Collecting


CONVENTION REPORT: PulpFest 2015
by Richard Moore

   I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s PulpFest. Part of the pleasure is seeing old friends such as the Albert brothers, Walter and Jim. Their table in the dealer’s room is always my home base. Walter and I were both members of a mystery oriented Amateur Press Association (DAPA-Em) for many years. A highlight this year was meeting Steve Lewis of Mystery*File fame in person after sharing the apa with him for three decades and communicating often through the years. Also around was another DAPA-Em veteran Dan Stumpf, retired cop and now novelist. I’m reading his novel for Hard Case Crime Easy Death (by Daniel Boyd) right now.

   Of the programs I attended, I think my favorite was Leo Margulies, Little Giant of the Pulps. Leo was the editorial director of the more than 45 pulp magazines of the Thrilling Group, aka Standard Magazines. After that he was publisher of several digest magazines including Fantastic Universe, Saint Detective, Mike Shayne, Satellite SF, Man From Uncle and even one of the revivals of Weird Tales.

   The center piece of the panel was Leo’s nephew Philip Sherman, who is working on a biography of his uncle. Sherman is the son of Margulies sister Ann and grew up in Brooklyn. As Leo’s mother lived with them, Leo and his wife would come out to visit every two or three Sundays. Leo enjoyed playing with his nephew Phil and his sister and was especially good at hide and seek. Given Leo’s reputation of a quick temper with his editors, this was another side of the man.

   Phil also recalled as a young man Leo employing him as a proofreader paying two cents a word. As Leo only paid most of his writers one cent a word, this caused a bit of a humorous crowd response. It was likely that this represented Leo finding a way to channel money to his nephew than his regular pay for proofreaders.

   Joining Sherman on the panel was Ed Hulse and Will Murray, and they both said Leo had a great reputation with writers because he made quick decisions on submission with quick payment on acceptance. Leo was also generous with writers needing an advance because of bills or a family illness. Phil said he had a large file of thank you letters from writers. Sometimes Leo would hear a writer was in the hospital and he would, unasked, send a check to his hospital room. Such things built loyalty among writers.

   I did not know that Leo took a leave from the company during WWII to serve as a war correspondent with the US Navy in the Pacific. I also did not know that a few years after the war, Leo and his wife Cylvia Kleinman moved to the south of France with the intention of editing from there and publishing from Europe a Saint Detective magazine in partnership with Leslie Charteris. The logistics proved to be too difficult and Leo and his wife returned to the U.S. and eventually Leo left Standard Magazines to form King-Size Publications which published the Saint Detective Magazine and Fantastic Universe.

   Cylvia Kleinman was a name seen regularly on the mastheads of Leo’s magazines and she was an active editor. On one of my early rejected stories to Mike Shayne I was excited to get my first note of encouragement from an editor signed CK. I later sold Shayne but it was to Sam Merwin, Jr.

   Phil Sherman told the crowd that he happened to be in London when Leo and Cylvia were there attending a writer’s meeting. Leo suffered a stroke and after a few days in the hospital, Cylvia asked Phil to fly with them back to New York. Leo died a few months later.

   Another highlight of the convention for me was the Guest of Honor presentation of Chet Williamson. GOHs were common back in the Pulpcon days when ex-pulp writers were hale and hearty and available for a trip to Ohio. Now the few remaining are in their 80s. Williamson, of course, never appeared in a pulp but he is a lifelong pulp collector as well as a fine writer horror, suspense, and various other stories and novels.

   Turns out Chet is also a sometimes actor and performer and his presentation had great wit, dash and entertainment. Based on this success, we’ll see more Guests of Honor at future PulpFests.

   For the second year in a row, there was a group dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant for anyone signing up to attend. It is a chance to mingle and talk and meet other pulp fans. My table included the aforementioned Chet Williamson and George Vanderburgh of Battered Silicon Dispatch Box fame. I had met and enjoyed several conversations with George back at the 2012 PulpFest but he had missed the last two cons. It was good to catch up with him and hear more of his great stories.

