Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2020 Issue

Owner of Stolen Comic Book Collection Takes No More Chances – Sold at Auction

Randy Lawrence's Batman #2 (Heritage Auctions photo).

There are many ways to dispose of a book collection, some good, some bad. Randy Lawrence has experienced both. He has seen his valuable comic book collection stolen, but then it was recovered and now he is selling it and achieving high returns. It has been a trying almost two years, but if all is well that ends well, then all is well.

 

Randy Lawrence began collecting comic books over 50 years ago, building one of the finest Batman collections in existence. The value has been estimated at $2 million. He called it the Alfred Pennyworth Collection, “Alfred Pennyworth” being a pseudonym he used to keep his identity confidential. He kept his collection in a storage unit in Boca Raton, Florida, where he lives. That was where in early January of 2019, a thief entered the unit through the roof and made off with Lawrence's collection. Half a century worth of work was gone in an instant.

 

The pain must have been enormous for Lawrence. He has described his collection as being almost like children. And then there was another factor to make it even more painful. The comic books were not insured.

 

Finding stolen books can take a long time, or they may never be found. Lawrence was facing a bleak future. However, almost as suddenly as the books were gone, he got a break in the case. Only a couple of days later, Phillip Weisbauer of nearby Royal Palm Beach entered a comic book shop in Mesa, Arizona, with four valuable comic books to sell. He must have assumed that no one so far away from Palm Beach County would know anything about the theft and he could safely sell them. He assumed wrong. Comic book sellers, like regular booksellers, have a network, and one of the owner's of the Mesa store checked with his contacts and discovered the comics had been stolen. Weisbauer was told to come back in a few days to complete the deal and when he did police were waiting.

 

Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn slowly and Lawrence did not immediately get his comics back. It took more like a year and a lawyer to get them back. Once he did have them again, Lawrence decided it was time to figure out what he was going to do with the collection. He chose the safest way to protect his investment. He put them up for sale and let someone else worry about the issue of security. So, he contacted Heritage Auctions and this past November 19-21, they included the Alfred Pennyworth Collection as part of a larger comic book sale they were holding. Lawrence, wisely, cashed out.

 

The highest price paid from Lawrence's collection went to a Batman No. 2 from 1940. It sold for $63,000. That would have been a great investment as the cover price was 10 cents. If you're wondering, that's a 63 million percent return. However, this was not the high point of the auction, as another Batman comic achieved the highest price ever for a comic book at Heritage Auctions and the highest price ever for a Batman comic. That went to Detective Comics No. 27 published in 1939. That is the one that introduced the Batman character to the world. That one sold for $1.5 million. That, too, had a 10 cent cover price, providing a 1 billion 500 million percent return. However, Batman is not the all-time king of comics. That honor still goes to Superman, whose first appearance in Action Comics No. 1 took in $3.2 million in 2014.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions