and Eerie collections in favor of building up a Howard collection instead, things could get a lot more crazy round these parts.

The Collector’s Corner: All Hail Yggdrasil


What’s Hot: Yggdrasil #1, The Howard Review, Cryptic Publications chapbooks, Writer of the Dark, Wandering Star ephemera, REHupa Mailings, Almuric.

Back on July 9, [redacted] mentioned that a virtually unknown one-shot fanzine called Yggdrasil, which was little more than a few saddle-stapled sheets, was rising past $160 on eBay. Well, the insanity of the collecting mindset never ceases: the issue ended up selling for $308.03. The “magazine” — it pains me to even use that term in this context — contained nothing more than a reprint of a frequently published tale (“The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune”) along with a sprinkling of APA-level commentary by a former REHupan. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s put this in perspective: in 2000 the members of REHupa paid just a bit more than that for an old book that had been both owned by REH and signed to him by the book’s editor. That book, As the Poet Says–, is now sitting in the Howard House.

I’m sure Yggdrasil is a brilliant and timeless bit of ‘zine-making, but the mania of collectors who must have every little scrap of Howardiana at any price is creepy. And the scuttlebutt is that as little-known as Yggdrasil is, there is actually a fairly large universe of copies in existence, just not circulated yet. Now that The Amazing $300 Pamphlet has been mistaken for a Gutenberg bible, I’d expect to see many more appearing on eBay and changing hands. And let’s lay down odds concerning whether the collector who bought this one will soon be found dead with a gun in one hand and a bloodied Yggdrasil in the other. Every collector dreams of snagging that rare one-of-a-kind item, so why not have an opportunity to bid on “the only copy splattered with the brains of a Howard fan!!!! — A must for your collection!!!”

Howard fanzines have historically not appreciated in value that much, with occasional exceptions. Who knew that early issues of The Howard Review were in such demand? That publication’s editor, Dennis McHaney, just sold two copies of #2 together for $109.50, and this is not long after selling a copy of #3 for $547.50. The Cimmerian doesn’t have the original Howard stories, poems, and fragments that THR did, but if they appreciate even half as much I’ll cancel my 401k, secure in the knowledge that by the time I retire I’ll be able to live off of selling copies of my Awards issues with Dennis’ mug in it. “The face of the guy who made the ‘zine you paid half a G for back in 2007!!! Must own!!!”

With the REH Foundation threatening to bring all kinds of rare Howard into print, it should be interesting to see how the value of some of the old Cryptic chapbooks holds up. So far, the crappy little buggers are hangin’ in there: North of Khyber ($127.50), The Coming of El Borak ($105.50), The Adventures of Lal Singh ($100.00), Pay Day ($65.00), and The Sonora Kid ($51.00). I still remember picking up a copy of The Coming of El Borak a few years ago at the Los Angeles Paperback Show for $15. Most of them contain juvenile junk, stuff REH would be embarrassed to learn has seen print.

Other stalwarts in the arena are keeping their value. Tom Kovacs’ Writer of the Dark has just enough scarcity, collectability, and rare content to keep it selling for (as it did recently) $177.50 (I doubt his new REH book, “Winds of Time,” will have anywhere near the same cachet). REHupa mailings continue to fetch decent prices — #181 (June, 2003) went for $47.01. I maintain that the price of REHupas is going to rise as more collectors cop to the necessity of adding them to their holdings, and as loose ones are taken off the market and are increasingly no longer to be found.

A couple items surprised this week. A second printing of the 1977 Almuric paperback went for $10.27, and several pieces of Wandering Star ephemera sold big, albeit with misleading descriptions. A Conan sketchbook featuring Mark Schultz art was advertised as “EXTREMELY RARE!” when it is in fact anything but. If memory serves a few thousand of these thin and elegant little chapbooks were produced and sold cheaply for a few bucks per, and they were being handed out in such abundance that for awhile you could hardly give them away. Tell that to the guy on eBay who just bought one — unsigned, it appears — for $62.80. Another piece touted as “A MUST FOR ANY TRUE COLLECTOR!!!” is a little one-sheet (looks Xeroxed) flyer from now-defunct Wandering Star distributor Endurant Books featuring a bit of Gianni art, which sold for $22.45.

The guy selling these Wandering Star items (former REHupan David Burton, unless I miss my guess) has over time morphed into the most annoying self-promoter in the Howard field, with every scrap of paper hawked on eBay in tones usually reserved for holy relics and accompanied by more exclamation points than a Rosie O’Donnell-infested View transcript. I look forward to when he gets around to selling the terrible drawing of Conan he did for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #7, one that he could advertise truthfully as “THE FIRST CONAN WITH SIX FINGERS!!!” You can’t make this stuff up. As Indy Cavalier said in REHupa at the time, “Now we know who really killed Inigo Montoya’s father.”


What’s Cold: The Hyperborean League, The Last Celt, Howard Boom era paperbacks, Grant Conan hardcovers, The Dark Man #1, Baen series paperbacks, Amra, Del Rey Kull.