   Finally, I also enjoyed the presentation of Mike Hunchback on his (and Caleb Braaten’s) Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye’s Final and Darkest Era, which has just been published. Mike is an enthusiastic fellow and loves his horror. Adopting the name of Hunchback is rather clear evidence of that.

   The book features many fine illustrations from Coye’s work with Carcosa Press, the magazine Whispers and others from final years. It is a gorgeous book, and Jim and Walter Albert joined me on Sunday morning in buying copies from Mike. Highly recommended!

   So that’s my PulpFest report. I tell you folks, if you love pulps, this is the place you need to be each summer. I resisted the many invitations to Pulpcon I had from friends, and now I regret waiting so long to join the fun.

CONVENTION REPORT: PulpFest 2015
by Walker Martin

   As usual I was among four collectors who rented a SUV to transport us to Columbus, Ohio, the site of the 2015 summer pulp magazine convention. The Great God Cthulhu was supposed to make an appearance but he evidently was busy at some other horrifying business. Lucky for us book collectors because so many stories show that nothing ever good happens when he visits.

   The other three collectors with me were Ed Hulse, our driver and editor of Blood n Thunder; Nick Certo, long time book dealer and art collector; and Digges La Touche, otherwise known as The Reading Machine. A normal car was not big enough for us because of the books, pulps and artwork that we expected to buy and bring back to New Jersey.

   Theme of this year’s PulpFest was the 125th birthday of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, Weird Tales, and the Thrilling magazine group of pulp titles. The ID badge showed the cover of Weird Tales, November 1944 by Matt Fox, a very weird and bizarre portrait of Cthulhu. We arrived at 5:00 pm and quickly joined the other dealers who were setting up during the early bird hours on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

   There were 120 dealer tables and attendance was announced as 420, making this one of the better attended PulpFest. and Pulpcons. I always have a dealer’s table at these conventions, not only to sell my duplicates but also to have a sort of headquarters for me and my friends to meet and store our purchases. I was constantly tripping over stacks of books and pulps behind my table, mainly items bought by my pals Digges and Sai S, who runs the excellent pulp blog, Pulp Flakes. At one point, while looking at this mound of loot and evidence of bibliomania, I had no idea what was my stuff and what belonged to Digges and Sai.

   But somehow we sorted it all out by the end of the show and I bought quite a few items including original art by such Weird Tales artists as Hannes Bok, Lee Brown Coye, and Matt Fox, I also picked up some art by Emsh and Gahan Wilson. But the biggest purchases were a great Galaxy cover for the March 1952 issue. Titled “Year of the Jackpot”, it illustrates the lead novelet by Robert Heinlein. I also bought another Galaxy cover by Dember for the October 1966 issue. This was only $500 and a real bargain.

   I had to buy some weird art to honor Cthulhu, so I obtained the cover art from Nyctalops 15, January 1980 by Potter. It shows Lovecraft and Cthulhu. I was really impressed by the art I obtained that was done by Lee Brown Coye and Matt Fox. Many collectors don’t like Coye and Fox but I think they are two of the finest of the Weird Tales artists. Their work appeared in the 1940’s and really portrayed the bizarre and unusual elements in Weird Tales. As I mentioned above, an example of Matt Fox’s art was used on the ID badge.

   I also sold quite a few interesting items, including 12 bound volumes of Adventure from the 1920’s; several bizarre crime digests from the 1950’s like Off-Beat and Two-Fisted; and a couple of Smart Set‘s containing early stories by Dashiell Hammett, including his first appearance.

   I probably could have sold a lot more but I was often away from my table because I was buying so many books and artwork. I had a great time talking to old friends that I have known for decades including Don Hutchison and Steve Lewis, who runs this Mystery*File blog. Steve had missed the convention for a few years and it was good to see him again. Don I have known since the early days of Pulpcon.

   I didn’t see Gordon Huber this year and if he missed the convention, it will break the unbroken string of his appearances at every Pulpcon and PulpFest since 1972. Someone pointed out that if Gordon did indeed miss the show, then it makes me the next in line for having attended the most pulp conventions. As I recently pointed out in my article “Why Attend Pulpfest?”, I really think it is important to support and attend these conventions.

