Joe Maddalena, the President and CEO of Profiles in History says "We're a very nostalgic society," and knows how to profit off of that with his company's Hollywood prop auctions.
Outside of the first appearance of a popular hero, the first published work of a famous creative talent or the last copy of a rare issue; it’s uncommon for any random comic to rise in value. However, a bit of pop-culture notoriety can turn any comic, if only just single copies of one, into items of value.
Saturday night, among the hundreds of lots for sale on the first day of the LOST prop auction, was the infamous “polar bear comic,” two Spanish language editions of DC Comics’ Green Lantern/Flash: Faster Friends #1 from 1997 used in the production of the show. Unlike many of the mysteries of LOST, the riddle of the polar bear in the jungle and the eerie coincidence of a polar bear’s appearance in the comic was solved by the discovery of an abandoned zoo on the island.
One copy, a pre-crash “near mint” copy attributed to genre fan and break out character Hurley sold for $3,900. A tattered, post-plane crash copy attributed to the young Walt who discovered the comic on the beach sold for $1,680. Both figures include a 20% buyer’s premium.
The mass auctioning of materials left over from the production of a television show or movie is a relatively new phenomena, as the endurance of a hardcore fandom for a property has given rights holders a new source of income from items that would otherwise be warehoused or destroyed. In April 2010 at the C2E2 convention in Chicago, props from the 2008 Iron Man movie sold for over a quarter of a million dollars. Highlights of that auction included the dress that Pepper Potts, as portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, wore at the Gala shortly before the film’s climax that sold for $3,900. A pair of Tony Stark’s chest mounted ARC Reactors sold for over $10,000 each.
In Maddalena's opinion, LOST presented a special opportunity for fans.
“It's a beloved show, beloved characters, a fantastic story arc and great props were also plot devices. It had all the magic that makes for great television and for great collecting. It’s got a rabid fan base, they were passionate about the show, 16 million watched the finale.”
Not every program has the potential to be a good candidate for a prop auction, though.
“It has to have those right elements, like Star Trek or LOST. It has to have great characters, great props […]. You are talking about one out of a hundred shows that have that magic. LOST has that magic.”
For Profiles in History, this sale was long in the works.
“About 18 months ago ABC approached us thinking of doing [a prop auction] and were testing the waters…we were fortunate that they chose us. ABC owns all the [LOST] assets, and they can do with them what they want. If they want to give something to a talent or a producer, that’s ABC’s ultimate decision. ABC is giving a chunk of the proceeds away to local Hawaiian charities, they did impact the economy of Hawaii while they were there, and they wanted to show their great love for Hawaii.”
Ron Marz (Witchblade, Artifacts, and the upcoming Shinku) who wrote Green Lantern/Flash: Faster Friends #1, wasn’t among the bidders. “I already have a few copies,” the writer said. When asked how the comic’s unusual legacy impacted his career, “Well, my wife thought it was cool, and it got me into TV Guide, but beyond that, the impact was pretty negligible.”
While the auction completed Sunday night, Maddalena predicts that it will not be the end for the LOST props, from the thirty Dharma beer cans and twenty Apollo candy bars to some real plane wreckage that was used for the downed Oceanic flight 815. They even have a nine by twelve foot, multi-thousand pound chunk of the fuselage with the Oceanic logo on its side.
“I can see some enterprising person buying those and going on eBay and selling [them] off, there’s so much material, there are 1,100 lots and over 5,000 items. Separating it out, there is a lot of material.”
However, Joe is cautious about props as an investment, “I think if you buy the best things, it’s like any other field [of collecting], if you buy the very best stuff it does well, but I would never tell anybody to buy any collectable, including comics books, as an investment, I think it’s crazy. You buy them because you love them, if you buy the best, the best is something that someone is always going to want, but I think buying any collectable for investment is not a wise thing.”Did you buy anything from the auction? Want a piece of LOST history?