The Hyperborean League is not as known as it should be. Created in the 1970s by Don Herron and an assortment of talented REHupans disgruntled at the direction (or lack thereof) of the REH a.p.a., it splintered off from REHupa proper and released mailings of much higher quality than REHupa was doing at that time. Eventually REHupa got better, and The Hyperborean League folded back into it, but until that happened THL put out some great, collectible mailings. Glenn Lord’s zines were so good that they later were collected in book form as Glenn Lord’s Ultima Thule. These mailings are more rare than REHupas, more packed with Howard content, and they are seldom seen on the open market. Strange then to see one put up on eBay by Cimmerian reader Lee Breakiron and yet not sell for the listed price of $75.00. That’s relatively cheap considering what many REHupas, much more recent and much less scarce, have been going for. (And contrary to Lee’s comment in the listing that the gents “couldn’t spell Hyperborian,” the spelling is in fact correct — both REH and CAS used “Hyperborea”).

Glenn Lord’s The Last Celt has lost a bit of steam over the years, perhaps due to so much of its contents appearing in other arenas, and to its Bibliography finally being supplanted by Howard Works and now The Neverending Hunt. Whereas before a decent hardcover version of the book would sell for $50-$100 every time, now we see some copies going unsold (the latest failed to find a purchaser at $60).

The paperbacks from the Howard Boom era (1966-1983) remain in the basement of the Howardian Collecting House due to the huge number of copies floating around and the superseding of most of them by various Wildside and Del Rey hardcovers. For those of you just discovering REH, buying a large lot of paperbacks on eBay for $25 or so is the easiest way to introduce yourself to a lot of new REH quickly and cheaply. I love the smell of that browned brittle paper, too — reminds me of Howard’s descriptions of “breath like a whisper from the past, laden with musk, scents of forgotten things, breathing secrets that were hoary when the world was young.”

We can throw the Baens into the basement as well at this point. There was a time not so long ago when they looked like they might scratch and scramble up to a higher level of collectability. Some copies were selling for as much as $25. But that was then, before Del Rey eliminated the need for at least three of the volumes, and before the shoddy paper they were printed on began browning on even otherwise pristine copies. While you can find independent booksellers trying to sell complete sets of the Baens for $200 and up (sometimes way up), a savvy collector with patience and an eagle eye can procure them for as low as $1 each. Copies advertised for as low as $3 aren’t even getting any bids on eBay. Time has not been kind to this series on a number of fronts, and it will probably get worse over the next few years as more books come out (such as the Del Rey horror volume) that reduce the need for them on the average REH fan’s shelf.

What’s more alarming lately is how cheap the Del Rey trade paperbacks are going for. Even the Kull book, released just last November, can be had for $3 and shipping. I hope this isn’t an indication that they are selling poorly, but of course it probably is. Heck, a hardcover edition of the book, put out by the Science Fiction Book Club, sold recently on eBay for a paltry $1.29. Granted, SFBC tomes are printed on awful paper and have fairly shoddy construction, as I discovered when first handling them at last year’s World Fantasy Convention. I’d love to have the Del Rey’s in hardcover, but not with that paper.

One set of hardcovers that may be an eerie precursor to the ultimate fate of the deluxe Wandering Star editions is the Donald Grant set of Conan books from the 1970s. Billed at the time as a deluxe set, with illustrations and good construction, the set was marred by bad art, textual errors, and its incomplete status, and even though the large font makes them more pleasant to read than any other edition of Conan, their prices at auction are perilously low, hovering around the $20-$30 range for most titles. A few guys on eBay keep trying to unload these at $45 and up, and it just ain’t happening, the auctions almost always end without a single bid.

And lastly, while McHaney is raking in big bucks for his old publications, other old fanzines are struggling in the marketplace. A copy of The Dark Man #1 failed to sell at a $10 asking price, and several copies of Amra from much earlier aren’t selling for less. What this portends if anything is anyone’s guess, but I think it could be a sign that as the market becomes flooded with byproduct, collectors are going to grow more selective about what they “need” to collect. Printing quality may play an increased role in what gets bought, too.

Independent Booksellers


Leaving eBay behind and looking towards the more expensive and hard-nosed independent booksellers, we are reminded that in collecting Rarity is King. This is amply demonstrated by the advertised prices for the Wandering Star Leather Editions, most printed in limited editions of around fifty copies:

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane Leather Edition: $4008.60

Bran Mak Morn: The Last King Leather Edition: $1541.77

Conan of Cimmeria I and II Leather Editions: $1428.70 ea.

Well, good for them I guess, but the fan on the ground is left to wonder whether there would be enough dough in the WS coffers to print Conan III if the hide used to make these books had been left on the cows and goats.

Even as the Grants sit in the doldrums of REH collecting, the Gnomes still pack a punch. A complete Gnome Press Conan Set on one site is going for $3300.00. A fairly outrageous price, but for a fine or very fine set all in one place, there’s a chance someone will snatch it up. Arkham House’s Always Comes Evening: is also occupying a place of honor in the REH collecting starscape. One copy I spied is listed at $3000.00. Not bad for a book that Glenn Lord barely got published fifty years ago.