   It sometimes seems that my entire life has revolved around the Pulpcons and PulpFests, not to mention the Windy City Pulp Conventions! I really believe the collecting of books and pulps can be a life work and of great importance. What’s more important than a life spent reading and collecting such great artifacts? I wish we could continue doing this forever!

   I mentioned the great fiction magazine Adventure above and three of us decided to honor the memory of this excellent title by wearing T-shirts with the circled “71”, which stands for the Campfire letter column and the old Adventure stations that used to exist.

   These stations were manned by the magazine’s readers and provided a sort of way station for other readers to relax and talk about the magazine. On Friday, Ed Hulse, Tom Krabacher, and me wore the shirts and revived the Campfire station in Columbus, at least temporarily. It’s been decades since an Adventure station has been active.

   What was the most expensive item sold at PulpFest? I believe it was a copy of New Story magazine with an Edgar Rice Burroughs story. The magazine is a very rare and hard to get title. I heard it sold for around $4,000. Speaking of selling, the Saturday night auction saw over 80 lots sold, including a Philip Jose Farmer manuscript for $450, a Tales of Magic and Mystery for $275 and many stacks of pulps.

   This year PulpFest shared the hotel with a big convention of around 4,000 Japanese anime fanatics. Mainly teenage girls, these ladies were dressed in all sorts of bizarre and interesting costumes. A couple nights I woke up in my room to the sounds of screams and laughter as they raced up and down the corridors and through the hotel meeting rooms. For the first time I saw several Columbus police officers patrolling the hotel since many of the girls were minors and drugs may have been in use.

   I would like to give a special thanks to Bill Mann who turned his room over to several beer drinking pulp collectors. One night security visited the room and even told the collectors to keep the noise down. It’s possible we acted even more bizarre than the anime people! I’m sure non-collectors would think so…

   I had a strange room and at first I was not sure I liked it. The hotel has 19 or 20 floors and at one point the building ends in a sharp edge. My room was at the sharp edge and when I opened the door I at first though the twisting corridor leading to the bed was from the silent film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Then I noticed the walls were all windows, not just one or two and the bathroom as a big window overlooking the city of Columbus. This made me think of the film, Things to Come. Maybe I’ll ask for this room again!

   Chet Williamson was the Guest Of Honor and I had a table near his in the dealer’s room. In addition to being the author of around 20 books, he has written over 100 stories, many of them horror classics. He’s a book and pulp collector and I remember him from the old Pulpcons and the Tonikons that were held in Al Tonik’s home in the 1990’s.

   Steve Miller, a long time pulp collector, won the Munsey Award, mainly for his two great reference books: Mystery, Detective and Espionage Fiction with Michael Cook and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Index with Bill Contento. He’s deserved this award for a long time.

   PulpFest is known for its panels, and there was a full slate of daytime and evening programming. During the evening there were several panels dealing with the Thrilling magazine group, Leo Margulies, Weird Tales, and the Cthulhu Mythos. I have never attended the daytime panels and discussions because of my collecting and dealing activities in the dealer’s room. When the room closes at 5:00 pm, then I eat and attend the evening programs. However this year there was a subject being discussed during the day that I had to attend.

   For the first time in over 40 years, I closed my table and walked out of the dealer’s room to attend the daytime discussion being given by Mike Hunchback, the author of Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye. Recently three books have been published about this excellent and unusual artist and Pulp Macabre covers his last years when he was illustrating not only books but Whispers magazine and Fantastic. I highly recommend this book.

   One of the problems in recent years has centered around the lack of living men and women who wrote or drew for the pulps. This year they found a surviving member of the pulps in Jon Arfstrom. He is just about the only surviving artist of the great Weird Tales. David Saunders interviewed him and Mr. Arfstrom had a table where you could buy some of his original art. Unfortunately Weird Tales had a policy of not returning the art to the artist, and he had no examples to show or sell. David Saunders also gave an excellent talk on the pulp artist, Rudolph Belarski.

