ENGLISH

Collecting Guide: 9 questions to ask about comic books and cartoons

Expert Olivier Souillé has the answers for new buyers wishing to collect works by the likes of Hergé and Uderzo

  • 1
  • Why invest in comic books and cartoons?

The market has developed significantly over the past ten years. It’s a genre with a strong following of dedicated enthusiasts and specialist galleries — many of which choose to display the prices of original works very clearly. In a decade, we’ve seen the prices of both classic and new works creep up. 

Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Le Vol du Courbeau, Dupuis 2002. Original plate nº13. Signée. Coloured ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €55,500

Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Le Vol du Courbeau, Dupuis 2002. Original plate nº13. Signée. Coloured ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €55,500

  • 2
  • Why is the market so strong in France? Is this the case elsewhere?

It’s a primarily European market, though it is particularly strong in France. French cartoonists draw upon aspects of other cultures, however, and there are French artists who have global appeal: Jean-Pierre Gibrat’s depictions of beautiful French women from the 1950s are popular with an international audience. 

Moebius, The Silver Surfer, Marvel 1988. Original plate No.19 from the first comic. Chinese ink and white gouache on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris

Moebius, The Silver Surfer, Marvel 1988. Original plate No.19 from the first comic. Chinese ink and white gouache on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris

Hergé. The Adventures of Tintin The Secret of the Unicorn, published Casterman October 1943. Original edition in colour 4th plate, A20, white. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,875

Hergé. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, published Casterman October 1943. Original edition in colour 4th plate, A20, white. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,875

Moebius is popular with American collectors, and Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are among the artist’s most famous buyers. Spielberg’s film adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin is proof that the market goes much further than Europe. 

In Asia, the market continues to thrive, and there is growing interest in French artists including Hergé and Gibrat among Chinese buyers. Many collectors, however, are often driven by nostalgia for things they read in their childhood; it’s a return to the Proustian ‘madeleine moment’. 

  • 3
  • Who are the most sought-after artists?

Hergé, Tintin. Original illustration produced for the Belgian Pavilion for the Universal Exhibition in Montreal, 1967. Chinese ink on paper. Estimate €300,000-350,000. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €601,500

Hergé, Tintin. Original illustration produced for the Belgian Pavilion for the Universal Exhibition in Montreal, 1967. Chinese ink on paper. Estimate: €300,000-350,000. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €601,500

André Franquin, Le latex Marsuipilami, original illustration published by Dupuis in 1963 and 1964. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €4,000

André Franquin, Le latex Marsuipilami, original illustration published by Dupuis in 1963 and 1964. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €4,000

Serious collectors will look out for works by Hergé, Jacobs, Uderzo, Moebius and Franquin. In terms of more recent artists, names to watch include Vance, Francq, Gibrat, Bilal, Ledroit and Druillet. Notable illustrators in the field include Lacombe, Manchu and Graffet. 

  • 4
  • Are older works more valuable?

Edgar P.Jacobs, Blake et Mortimer, Le mystère de la grande pyramide, Le Lombard 1955. Original plate No.52 prepublished in Le Journal de Tintin Belgian No.20 of May 1952. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €205,500

Edgar P.Jacobs, Blake et Mortimer, Le mystère de la grande pyramide, Le Lombard 1955. Original plate No.52 prepublished in Le Journal de Tintin Belgian No.20 of May 1952. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €205,500

When it comes to the most well-known artists, the oldest works are generally the most expensive. In the case of Hergé, this is also due to the fact the he has worked alone since the beginning of his career, without the help of studios. 

Every author has their key period: Jacobs produced very few albums, but those who collect his work are particularly interested in The Yellow ‘M’ or the The Mystery of the Great Pyramid, which are by no means his oldest.

When it comes to Giraud, collectors tend to go after works from the legendary Blueberry series, such as Le Spectre aux Balles d’Or or La Mine de l’Allemand Perdue. These are really the albums that display Giraud at his most mature: his inking and decoupage approaches perfection — it’s genius. 

  • 5
  • Edition or original?

It really depends. In France, first edition comic books sell for much less than original plates or illustrations which they are composed of — with the exception, perhaps, of Hergé. In the US, the opposite is true. It's worth noting, too, that original plates tend to accrue value more quickly than comic books. 

Jean Giraud, Blueberry, Ombres sur tombstone, Dargaud 1997. Original illustration. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris

Jean Giraud, Blueberry, Ombres sur tombstone, Dargaud 1997. Original illustration. Chinese ink on paper. This work was offered in Bande Dessinée on 21 May 2016 at Christie’s in Paris

  • 6
  • What’s the world record price paid for a cartoon strip at auction?

An original illustration by Hergé sold for $1.54 million in 2015. Christie’s 2015 Bande Dessinée sale, held in collaboration with Galerie Daniel Maghen, established new world auction records for Enki Bilal, Edgar P. Jacobs, Moebius and Giraud. 

  • 7
  • How important is condition and provenance?

Works that have belonged to a well-known collector, or which come dedicated to a particular celebrity, are more highly valued. But the quality of the graphics remains the most important factor for collectors, along with the storyline of the particular album or plate. 

  • 8
  • What advice would you give new collectors?

I’d always advise new collectors to buy what they like. Of course, if you’re collecting with serious investment in mind, you should try to gravitate towards top lots. It’s the particularly exceptional pieces that are likely to see the greatest increase in value — it’s this ethos that’s really driven Galerie Daniel Maghen’s work over 15 years. 

When beginning a serious collection, talk to experts and listen to their advice. Finally, the coherency of a collection is also important: it might focus on a particular theme, period, classics or new classics. It’s worth taking your time over. 

  • 9
  • How should cartoons be handled and displayed?

Illustrations aren’t as fragile as you might think. You don’t need to do anything more than handle them carefully, with gloves. The only thing you should avoid, of course, is exposing original works to bright sunlight, or keeping them in a very humid environment — this is particularly a concern for pastel and watercolour works. You should also ensure that any frames for works are made from a non-acidic material (PH neutral) that won’t degrade the paper.