The Collector’s Corner: The House Derleth Built

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What’s Hot: Arkham Howard Books, REH Weird Tales, Grant slipcase editions, Individual Grant Conans, REH Poetry, REHupa, Perils of Sailor Costigan.

When a guy gets serious about REH collecting, generally the first thing they hunt for are good copies of the two major REH books from the premiere fantasy press of the twentieth century, Arkham House. Looks like the magical patina shimmering around these books is in no danger of vanishing anytime soon. Augie Derleth’s version of The Dark Man and Others just sold for $179.48, a fairly typical price, and his Skull-Face and Others ended up going for $518.13, also a typical price. Note that last week I predicted that this one would top out at around $550 — I guess I’m not as stupid as I look.

After the Arkham volumes, our new collector might make a stab at grabbing some of the pulps Howard made famous. You can occasionally get a steal of a deal on eBay with these, but for the most part online auctions have sent the price of pulps through the roof, making it harder than ever to add a lot of them to your collection. The guys who bought them as recently as ten years ago are felling pretty good about themselves. This week we’ve seen some confirmations of this: Weird Tales July 1932 (“Wings in the Night”) sold for $49.95, an issue of Argosy (10/17/36, containing REH’s “Gents on the Lynch”) went for $49.99, and most impressively the classic December 1932 issue of Weird Tales (containing the first appearance of Conan in “The Phoenix on the Sword”) topped out at a monstrous $600.00. Those old babies still have the magic, and I pity the collector just starting out, daunted by everything he needs along those lines.

It’s often eye-opening to see what fairly average books can do with just a bit more gussying up. Two 1970s Grant titles just sold for big bucks due to having special cases and signatures. The Road of Azrael, a copy signed by the late great Roy Krenkel, sold for $131.50, and a cased copy of Red Nails went for even more, a very respectable $144.50. I see that as a lesson to all the people out there making Howard items: put a bit more thought into the general design and all the little collecting touchstones, and it will do much to make your contribution to the field a lot more valuable.

Maybe those cased Grant books made folks a bit loopy, because amazingly this week there was a pretty good showing for the much-maligned-by-me Grant Conans. And this feat can’t be blamed on a single desperate or uninformed collector — most of them sold to different guys. A Witch Shall Be Born ($31.01), People of the Black Circle ($41.09), Pool of the Black One ($52.05), Hour of the Dragon ($27.55), Rogues in the House ($29.99), Black Colossus $29.99, Jewels of Gwahlur ($35.00). Pretty amazing, but perhaps it was just a matter of different people filling little holes in otherwise complete Grant collections (whereas to pay $40 each for a whole set is much more unrealistic). We’ll have to keep an eye on the Grants and get a better long-term idea of what they are worth.

The new poetry volume Winds of Time from Tom Kovacs (publisher of “What’s Hot” staple Writer of the Dark) sold for a decent figure for an in-print item filled with poems most of us already have in various editions: $53.52. Time will tell how well this book does over the long term of years and decades. Tom is known for putting out quality materials, and the book has a Glenn Lord introduction, so that helps.

REHupa continues to educate the “$20 crowd” that times have changed: #174 sold for $47.01, over double what some people were crying that REHupas were worth just a scant few months ago. As I’ve said before, get these while you can. Right now they are in flux, heading out of the hands of old members and into the hoards of a new set of REHupa collectors, the kind that hold onto such things for life. Once this shake-out finishes in a year or three, these will become rare on eBay. The time to get them is now.

The way I had heard it, Perils of Sailor Costigan was a collection of three Sailor Steve Costigan fragments, published in McHaney’s Howard Review at one point. Now here’s an auction showing it as a separate booklet and claiming that it contains four Costigan tales. Dennis will have to clear this up for me. Until then, I consider someone purchasing this for a BUY IT NOW price of $125 to be a bit excessive, yet another aftershock of the recent McMania online.


What’s Cold: Necro Press’ Selected Letters 1931-1936, The Howard Review, Baen Library, REH comic books, REH “Limited Edition” collector ripoffs, Berkley Conan hardcovers, The New Howard Reader, The Dark Man journal.

As I predicted last week, Robert E. Howard’s Selected Letters 1931-1936, a collection of heavily condensed letters from longtime chapbook producer Necronomicon Press, didn’t get a single bid on a $15 minimum. Necronomicon Press publishes booklets rich in content but of generally awful quality (the art especially is usually hideous) and although collectors will always need a fair amount of them in-house (John Haefele wrote the definitive article on REH in the press for The Cimmerian) I for one will be happy when I’ve sold off the last of them forever. Such items measure up to S. T. Joshi ‘s ideas of bookmanship perhaps, but for the discerning REH reader they fall way short of what I consider a minimum level of class and competence. This second Letters volume is infamous in REH circles for containing one of the all-time worst REH introductions, one from Reverend Bob Price opining that surely one cannot find the real REH in his letters the way you can in HPL’s. Too laughable for words.