   Usually, if you want to see movies, you have to attend Windy City but this year PulpFest had such Lovecraft influenced films as Out of Mind, Pickman’s Model, The Call of Cthulhu, Cool Air, and The Whisperer in the Darkness.

   The big new issue of Blood n Thunder made its debut. You can order issue number 45, Summer 2015 from amazon.com or the Murania Press site. It has a very valuable and interesting long article on one of the greatest of the pulp magazines, twenty pages on Famous Fantastic Mysteries, and since it is part one, there will be a second part to read and enjoy.

   The Pulpster also was given to each attendee and it’s a big magazine edited by William Lampkin. Articles discuss Erle Stanley Gardner, Street & Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, the Thrilling group of magazines, Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson, and other subjects.

   Next year’s convention will be held again in Columbus, Ohio. Dates are July 21-24, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency hotel. Keep an eye on the pulpfest.com site for details. This is a must attend event if you read or collect the pulps. I’ve tried to give an idea of just how much fun this convention is and frankly I don’t see how you can miss it. I ought to know; I’ve been attending them almost every year since 1972 and I have a house full of pulps, books, and art to prove it!

   You too can be a slave to bibliomania by attending Pulpfest and Windy City. I’ll end my report on this great convention by thanking the members of the Pulpfest committee: Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Sally Cullers, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch. Thank you and the other volunteers for all your hard work and dedication. Believe me, it’s worth it…

   Dealers Room, Thursday 2 pm. Paul Herman and I arrived early the day before, so we were well rested and ready for the show to begin:



   Dealers Room, Friday 11 am. It was much busier the following morning:



   Walker Martin will tell us about the convention itself from his perspective tomorrow or Wednesday. When I’ll provide here are some photos of some friends of mine, many of who I had not seen in three or four years.

   Walter Albert:



   Dan Stumpf:



   Paul Herman at his dealer’s table:



   Walker Martin and I:



   Walter again:



   Richard Moore, whom I have known for a long time, but this was the first time we had met in person:



   Ed Hulse, publisher of BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER Magazine:



   We shared the hotel with an anime convention. They were 4000 all told, while we at PulpFest were a mere 400. I found their passion for whatever they were doing wonderful:



   Cake was served after Steve Miller was given this year’s Munsey Award:



   Waiting outside for Dan’s friend Claudia before dinner at a restaurant somewhere in the Columbus OH area. From left to right: Dan, Jim Albert, Walter and Paul. My thumb was also in this photo, but I trimmed it off.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 17:
Why Attend PulpFest?
by Walker Martin


   The last couple days I’ve been thinking about PulpFest which will be held August 13 through 16, 2015, in Columbus Ohio. That’s this Thursday coming up! I’ve been deluged by logical and sane looking collectors and non-collectors all asking me the same question. Why bother attending PulpFest? They have shown up at my house; they have called me on the telephone; they have sent me emails.

   Enough is enough! Here’s a list of excuses for not attending that I hear all the time, and why none of them are good ones:

1–I have no money! Sorry but I’ve attended many a Pulpcon in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s and I went with very little money. Are there no credit cards? Are there no credit unions? Are there no non-collecting spouses to borrow money from?

   Even when I had the money, I often blew it before the convention by visiting local bookstores like Bonnett’s and Dragon’s Lair in Dayton, Ohio. If not in the bookstores, then in the hotel rooms of friends who let me see what they were bringing to sell. I learned to go without much cash but I brought a few boxes of pulps to trade and sell at my table.

2–I’m in poor health and too sick to attend. Sorry again! I had a friend who had a terminal illness and came to Pulpcon anyway. Another friend actually collapsed at the convention and died soon after. I myself once threw my back out three days before the show and my doctor and chiropractor both told me to forget making the long drive to the convention.

   I felt like I was crippled for life but I managed to squeeze into the car and drive out even though I had to stop numerous times near hotels because I thought I was not going to make it. I could then rent a room and lay there for a couple weeks until I could stand. It took me 16 hours instead of the usual 9 hours but I made it. I spent the entire convention standing because sitting down caused back spasms.

