In the comic book art collecting world, people often talk about their “grails” (as in “Holy Grail”). Depending on whom you ask, this refers to:
1) The single piece (or select few pieces) of art you desire most; the one “you’ve always wanted” that holds the most nostalgia, meaning, or other personal value, which is also very expensive and/or very hard to find.
2) The single piece (or few pieces) you would want above all others, were money no object, and assuming it even exists–almost mythological. (Think cover art to ACTION #1, MARVEL COMICS #1, DETECTIVE #27 and so on.)
3) A single piece of art so coveted, so important and so meaningful to you, that once you acquire it you stop collecting altogether.
Personally, the last one sounds implausible to me because anyone who’s a lifelong collector knows that killing the Collecting Bug with a single item is like trying to kill Godzilla with a pea shooter. We’re addicted, way more than any alcoholic, smack addict or nicotine junkie. Collecting is part of our DNA (which, for many, actually stands for, “Desperate Need to Acquire). Yes, we may get a huge high from that “grail” piece which will satiate our hunger/lust/compulsion for awhile. But I guarantee you that as soon as the next convention or major auction rolls around, and money is available, we’ll find something else that we “just gotta have.” Human nature.
The second one is fun for fantasy lists and discussion board goofing but not much else. Why waste any time and emotional effort wishing for something you can probably never have, let alone may not even exist? Not fun for me.
So let’s focus on the first, which is what I have the funds for *now*, or at least could raise if absolutely needed. For instance, if someone kindly offered me Frazetta’s original “Death Dealer” painting for just $500K, it would be a huge bargain–but still out of reach even if I maxed out all my available credit. So I don’t bother putting it on my grail list. But if it’s a steal and I can raise the cash, it’s a grail.
Speaking of Frazetta, what is and has been near or at the top of my list for a couple decades now is an original Frazetta sketch, drawing, strip or comic page. I’ve seen them go for as little as $2,500 and as much as $25,000. Every time I’ve seen one for sale, I’ve passed it up. And now that the master has passed to join the realm of past masters, I regret not taking advantage of most of those opportunities. Even the oddest one, a few years ago: due to the price, a buddy of mine and I seriously considered going 50/50, splitting ownership every six months. As hassling and wacky an arrangement as that would have been (especially with my moving across the country a few years later), it still would have been preferable to not having an original Frank on my wall, even for half a year at a time.
As recently as last year I had a chance. At WonderCon 2009, a dealer had a nice little b/w ink piece for about $4K. I asked if he would consider trading for a sweet Jack Kirby Silver Age THOR page I had. He was interested but would have to see it. All I had to do was bring it to San Diego a few months later and negotiate a deal, but I didn’t want the hassle of dragging such a valuable page to the show, storing it in a hotel safe (assuming it would even fit) leaving it in the room, blah, blah, blah. I put it off and of course today it’s either sold or too expensive.
Now I have no choice but to either wait for prices to come down or my income and savings to rise to meet the new values. Either one will take valuable time! (At least I have a remarqued print to tide me over…more on that next time.)
So my advice to you is: When you see a grail available, however you define one, don’t wait. IF you can swing it (and you need to be realistic about it), and the opportunity presents itself, take it.
If you don’t, next time I–or someone like me who wants it–will!
P.S.: While you’re waiting for that grail, how about a super-affordable commission? You know you want one. You’ve got the cash. Besides, I could be hit by a meteorite or abducted by aliens next month, and then you’d be sorry. Contact Craig here.