It’s probably a stretch to call The Howard Review “cold” this week, but I’m comparing the recent sales to the gargantuan hauls of the past few weeks. The seventh issue was described in the auction description as “seldom seen…one of the rarest editions of this fanzine” and yet it only sold for $37.99, a far cry from what earlier numbers have sold for. A “second edition proof” of #3 did better, going for $102.50, but a copy of The Howard Review #5 received no bids on a mere $7 minimum. of course, that issue wasn’t very rare — the print run was a thousand copies. Another McHaney publication titled World’s Largest Robert E. Howard Fanzine (a book containing most of the contents of The Howard Review #1 and #2) nabbed a respectable $87.00. So not too cold, but the value of these various issues and states is varying widely. That’s what you get when a magazine has been around for thirty years and change.

The Baen Library “Homer Simpson” auction didn’t get a single bid last week, no surprise there. Individual Baens have a much better chance of selling, and for fairly decent (if not impressive) prices. Solomon Kane, for example, sold effortlessly last week for a BUY IT NOW of $5.99, which is amazing considering you can get the illustrated Del Rey with pure text for less than that if you shop around a bit.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of the comics medium. The stylization and miniaturization of my favored literary works especially grates. I’m not shedding any tears, then, to see most REH comics doing abysmally in the ruthless eBay marketplace. REH’s Mythmaker (from the doomed and now long-defunct Cross Plains Comics) didn’t get a single bid for copies listed at $3.99 or even at $2.95. However, a much more egregiously silly comic, Bloodstar, sold for $37.99. Whether this is a good price for this item is for others to say. This early “graphic novel” (comics too often revel in such illiterate contradictions) is supposedly an adaptation of one of REH’s single best tales, “The Valley of the Worm.” In standard comic fashion, it utterly destroys the artistry of the original work: it now takes place in a — surprise! — “post-apocalyptic future,” and the main character prances around with a star on his forehead (Captain America should sue). According to one of the dink websites the comic guys added “romance and humanity” to Howard’s original, in part by naming the “romantic interest” Helva (I await the sequel where we meet her lovely sisters Vulva and Placenta). And on it goes: Spookhouse #2 (containing an adaptation of “Pigeons from Hell” among more atrocities committed against other authors) didn’t sell even at a minimum of $2.99.

Another nefarious result of the second Howard Boom is the growing horde of fans intent on milking REH collectors for whatever they can get for what are in essence useless and meaningless items. Take Medusa Expression, an imprint who has suddenly begun releasing so-called “collector’s editions” of public domain tales in limited runs. Trouble is, the book design sucks, the text quality sucks, and the stories are easily available elsewhere. But of course that is all beside the point: the hope is that there are at least 150 suckers out there who feel the overwhelming need to collect one of everything REH, no matter how awful. On eBay they’re currently trying to sell a snot-green The Daughter of Erlik Khan sporting a generic naked-lady cover for a $50.00 BUY IT NOW price. No suckers yet, but let’s see if in time they get rid of all their copies.

I always thought the Berkley hardcovers looked pretty cool, with Ken Kelly at his Frazetta-imitating best (I’m not complaining), and with those fine Karl Edward Wagner intros. But of course like so many other tries at making a good Conan series the set was never completed, and now they are just another group of failed books. This week a copy of the Red Nails hardcover sold for a paltry $3.99. This series will always be one of the sadder ones, laden as it is with the memory of Wagner’s ultimate demise, and with the thought that de Camp had the series killed in mid-stream via threats of legal action.

Somewhat surprisingly, a copy of The New Howard Reader #5 didn’t get a single bid on a $25.00 minimum. It’s possible that these previously high-demand items are about to plummet in value as the REH Foundation gets out much of the rare material found in these volumes. But at least they have a chance — the poor Dark Man #1 continues to languish in eBay limbo week after week, unable to find a nice REH fan’s collection to call home. If Don someday publishes a book of his essays, that will put this issue in even more trouble.

Things to Watch:


AUGUST 1928 WEIRD TALES: another blockbuster in the making, this ish contains not only “Red Shadows” but Tennessee Williams’ “The Vengeance of Nicrotis,” his first published story. For you comic fans out there, Williams was a writer, one who generally didn’t put stars and purple stripes on the faces of his characters (Stanley “Bloodstone” Kowalski, anyone?). The only problem is the minimum of $400 the seller put on it. If he had let it float, there is no question the bidding would have risen into that storied stratosphere, but will someone plonk down four bills just to get into the club? Probably — look for this to sell, perhaps for as much as the $600 the Conan debut issue went for.