3–I have no space or I live in a small apartment. Collectors always make space for the things they love! When I first met Bob Lesser in the 1970’s he had an apartment full of Disney toys. This was NYC and the apt was tiny. A path from the front door to the bed and another path to the bathroom. Otherwise, every inch was toys, robots, paintings.

   I once ran out of space and I hunted for over a year until I found a bigger house. I went to dozens of open houses and looked at hundreds of houses. I finally found a big house. Unfortunately I soon filled it up with books and now I need a bigger place! The old story…

4–My wife is a non-collector and forbids me to go. Tell me about it! I’ve been married over 40 years and I’ve heard it all. I still go and I still collect. Once Les Mayer told me in 1990 at Wayne, NJ that his wife thought he was a business meeting. If she knew he was at a Pulpcon she might burn his pulps.

   Collectors have to become masters of deception and great liars to defeat the non-collector. Many a time I’ve lied and many a time I’ve smuggled books into the house in the dead of night while “she who must be obeyed” slept the innocent sleep of the non-collector. Non-collectors exist to be ignored…

5–I can’t get off from work. Sorry but not a valid reason. My employers always knew I was a rabid book collector who always without exception took off a week during Pulpcon in the summer. I made sure that my vacation request was in as early as I knew the convention dates.

   Once they sorrowfully told me I couldn’t go because of some work bullshit. I went anyway and left it to them to ignore my absence without leave or put up with one pissed off book collector. I realize the employment situation is different nowadays but which is more important, your job or your collection, your marriage or your collection? Right, your collection.

6–Who cares about the convention. I can buy my pulps off ebay, etc. Once in the 1920’s and 1930’s the dime novel collectors existed. But they didn’t have a convention and died off. Now I know of only a few in existence and dime novels are just about worthless. If I had a table full of dime novels priced at a buck apiece, most collectors would scurry by in disgust.

   We have to support the two big pulp conventions: Windy City in Chicago and PulpFest in Columbus. If we don’t, then one day we will wake up and the pulps might be dead. These shows garner a lot of attention and people keep talking about the pulps because of the efforts of Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Barry Traylor, Doug Ellis, John Gunnison, and others.

7–And finally the best reason for attending! They are a hell of a lot of fun. Not only do you get to roam around a gigantic dealer’s room full of books and pulps but you get to meet and talk to some of the greatest collectors and dealers.

   These will lead to future deals and contacts. Plus you can eat and drink with these guys! Though I seem to be one of last of the drinkers. And the panels! All day and all night we will be discussing pulps and books. What’s cooler than that?

8–Walker, it’s too late! Like hell. There are hotels with rooms available nearby. What’s the most important thing in a serious collector’s life? His collection without a doubt.

   We work, we slave, we march on to the bitter end where we will eat dirt in the boneyard. We live lives of quiet desperation and worry about the afterlife. Go to PulpFest and collect some books and pulps! You only live once…

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 16:
A Field Trip
by Walker Martin


   Recently, Steve Lewis reviewed the issue of Argosy for June 9, 1934. My copy of this issue is now over 80 years old and still in great shape with the pages very supple and no browning or brittleness. Nice cover and full spine. It has a nice smell and no pulp shreds to clean up. I like the cover by Paul Stahr with the macabre scene of two skeletons showing that two poker players were struck dead while playing cards.

   Which reminds me of a field trip I once made to buy a couple original pulp cover paintings by Paul Stahr. It was in the mid-1970’s, and I was consumed by the desire to track down as many pulp paintings as I could find. This was 40 years ago (hard to believe that so much time has passed!), and I was busy doing the usual things that men in their thirties were always doing, like marriage, raising a family, job career, buying a house, and thinking about my next car.

   But my real interests, now that I think back on my life, was reading, collecting books, vintage paperbacks, pulps, and trying to find the cover paintings used on the paperbacks and pulps. The video revolution was still several years off, so I had not yet started to buy hundreds of video tapes of old movies and serials. Not to speak of the thousands of dvds that I now have cluttering up my house.

   Sure, all that other stuff is important in a life, but does anything really match the enjoyment and thrill of collecting books and art? This is the main subject of my two series: Collecting Pulps and Adventures in Collecting. Collectors are always paying lip service to their jobs and families, but I have often found them to be addicted to that greatest vice of all: book collecting. Otherwise known as bibliomania.

   And of course collecting pulps, paperbacks, and original art are all offshoots of book collecting. I remember many of my friends in college, the army, at work, were often involved in wasting time boozing, taking drugs, gambling, or that most dangerous sport of all, chasing women. I like to pretend that I was not addicted to these mundane vices. No sir, I was back then a Collector with a capital C and I still think there is no higher calling for a life’s work.

   I still wake up each day thinking about what I’m going to read or what books or pulps I can add to my collection. Not to mention what old movies I want to watch. And of course the collecting of original art, which is one of the most unique things to collect. A book or pulp for instance may have many copies in existence, but a piece of art is unique, a one of a kind thing connected to the collecting of books.

   I’ve always wondered why more book and pulp collectors are not interested in at least having a few examples of cover art to hang on their walls, in their libraries, between the bookcases or if the art is small enough, on the book shelves with the books. I can understand not being able to spend thousands of dollars on artwork, but I have many times picked up amazing art bargains for very little money. Even today, some artwork can be bought for a few hundred or less. I’ve had more than one friend that liked to buy new cars every couple years for many thousands of dollars but would turn pale in horror at the thought of spending a few hundred on a pulp cover painting.

   Which brings me around to the details of my field trip. In the 1970’s and even in the 1980’s, it was possible to buy non SF cover paintings for very little money. Very few collectors were interested in such genres as detective, western and adventure paintings. As a result of this lack of interest I routinely bought pulp and paperbacks paintings for prices as low as $50 and for many years I was paying only an average price of $200 to $400 each for artwork. Now prices are higher but you still can find bargains, especially at the two pulp conventions: Windy City and Pulpfest.

   In fact, it was at one of the early Pulpcons that a friend told me about an art store in Brooklyn NY that had pulp art for sale. I had no idea about how to navigate to and through Brooklyn but he agreed to meet me a the Penn Station train station and take me out to the store. It was the typical small store but it was crammed with paintings.

   I still remember the very large painting by Walter Baumhofer that the dealer showed me. It was enormous and showed a shootout in a bar between gangsters. It was used as an interior in a slick magazine, perhaps The Saturday Evening Post or Colliers. But he wanted a few hundred for it and I couldn’t buy everything, so I reluctantly passed on it. One of my collecting mistakes from 40 years ago that still haunts me. I still dream about these mistakes and often wake up in the middle of the night cursing myself. My wife wonders what the hell, but most collectors probably know what I’m talking about.

   The dealer showed me several other pieces, and I was shocked to see how he had the paintings stored. Most were unframed, and he was just pulling them out and scraping the paint off as he yanked them out. Finally he got to the paintings that I could afford at the $200 level. There were several Paul Stahr paintings, and I recognized them as Argosy covers. Stahr was very prolific and did many covers for the magazine in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

I decided I could spend $400, after quickly calculating how much I owed my wife, mortgage, car payment, and a couple pulp collectors who sold me sets of pulps on the installment plan. The paintings I bought were used for the covers on Argosy for December 3, 1932 and December 24, 1932. So we packed them up for the long trip back home and casting a final look of regret at the big Baumhofer masterpiece, I left the store. I never returned, and I’m sure it is long out of business.

   I had the paintings nicely framed, and both were hanging together for around 20 years. I still have the December 3, 1932 painting but the December 24 artwork suffered a tragic end. Steve Kennedy, a NYC art dealer who just died a few weeks ago specialized in pulp art. He thought he could get me a good deal in a trade but I would have to give up the December 24, 1932 piece. So he took the painting and mailed it off on approval to another collector. Later on, he told me the sad news that the Fed Ex or UPS truck had caught on fire and the painting was destroyed.