The REH Collecting Legacy of Leon Nielsen


With the death of Leon Nielsen, let us pause to consider his book on collecting REH. There have been complaints — “no Frazetta illos, typos, guessimated prices that are now out-of-date” — but I think they are overblown. Especially for a new collector getting his feet wet, the book gives a really detailed overview of the scene, taking the time to point out all sorts of details that most other sources take as read. Grading is discussed, as are a variety of collecting terms, and the knowledge is then applied to REH specifically. The biographical information is solid and well-expressed, and the various lists of things to collect depending on your interest and focus are fun and useful. Leon sent me a signed copy last January, and although I’m not a collector myself I’m glad he did. I’ve referenced it time and again, and think that long hence it will take on the aura of a snapshot of the collecting universe of REH in our era, one that future generations will find fascinating.

Things to Watch


HAWKS OF OUTREMER: This was always one of the more expensive hardcovers from the 1970s, but it was recently superseded by the Bison released Lord of Samarcand. So the question is, will it continue to command prices of $50-$100? There’s a copy on eBay now listed for $79.95, so let’s watch and find out. My prediction? Not a chance in hell it will sell for that price.

LEWD TALES: Another crappy Cryptic Chapbook — will it match the performance of the ones sold last week? Probably. If it hits $50, then Cryptic is still the bomb.

FANTASTIC WORLDS OF ROBERT E. HOWARD: For me, this book has been steadily falling in prestige over the last few years. The copy currently on eBay is advertised as containing “the best of REHupa” from that era. Partly that’s correct, the book does have some good items in it. But there are also some unconscionable stinkers in the mix, and combined with the comic sensibilities at play in the layout and much of the art, I don’t think it holds up. A first printing is listed for $25 — I can’t see it selling at that price.

THE HOWARD REVIEW #1: McHaney struck gold with #3 and to a lesser but still impressive extent with #2. Will a copy of #1 match or exceed that haul? My guess is yes. The sharks are circling, and there is still blood in the water from the last few McManiac auctions. This one should be fun to watch at the close, and the next time I’m in Austin Dennis is buying the drinks for sure.

CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE: There was a short burst of interest and activity swirling around this book last November after its debut at the World Fantasy Con. Many people who hadn’t attended the con wanted a copy, some who had purchased supporting memberships hadn’t received their complimentary copy, and books were in play with different signatures attached to them. The one on eBay now sports three sigs and is listed at $9.99. I think it has to go to someone at that minimum, but who, and at what final cost, is anyone’s guess. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’ll net $30+.

REHupa #183: Another fairly recent issue. Years ago copies would generally go for $20. Lately this has changed dramatically, and I think permanently, and you usually see them hitting $50 and often $100 and more. $200 and up is not out of the question for these as a bit more time passes, especially if interest in REH is peaked by new Hollywood fare, bringing in new waves of fresh collectors looking to establish a beachhead in Howardia. I’ll predict this one to go for $50, but wouldn’t be surprised (or feel the buyer had been cheated) if it goes for twice that.

Proof to THE BLOODY CROWN OF CONAN: This item is interesting, in that galleys and proofs sometimes fetch high prices, depending on author and title. I know that at Howard Days a few years back I convinced the Del Rey guys to donate a few to the silent auction, and they sold for pretty major money, $100 and up. Of course that was before at least one of the books had been released yet, so the buyer was getting a bonafide preview of an unreleased volume. I don’t see eBay being an environment conducive to this going for a lot of money, at least without a signature on it or an artist’s doodle.

SWORD WOMAN: first printing of this paperback, one that usually fetches at least a few bucks more than the ocean of other REH paperbacks washing up on eBay’s colorful shores. $3.00 as an opener isn’t a deal breaker, especially if it’s in pretty good condition. Heck, I might drop a bid on it myself.

ROB ADDS: Part of the reason, I’m sure, that the Cryptics continue to sell well is the fact that they contain REH fiction that is not available anywhere else. Sure, the Bran Mak Morn play from Bran Mak Morn: A Play & Others was included in the Wandering Star/Del Rey collection, but not “The Black Moon,” a Steve Harrison story; that Cryptic book is still the only place to find it. And the same is true with the others, each one contains something that can’t be found any place else. The only Cryptic book that is entirely superfluous is Lewd Tales, thanks to the Collected Letters of REH Vol. 1, which includes all three of the items from that old chapbook.

A Silent Auction Treasure


Head on over to to read Official Editor Bill “Indy” Cavalier’s thoughts on this year’s Howard Days. Lots of Howardian merrymaking and mayhem told in our Benevolent Dictator’s inimitable style.

At one point he mentions his donation to the Silent Auction, a “carved REH plaque.” Indy does all sorts of artistry, wood carving, and sign making at his day job, so a project like this is right up his alley. Back in 2005 he donated a similar plaque to the Silent Auction with (as I recall) only red and black colors in the mix. Carved from wood just like this one, hand-painted, suitable for hanging on your wall, with an accurate facsimile of Howard’s original signature at the bottom. At the time I thought the plaque way cool and unique, but ended up giving it up to another drooling fan.

When I saw this new and improved one on the auction table this year, I had to have it. I ended up bidding $100 to take it home, and I’m sure you can see from the photo above why I’m glad I did. I’m not much of a collector — my entire Howard collection takes up about three feet of bookshelf — but having this lovingly crafted item reminding me about one of my best friends in the field is worth a thousand Jenkins Gent from Bear Creeks.

At least until I break it over someone’s head during the next rowdy Howard get-together….

The Great Tragedy of REH Publishing


Rob’s clarifications in his Breckinridge Elkins post helped me nail down what Breck books to get and why — but also have me dwelling somewhat sullenly on what I call The Great Tragedy of REH Publishing. Howard scholars have all the texts and pulp tearsheets necessary to put together a complete uniform collection of REH. Howard fans have literally grown old and died waiting for this stuff. And yet decade after decade goes by without this happening. Why?

Primarily, the reasons are legal. I’ve been privy to all sorts of behind-the-scenes conversations and correspondence between the editors and publishers of Howard, going back many decades. At every turn, worthy ideas and projects are stymied by convoluted contracts between various parties, all warring over their claim to Howard’s work. Publisher #1 can’t print a Complete This because two of the stories have been licensed to Publisher #2 for an Incomplete That.

Then there are the editorial decisions. Things like how to design your book, what cover and font to use, how to edit it, what front matter and appendices to include. This series of books had pure texts — but died from lack of funds. That series of books didn’t die — but the texts were substandard. Almost without fail, every attempt to make a nice set of Howard material has been marred by poor decision-making.

Most of my colleagues in this field think I’m just being picky and a spoil-sport, but I am far from alone in these criticisms. I was perusing a copy of the new issue of Black Gate magazine the other day, which contains among much else an illuminating review of Del Rey’s Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. The reviewer, Jackson Kuhl, is a fantasy fan who is not a member of the Howardian inner circle of scholars, collectors, and admirers. To us insiders, of course, Bran is a major Howard hero, period. As such, any book that gives us every story and fragment along with the kitchen sink is a good thing. But listen to Kuhl’s gripes:

The Last King…holds only brief excitement for those simply desirous of pulp adventure. The book comprises a mishmash of Howardania…here’s the kicker: of the seven complete stories, only three actually feature Bran Mak Morn. The shadow of the character looms over a fourth but he never appears onstage. A $16 for the volume, that’s four bucks a pop…the editors can only work with what Howard produced. Yet the decision to dedicate an entire omnibus to a character in three (perhaps four) finished stories is strange — a move suitable for Wandering Star’s collector’s series, maybe, but not for a general audience TPB. All four could have been easily inserted within a broader collection of barbarian tales (like Wandering Star’s own The Ultimate Triumph).

Kuhl ends with the assessment that, “Readers hungry for sword-&-sorcery will find The Last King more gristle than meat.” Elsewhere in the review he does go out of his way to repeat what we all think: that getting some pure texts into print is a notable and worthy achievement. But when you have fervent fantasy fans like Kuhl — who you would think are the perfect target audience for Del Rey’s Howard books — leveling such pointed criticism at a volume containing some of Howard’s very best work, something is wrong. How many other fans have dutifully purchased these Wandering Star/Del Rey releases, growing more frustrated not only at the meat-to-gristle ratio, but at the repetition of stories among different books? By the time the two-volume Best of REH is released this year, some of the stories will have been republished no less than three separate times in this series. At what point does a fan — a general reader shelling out real money — get sick of paying for the same stories, or for hundreds of pages of incomplete material and editorializing they don’t care about?

It’s not just fans who are rebelling. As editor of The Cimmerian I get a lot of mail from guys who rank among the most passionate Howard collectors in the world, but who are not public figures in Howard fandom. It is hard to overestimate the rage they feel at Wandering Star for promising them a set of Deluxe books but then leaving them high and dry. Pure text fans paid in many cases $500-$1000 for their copy of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, only to later discover that the book actually contains several impure and uncorrected stories. Even ten years later, none of the people involved have released an errata sheet of any kind, adding insult to injury. First edition collectors, meanwhile, looked past this gaffe only to be stunned when — after shelling out $200 each for the first two Conan volumes — the third appeared first from Del Rey as a trade paperback, making that the true first edition, and destroying the first-edition collectability of the Wandering Star volumes. When in V3n11 a Cimmerian reader informed us that while on vacation in Spain he saw a complete set of the WS Conans put out by a Spanish publisher, in Deluxe slipcased editions with all the trimmings, and much cheaper than the WS volumes, it was the cherry on the cake of the American collectors’ nightmare. Hablamos Espanol, amigos?

Scholars should be tossed into this boiling pot as well. Word on the street is that much talk at the Windy City Pulp Convention was dedicated to grumbling about how outrageously bad the first REH Foundation release was. Those who managed to swallow their pride and shell out upwards of $50 (including shipping) for the volume — despite recoiling from the wildly inappropriate Little Red Riding Hood cover — received a tome of disheartening thinness, with poems set against absurdly inept margins that had text running into the middle of the book and leaving vast expanses of white space on the page edge. Didn’t anyone print a test copy, for Pete’s sake? Fifty bucks, gone — and now word is out that another poetry book titled Selected Poems is being released this year, doubtless for another $50 all told. With the first being so anemic, could not the two have been combined? Or better yet, how about releasing The Complete Poems of REH for $50? I know of many Howard fans who find themselves unable to justify buying these books or joining the Foundation due to these problems, myself among them.

All of the above, then, stems from legal issues combined with bad business and editorial decisions, and to this day it has Howard publishing in a stranglehold. I’m convinced that a 95%-99.9% pure REH set could be collected and published over, say, a year. A set containing all the stories, all the poems, all the letters, and then several appendix volumes of fragments, incomplete stories, non-fiction, juvenilia, and other miscellany. A uniform set of hardcovers, with good solid production values. Texts could be restored to eliminate political correctness when we know of it, as in the Breck books Rob wrote of, but production would not be held up for years waiting for original typescripts to surface — the “perfect” would not be allowed to become the enemy of the “good.” As Cimmerian readers learned in V2n2 and V2n3, the Bison series has its share of minor typos, true — but that five-volume series is uniform, elegant, and packed to the gills with solid REH material. What I would give for a similarly imperfect but Pretty Damn Good extension of that set including the rest of Howard’s work.

If I had carte blanche to make my own set, what exactly would it look like? Hard to say for sure until such time as I do it, but I have some general guidelines in mind. Big, full-sized, uniform hardcovers. Big, elegant, readable font. Ribbon bookmark sewn in. Acid-free paper. Black boards with gold-impressed text. No dustjackets, but with paintings pressed into the front cover. Slipcases that actually fit the book comfortably, unlike the maddening too-tight ones that came with the Wandering Star Bran Mak Morn: The Last King.

Covers would be Frazetta paintings for the Conan volumes and for as many of the others as would make sense, and classy photos of REH on the Letters and Poetry volumes. Inside there will be no art, no essays, no footnotes. Just brief introductions giving the reader a bit of context, and maps when necessary in the text or as fold-outs glued onto the back boards, like Tolkien publishers have done for so many years.

Stories would be published only once, and the main volumes would contain only complete stories, arranged for maximum reader impact, not according to some artificial or pedantic chronology. These books would be designed to really wow the Jackson Kuhls of the world, the people who come to REH to read his stories — what a concept. Characters with enough material would get their own volumes, while lesser characters and genres would be combined in various ways.

Incomplete, fragmentary, or otherwise marginal material would be reserved for a set of Appendix volumes at the rear of the set. In the case of poetry, in the main set there would be a big Poetry of Robert E. Howard volume containing only what I judge to be his best verse, the stuff that is to poetry what Conan was to prose. Later, in the Appendix volumes, his more marginal poems — limericks, juvenilia, etc. — would be collected separately, or left to be found in the letters in which they appeared. That way I could hand someone the poetry book without being embarrassed at all the crap mixed in with the gems.

All of my idle brainstorming might produce a set that looks like this, with each subject taking up as many volumes as needed:

Solomon Kane
Sailor Steve Costigan
Breckinridge Elkins
El Borak
Historical Adventure
Fantasy Adventure
Modern Adventure

Doubtless there would be a thousand little tweaks to make along the way, but this is a set I would love to own and read. And once something like this is collected and formatted, it wouldn’t be difficult to update the texts for each new printing as better versions are discovered, or to repackage various volumes as meaty and fan-friendly mass market or trade papers, or to extricate certain tales for Best Of or Penguin Classics and Library of America type books. The trick is to do the best job you can, but to complete such a set, now, come hell or high water, even if it means publishing some stories that will surely be corrected in various ways once the typescripts are found and analyzed.

Tolkien publishing has done this for years, putting out the same books in edition after edition, in a variety of different deluxe and mass market formats, with each one more or less improving on the last. At no point did people go crazy over the many, many typos or errors to be found in these books. Lord of the Rings and company were popular, errors and all — the basic achievement was there for all to see and appreciate, crystal clear. It’s the same with REH: of course it’s nice to get more pure whenever possible, but it would be far nicer to have all of his work in a uniform set of hardcovers. When I think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars sunk into the Wandering Star series, with most of the money being spent not on Howard’s words but on goatskin covers, and high-priced comic book art, and specially made paper, and dozens of pages given not to Howard’s words but to the writing of others, I sigh with regret at what could have been. A fraction of that money handed over to a professional editor who knows how to quickly assemble books and get them proofed, and a fraction more dedicated to good solid printing and marketing, and the Robert E. Howard Library of Classics would have been complete and in the hands of fans long ago.

I’ve accepted that this state of affairs is not likely to change in my lifetime, not until everything Howard ever wrote is available in the public domain sometime around 2050. Only then will some enterprising fan who is a true bookman be able to assemble a complete and professional set of Howard’s work, along the way making the proper decisions and creating something special for those of us who primarily value Howard’s words, without obsessing over unattainable perfection. Since I won’t be alive to see that day, I suppose that I’ll end up engaging in a bit of private bookmaking one of these years, to create a personal, one-of-a-kind set. It will sit on my shelf for my enjoyment alone, and thus at long last, a least in one little corner of the world, the Great Tragedy of REH Publishing will become history.