ORIGINAL KEEGAN REH ART: Now this is cool, an original strip of “The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob” listed at $100. Now we see if the Keegans’ have built up a name in Howard art worthy of commanding the sort of prices normally reserved for the likes of Fabian, Gianni, and Krenkel. My guess is yes. With the two-volume Best of REH coming out soon and fully illustrated by the husband-wife team, their art is about to break out in a big way. $100 will look dirt cheap for this item before long. Look for this auction to heat up big-time in the closing minutes, as smart collectors vie for what is a ground-floor shot at a major bit of REH artistry.

And I like that “award-winning” remark in the description. True, true. The influence of The Cimmerian Awards continues to spread.

MORE CRYPTIC CHAPBOOKS: The Coming of El Borak, The Sonora Kid, Risqué Stories #1-#5, The Adventures of Lal Singh, Two-Fisted Detective. Has anyone else noticed that these are beginning to pop up quite often, seeming less and less “rare”? The ultimate question is whether these will continue to hold at the $50-$100 mark. After all, as they become less necessary to collectors, more of them will drop into the marketplace. Eventually the demand will lessen, and the price will fall. Has that time arrived yet? My guess is no — these will each get at least one bid and sell at $50 and up. Of course, if there are still a few guys out there needing these, they could go for double that.

WRITER OF THE DARK: Tom Kovacs publications have been doing well on eBay the last few weeks. Will this one continue the trend? Yep. This item has five bids already, and is up to $76.00. How high will it go? Two weeks ago, one sold for $177.50. We’ll see if this one does, too, and establishes that as the ballpark selling figure for this sort of thing.

GRANT HOUR OF THE DRAGON: Some guy’s got it listed for a minimum of $99. Hahahahahahahha……

BICENTENNIAL TRIBUTE TO REH: So far it’s got one bid at $49.99. I’m interested to see how high this goes. It’s pretty rare and has a pretty good rep among Howard insiders as being one of the old 1970s things with some quality stuff inside.

HOWARD REVIEW #9: $30.00 and rising. Go, Dennis, go!

BAEN LIBRARY: The same guy who failed to sell it at the Homer Simpson price of $49.99 has re-listed it at $39.99. Closer to reality, for sure, but still no cigar. List it at 99 cents already and let’s see how high it gets in true bidding.

NEW HOWARD READERS #3, #5, and #6: Dennis McHaney is having lots of fun in his eBay descriptions, subliminally teasing me on my complaint about people overusing terms like “ultra-rare!” He makes a great point when he notes that these issues are for the most part more rare than the original publications this magazine was designed to supercede and rescue all that obscure REH from.

GEORGE HAMILTON REH BOOKS: The Shadow of the Beast, The King’s Service, Spears of Clontarf, etc. These little collector’s booklets are another set of items that are useless to modern REH readers but still take up a small chunk of real estate on the lists of collectors. These are listed at $24.99. Too much? Or will they get some bids? Hard to say, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that these won’t sell at this price. Too much for too little.

REPORT ON A WRITING MAN CHAPBOOK: Another ugly Necro Press chapbook, but one that is still absolutely essential for Howard fans. All of the REH commentary by his best friend Tevis Clyde Smith assembled in one place, plus pictures of REH available nowhere else but in old TCS publications (sadly, the original photos are apparently lost forever). No REH fan can live without this booklet, it’s chock full of Howardian goodness. Expect this to sell and for a premium to boot.

REHUPA #146: Another day, another issue of REHupa. And an older copy, one that was pretty good. Make some popcorn and sit back — $20 would be disappointing, $50 average, and $100+ not unreasonable.

ACE CONAN BOXED SET: The first five de Camped Conans in their Ace versions, in a slipcase. Already three bids have been logged, and the total is up to $14.99. Yet another showcase for the theory that slipcases make everything seem better. How high it goes depends on how hot and bothered the handful of de Campians get out there.

REH IN TOP-NOTCH: This little booklet first appeared in REHupa courtesy of Jim Keegan, but here it’s being sold as a standalone item. What’s it’s worth? More than $10, I think. This is one of those infrequent little ephemeral items that is more than just a curiosity — its contents (art and info on all the issues of Top-Notch REH landed stories in) justifies collectors adding it to their hordes.

99-CENT STEALS: Someone just listed eighteen REH books at 99 cents each, including the Grant Conans and The Last Celt in hardcover. That’s what daddy’s talking about: now we’ll get a chance to see what these will go for in the real world, as opposed to the “trolling for suckers” world of the average eBay “Power Seller” hack.