Trove of rare comic books found in Vancouver granted special status

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A collections of hundreds of rare, well-preserved comic books found in Vancouver more than 20 years ago has been given a special certification.

Many of the 1,300 books are from the “golden age” of comics in the 1940s and 1950s, with titles including Batman, Detective Comics, the Flash and Wonder Woman.

A third-party certification has now determined that about a third of the books in the collection are the best-preserved copies known to exist.

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The comics turned up back in 1999, when a family going through the estate of their late mother discovered them in a basement cupboard, according to Golden Age Collectables owner Patrick Shaughnessy.

The family then lived overseas, and was looking to sell the entire collection as a single batch within a week.

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It turned out the books belonged to the deceased woman’s husband, who had himself passed away in 1982.

He had been a worker on the now-defunct CP Ferry service, which serviced Vancouver to Victoria, and had bought many of the books from newsstands near what is now the Waterfront transit terminal, Shaughnessy explained.

Some of the comics were originally purchased at Wilson’s Newspapers, which was located across the street from what is now Vancouver’s Waterfront Station. Vancouver Archives

What makes the collection special, according to Shaughnessy, is that because the books were owned by an adult, they were handled gently and stored carefully.

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“The brother-in-law was able to guess at a few things that he probably bought the comics to improve his English and for entertainment,” said Shaughnessy.

“It’s pretty exciting. I mean, you know, you don’t see virgin material like this very often.”

The collection starts in 1944 and continues sporadically right up into the early 1960s, Shaughnessy added.

Many of the books bear a marking on the cover known as a “chop,” a personalized Chinese name marker believed to have been put there by the original owner.

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While many of the books are well-known titles, some of the issues are particularly valuable.

Shaughnessy said the collection includes a copy of Captain America No. 46; another copy of the book in worse condition recently sold at auction for $26,000.

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The reason it’s become so historically popular and important is it’s one of the only two comics produced during the Second World War that shows a Holocaust scene on it,” he said.

“So it’s Captain America rescuing somebody, rescuing survivors.”

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Shaughnessy had the books assessed by an independent grading company called Certified Guarantee Company (CGC), which has granted the collection official “pedigree” status, something it has given to just 60 other collections.

“Countless collections of comic books have surfaced over the years. Some of these collections only include a handful of comics, while others contain thousands,” explains the CGC website.

“Every now and then, a collection is found that is so exceptional it becomes recognized as a pedigree.”

Shaughnessy said some of the books have since been sold, but that anyone who bought one can contact him to certify their authenticity and place in the pedigree collection.

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