We Could Be Heroes — Just For One Book

I’m not a compulsive or completist Howard collector, but I can be tempted by curios and divergent packagings, especially from Outremer. The shameful truth is, I own 2 editions of Conan of Aquilonia (two more than can be justified on the basis of sword-and-sorcery merit).


The first is of course the original 1977 Ace Books paperback designed to look as much like the lost Twelth Tribe of Lancer as possible, but with a Boris Vallejo cover painting: Conan (a well-preserved graybeard) and a catamite-resembling Conn confront a Zembabwan spearman atop the least menacing wyvern in reptilian mythohistory.

(Continue reading this post)

REHupa Mailings Holding Their Own

After releasing The Complete REHupa in August of 2006, I wondered if that digital archive would reduce the value of the paper mailings. Don Herron assured me it wouldn’t. “True collectors need the paper,” he said. I knew that logically he was right, that there is something special and tactile about holding a mailing in your hand, perusing the different styles of paper, appreciating the full-color zines. None of that translates to a B&W digital format designed for quick ‘n’ dirty reading and printing.

But how many of the collectors out there have been scooping up mailings solely to read the contents, and how many to have them joining their first editions and other miscellany in their collections? If there are far more of the former, would that lower the average selling price of the mailings as The Complete REHupa made its inexorable spread throughout the REH fandom sphere?

In a way it was a moot point to me, as I am determined to get rid of my old mailings regardless. I’m the kind of guy who, with very few exceptions, is as happy with an e-text as I am with a real book. I just want the words — the magic is created in my mind, not in the quality of paper or the art of a published book. There are exceptions to this, and occasionally a book I really like speaks to me in such a way that I want to have it on the shelf. But I can’t stand clutter and vast areas of my living space taken up with books I seldom read, and I am about as far away from the packrat mentality as can be.

So now that The Complete REHupa is finished through mailing #199, the large stack of mailings I accumulated in my research has to go. Far better to find them a home where they will be cherished and well cared-for. As I prepared to offer them on eBay, I mused whether they might now go for a much lower price than they went for as recently as early last year, when $50-$100 was the average for the mailings I sold. A couple years ago the average price was $20 per, but as of last spring that price point was way out of date. Clearly a jump had occurred due to increased interest in Howard and increased education among collectors about the essential value of these mailings. Heading into 2007, would all of that hold? Or would we see prices slipping back into the old range?

Last week I put the first two of many mailings up for auction, and the results are in:


REHupa #156 (April 1999) is an important mailing both due to its coverage of the death of Novalyne Price, and to the inclusion of Pictures in the Fire, a great booklet detailing all of the known photos of REH at that time along with all of their published appearances. That’s not to mention the usual plethora of other items included in the typical mailing. This one sold on eBay for $46.75, which many behind-the-times fans consider excessive but which I consider a steal. I anticipate special mailings like this going steadily up-up-up in value as time goes on.


REHupa #91 (May 1988) is the infamous “lost mailing” of REHupa, formed out of ‘zines culled from the four winds of the a.p.a. after the Official Editor vanished with all the a.p.a.’s assets: mailings, treasury, even the stapler. It didn’t get mailed until a year after the event, and then only to those who were members at the time the crisis occurred. As such it is a truly rare mailing with a particularly small universe of extant copies. After some furious bidding the auction ended with this one selling for $158.52, which some people gasp at but which I think is a fair, even cheap price. I’ve seen far less go for far more on eBay, and this is a true Howard collectable that one is not likely to see for sale very often. When at least two people are ready to shell out $150 for it, that says something.

So it looks as if Don’s oft-stated claim of being “right 95% of the time” still stands, and the savvy collectors out there are indeed still enamored with paper. I’ll be unloading the rest of my REHupas in the coming weeks, and will be interested to see what some of the more recent mailings go for. A copy of #185 just went for $15.50 on eBay, a real steal for the lucky guy who snagged it. It won’t be long before that one feels as old and rare as #91 and #156, with the prices creeping up accordingly. I can’t say it enough: all of these collectors beaming with pride over their copies of the Arkham House Skull-Face and Others and their copies of the Cryptic chapbooks aren’t even in the running anymore. The real giants of the field are on to much rarer game: the Jenkins Gent from Bear Creek of course (another book which I, a non-collector, have owned at one time), but also “almost-but-not-quite impossible” feats like a complete collection of REHupas, which when taken together contain many first edition appearances of original REH and serve as a running history of Howard fandom and publishing for the last thirty-five years.

My sense is that right now there is a reshuffling going on in the Howard collecting sphere, with mailings being passed around to a new group of people eager to get them. Once these errant mailings are all safely tucked away in various hoards, they will become really scarce on the open market for a long while, until those collectors start dying off. In addition, Howard is being reseeded into the popular culture with movies, comics, and books. A second boom is clearly underway, at least in our little niche world, and if one or more films are successful then the Boom can spread worldwide, with many more people than ever before becoming interested in Howard. Once that happens, $200 for one of those mailings will seem dirt cheap. That’s my call, anyway. We’ll see what happens.

