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.
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 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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.