A TC Surprise on eBay


I’ll never understand eBay buyers. Don’t they do even a bit of research before they toss bids down on things they know nothing about? The latest weirdness happened today, as a Limited edition issue of The Cimmerian V1n1 was snapped up by a buyer for $28.50 (hat tip: Brian Leno). The seller — dmacmaniac from Austin, who I assume is Dennis McHaney of the REH Inner Circle — even notified buyers that the issue in question had an unseemly spot on the cover. And as far as I can tell there are no signatures on this issue or anything else to make it special.

So what’s so weird about this, you ask? Only that this issue in this edition is still in print on The Cimmerian‘s website for $10. I would expect the price on these to go up once they sell out, but for someone to buy this today at this price blows my mind. There’s only 49 left –I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the prices once these are no longer available. I still recall the way that Joe Marek’s New Howard Readers shot through the roof once they went out of print, and those had such terrible production values that I refused to buy them on principle. Thank God I’m not a collector, else I would have been forced to buy them. Ewwww.

That first issue of TC is still one of my favorites. My editorial was more right that I ever could have imagined in 2004 — I’m glad I made it as brassy as I did. Don’s article was at the time decried by some readers as malicious and inflammatory, but in light of subsequent events — Wandering Star’s implosion, Del Rey’s stalled hardcovers — his predictions about the series becoming just another overpriced, broken set of books like the Grants now sparkle with the aura of fulfilled prophecy. That issue also heralded the reintroduction of Darrell Schweitzer into the Howardian debate after many years spent in the outlands of Weird Tales and wider fandom, and watching his voice become a staple among the Cimmerian chorus has been a pleasure. Gary Romeo’s takedown of Wandering Star’s editorial policies has been subjected to three years of withering concentrated assaults from “the Orthodoxy” (as he refers to his detractors), but I have yet to see a response that rises above the pedantic to rock the foundations of his core claims, which to my mind remain as impregnable as ever. Even the faults of the issue — the old-style foil on the Deluxe covers, the lack of a Lion’s Den, the inferior print quality and picture repro compared to today, the subtle warping inflicted on the issues due to my soon-abandoned experiments with shrink-wrapping — remind me of how much things have changed for the better in the last three years.

$28.50 — usually that kind of a price markup is reserved for publications containing some rare Howard fragment. If TC — the first Howard fanzine to stringently avoid relying on original Howard to buoy its sales and collectability — starts regularly achieving such inflated amounts at auction, it will be a pleasant step forward in our field. For the first time, a journal dedicated to writing about Howard will be fetching significant prices on its own merits, without dangling bits of original REH in front of collectors who otherwise wouldn’t read the magazine.

eBay Sanity


Taking a look at eBay these days provides a much different picture than a few months back. If you look at the Completed Items under “Robert E. Howard,” you see a whole list of books listed in the overpriced $150 range, all of which went unsold. Meanwhile, the limited chapbook of [redacted]’s The Very Best of Outnumbered and Alone went for $78.50 in furious bidding. This was a little chapbook given out for free at the Blood & Thunder release party at the World Fantasy Convention not three months ago. I forgot to pick one up during all the hubbub — luckily I have all the original Outnumbered and Alone‘s from REHupa.

I see that people are still trying to sell Dark Valley Destiny at a markup of 300%. An unread copy — signed, numbered, and slipcased — failed to go for $59.99, and now there’s another copy up sans slipcase for the same minimum bid. Look around and be patient, and you should be able to get it for $20.00. I imagine the price will drop further now that Mark’s bio is out there offering an alternative.

What else…the ultra rare, almost one-of-a-kind copy of Howard’s The All-Around Magazine failed to go for a minimum bid of $5000.00. I could see a typescript of a really hot Howard story going for that much, but not a piddly little bit of juvenilia. Someday for sure, but not yet.

Notice that the price for the Baen series has plummeted since the Del Rey’s appeared and made their versions of Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and Kull painfully obsolete. Wasn’t it not too long ago that some of those books were going for up to $40? Now the whole set is hovering around $10. I imagine when the Del Rey Horror of REH comes out in a year or two that will reduce the value of some of the other books in that group. Some of the introductions are still worthwhile, but it will be a small matter to reprint them in a critical anthology someday.

The Lancer/Ace Conans are now proving the point that so many have made for so many years: once you have a complete pure-text Conan available, who is going to care about getting the de Camp/Carter pastiches? Conan the Warrior recently sold for the grand total of 1 cent. More than it was worth? You decide.

A posting of copies of Jonathan Bacon’s old large-format chapbook Runes of Ahrh Eih Eche is currently at $12.50 — I suspect that this book’s value will be harmed by the upcoming release of the Collected Letters of REH. Last May I sold a single, slightly beat-up and dog-eared copy for $11.43, about the same price as this whole lot of pristine copies is going for now. It’s clear there is a shakeout and a redistribution of prices going on. With all the new product coming out, the value of various items, some of which have remained steady for years, is starting to change. I’m interested to see which of the new releases holds or increases their value in the coming decade, and which don’t manage that jump into collectability. Will a lot of the old chapbooks, sought out sometimes for a single Howard fragment or rare poem, suddenly become superfluous to most fans? I think so, but let’s wait and see.

STEVE ADDS: $59.99 for Dark Valley Destiny? That much money should at least buy one a biography that bothers to mention “Worms of the Earth.” If these copies continue to languish, Gary Romeo will have to add value with handwritten marginalia like “True dat!” and “Lawd, yes!” and little sketches of smiley-faces and Cupids.

The Vultures


There are many wonderful benefits to editing The Cimmerian. Meeting new fans, discovering new things about Howard, establishing a community of individuals who share a vision about how an REH journal should look and read and feel. These are all good, and they’ve brought me no small amount of joy over the last three years.

One thing I dislike about the experience, though, is brushing up against guys I call Opportunistic Collectors. These (inevitably well-heeled) fans e-mail me once a year, usually in a few terse sentences devoid of grammar, with the goal of feeling me out about adding TC to their collections on the cheap. They usually start out by damning with faint praise — “gee young whippersnapper, looks like u been busy!” — before trying to loosen me up with a few choice insults — “even tho your print run is too small to be taken seriously, and u overcharge for what in the end are just crappy Xeroxed fanzines” — before finally making a pitch to scam a set on the cheap — “but hey, even though they wouldn’t normally be worth my time or money, if u give me a big bulk discount, I’ll do you a favor and take a pile off your hands. Let’s deal, hey?”

Perhaps this is just how self-absorbed collectors operate, I don’t know. I’m not a collector, never have been. My entire Howard “collection” consists of a cache of books taking up about three feet of bookshelf. No mylar bags, no ultraviolet glass, no dust-proof cabinets, no temperature-controlled vaults in the basement. When I created The Cimmerian, I got some input from collectors I respect, and strove to make the journal collector-friendly in various ways: numbered issues, different states, finite print runs, good materials, extra features like the Index issue and Slipcases. But all that is for them, it doesn’t thrill me at all. My interest is in good content, making a journal to be read, not just tagged and bagged and stored.

I marvel at the stories of hardcore collectors snatching up everything Howard because they feel the need to keep their inventory complete, even though they read very little of what they buy. I know people whose collections take up every available square inch of their houses, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every wall and in every closet — and who still need to stick hundreds of additional boxes into storage facilities. That’s tens of thousands of items that they will likely never see again before they die, much less read. Blows my mind. I guess in my most crazed, greedy, obsessive-compulsive moments I can understand the mentality on some remote level, but for the most part it’s utterly foreign to me, like trying to imagine how a chair would look if your knees bent the other way. I tend to give stuff away with abandon, just to get it out of the room so I can breathe better.

Which brings me back to the Vultures. Whenever they rear their ugly little heads in my In-box, I always marvel a bit at what I’m hearing. The way I see it, if you don’t like REH enough to pay what really is a pretty reasonable price these days, then why bother trying to buy TC at all? Aren’t these the same guys who regularly fork out $100 for pissant little chapbooks or barely-legible mimeoed fanzines? And now these same guys think $15 is too much for foil-stamped covers, parchment paper, and scrupulously edited content? What do they think, that the price on this stuff is actually going to go down as the years drift by? How dumb is that?

My standard answer to such requests is “Sorry, but I don’t give discounts — it would be unfair to those loyal readers who have paid full price and supported the journal for the last three years.” This never fails to rouse righteous indignation, and they fire back with a version of “U just made a bad business decision, bucko. I was all ready to give u a charity buy, but forget it now.” It’s hard to express just how ridiculous I find this attitude to be. What the hell — I’m supposed to cave in to some rude stranger insulting me, giving him a much better price than my most loyal readers just to make a few extra pazoors? Screw that noise. The Cimmerian ALREADY makes all the money it needs to, as-is. I’m not a millionaire, true — but unlike most fan publications I’m able to pay all of my bills, pay all of my contributors, and have some left over to finance next year’s art or next year’s slipcases. The point is, I’m in no rush to get rid of the issues I haven’t sold. I’d like more readers, sure — who wouldn’t? But in a financial sense, I don’t need them. If the Vultures think, for example, that those fifty copies of V1n1 still sitting in my archives are burning holes in my pockets, they’re mistaken.

I fully expect to sell out all my issues sooner or later, but just to make it clear for the Vultures who simply cannot fathom such a thing, let me tell you what’s going to happen to any issues I don’t sell. They’re not going to be remaindered to a bookstore or online seller, and they’re not going to be marked down on my website until the Vultures pick them off. Eventually, if I get sick of having them around and offering them as back issues, I’m just going to burn them. Every last one of ’em. Then I’ll simply figure out how many issues are left out there in the Real World, and I’ll post those numbers for the edification of all involved. Loyal Readers will be the only ones left with copies. After that, whenever a Johnnie-come-lately wants to trick out his Howard collection with a pile of “Xeroxed zines” (they aren’t Xeroxed, of course, but we’ll humor them), they’ll have to come to YOU. And as fellow collectors (and far savvier ones, judging by your decision to subscribe to TC from the beginning) they won’t be getting them on the cheap.

The bottom line is this: you readers who have stuck with me from the beginning, subscribing every month at a premium, will always be the ones who got the best deal. That’s my promise. As for the Vultures, circling around the battlefield waiting for some Cimmerian carrion, they’re going to end up looking like turkeys. Gobble-gobble.