   All collectors have the time travel dream. You know the one where you go back in time and buy a stack of Hammett or Chandler first editions. Or maybe you buy several issues of the first Tarzan All-Story or the first Superman comic. One trip I would make would be back to the Brooklyn store of 40 years ago. Only this time I’d say to hell with the bills and mortgage payment and by god, I’d buy that beautiful Baumhofer gangster painting!

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 15:
Death of a Collector: STEVE KENNEDY
by Walker Martin


   A friend informed me of Steve Kennedy’s death around 4:00 pm earlier yesterday, and I’ve had problems accepting the news. I last heard from Steve a few weeks ago and at that time he was under a lot of stress due to his attempts to sell his NYC apartment and finish building his dream house in Woodstock, NY. He had been talking to me about both projects for many years and he hoped the money from the apartment sale would finance the completion of the Woodstock house. He had suffered some type of health problem a couple years ago which showed that his blood pressure was very high, and my impression was that he did not seem well.

   I still remember my first sight of Steve as though it was only the other day. It was 1987 and he was in the Pulpcon dealer’s room carrying around a cover painting by Rafael Desoto from Dime Detective. He wanted to sell it but was getting no interest at all from the pulp collectors. This was a common reaction in the 1970’s and 1980’s when most pulp collectors were only interested in SF or hero pulp art. If the paintings were from western, detective, or adventure magazines, then there was usually no interest at all even if the price was low.

   I know it’s hard to believe now when these paintings often sell for thousands of dollars but back then you could not even get offers when the price was only a few hundred dollars each. The only exceptions were SF and hero magazine covers. I know this for a fact because I built my pulp cover painting collection by paying only $200 to around $400 each for most non-SF genre paintings. In the 1990’s I had to start paying more and eventually due to the prices that Bob Lesser was willing to pay, the cost of pulp paintings really increased.

   Since no one was willing to buy the Desoto painting, I bought it for only $325 in 1987. That began our 28 year friendship during which Steve sold me many paintings including some by Norman Saunders, Rafael Desoto, Walter Baumhofer, etc. Even a couple years ago when I told him I wanted a double page spread by Nick Eggenhofer, he sold me a beautiful drawing from the collection of art dealer, Walt Reed.

   As I walk through my house, almost every room has paintings that I bought from Steve over the years. He visited my house several times each year for a total of over a hundred visits. Several times we drove out to Pulpcon together in my car. He would arrive the day before and sleep over due to my habit of getting an early start to drive to Pulpcon.

   Steve was the only collector that my wife would put up with staying over because he at least dealt with art and paintings and was not covered with pulp chips from the magazines that so exasperate her. Steve and I both felt that there was nothing wrong with a house full of old magazines and books, not to mention pulp and paperback cover paintings!

   We often told each other funny stories about non-collectors and in addition to the many visits, we had hundreds of telephone conversations, many late at night at around midnight. Since Steve did not work regular hours being self employed, he often called me late which I had no problem with because I’m always up late during the night reading books and pulps.

   The wedding of Steve Kennedy and Jane came as a surprise to all his friends because he was always puzzled by NYC women and was in his 50’s when he got married in 2001. I guess Jane was really not from NYC. The wedding was held at Jane’s parents place in Woodstock, NY and was without a doubt the best wedding I ever attended. Not just the food and atmosphere but they had two bands: a Brazilian jazz group and two classical guitar players.

   One funny thing about Steve getting married was that since he had been a bachelor for so long, he was scared of finally getting married. So much so that he called me in a nervous attack one night and asked me to give my opinion. Should he get married? I of course said sure go ahead because Steve was an art dealer and Jane was an art appraiser. Not the typical collector and non-collector disaster!

   So, I’m still trying to process the information. Steve Kennedy is gone? No more visits, no more late night phone calls? No more trips to Pulpfest or Windy City? Another of my old friends gone for good? This is hard to believe that someone so much a part of my life can simply disappear.

   Goodbye Steve. R.I.P.

COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 14: Weird Tales
by Walker Martin


   Three years ago I discussed the Frank Robinson Collection auction which was organized by Adventure House. The biggest lot at that auction was the complete Weird Tales collection which sold for a quarter of a million dollars. Yes, that’s right, as in $250,000.00. Then we fast forward 3 years and again Adventure House held an auction for a complete collection of Weird Tales, only this time the set got zero bids. I believe a discussion of this auction will show not only what occurred and why one set sold and another set did not sell, but also we will learn how pulp collectors have changed over the years.

   As with the Frank Robinson auction, this recent auction which was held on May 1, 2015, also did not generate much comment on the various discussion groups that I visit online. I know as a long time fiction magazine collector, I certainly want to talk about such subjects, in fact I’m starved for conversation and I guess that’s one of the reasons that I continue to post my pulp collecting memoirs. People have been collecting pulps for over a hundred years now, ever since the first one was published in 1896. I’ve been at it for over 50 years and I feel it’s important enough for us to continue posting articles and commenting about what happened during the time these fiction magazines ruled the newsstands.

   I also feel it’s very important that we continue to support the two major pulp conventions, Windy City and Pulpfest. I’ve attended both over the years and have had many interesting conversations about the pulp era. At Windy City in April I had the opportunity to view the Weird Tales set which was on display behind the Adventure House tables. I also eagerly bought the $10.00 Weird Tales collection auction catalog. Published by Adventure House this is a 40 page full color description of the 274 issues. True, only 239 covers are shown but all are listed by condition in the back of the catalog. In addition to the 274 issues published during 1923-1954, the catalog also lists the 79 issues of the revived Weird Tales that were published during Summer 1973 to Spring 2014.

   So this was a major auction of perhaps the most talked about, most famous pulp title of them all. It was advertised on the Adventure House website, emails were sent out announcing the auction, and a full color catalog was available for only 10 dollars. Why was it a flop? Why no bids?

   Well, of course the most obvious reason is the fact that the minimum bid was set at $60,000. But if the Robinson WT set of three years ago sold for 250,000 dollars, how come this recent set could not attract $60,000? Well you know the old saying in real estate: location, location, location. In the pulp and book world, it’s: condition, condition, condition.

   The Robinson collection was almost perfect. White pages, newsstand fresh covers, complete spines. Weird Tales was called “The Unique Magazine”. Well, the Robinson set was truly “unique”, definitely the best condition set of Weird Tales in existence. It could and did command a premium price.

   So what was wrong with the set offered up for auction in May 2015? What prevented it from even getting one bid at the $60,000 minimum? The catalog described several good points such as blood red spines(they usually are faded), high quality paper, and custom made tray cases to hold each volume. When I viewed the set myself at the convention, I was impressed by all of the above. Unfortunately the following faults have to be mentioned:

1. The first 45 issues, March 1923 through June 1927 are bound in 10 blue volumes. Personally, I think using blue was a mistake. I have a set bound in red and it looks more impressive. But this is just a personal preference. The main problem with bound pulps is simply that many collectors won’t touch them at all. And those that will accept bound copies want a significant decrease in the usual price.

   In the first paragraph I mentioned how pulp collectors had changed over the years, and this is one example. It used to be that old time collectors, guys who actually bought the magazines off the newsstands, loved to have their pulps bound. It gave them a look of respectability and the garish magazines looked more like a sedate book that they could proudly display on their bookshelves without being sneered at by other collectors and even non-collectors. Pulp collectors nowadays don’t think like this at all. They want the individual issues and they don’t like them bound.

2. Because they are bound these first 45 issues, which are very rare and expensive, only rate a good or good minus as far as condition.

3. Most issues in the early 1930’s have Scotch tape or clear tape on the head and foot of the spines. This was another practice that many of the old time collectors followed. I’ve seen pulps ruined with masking tape, discolored scotch tape, and even electrical tape. One guy even used stamps to close tears in the cover. Pulp collectors back then evidently thought nothing of closing and repairing tears with all sorts of tape. Now of course collectors frown on the use of tape.

4. The tray cases are a very good idea and look nice. Unfortunately several of the cases show water damage.

   In my opinion, the above points prevented a high minimum bid and certainly explain why no one started off bidding at the $60,000 level. It’s too high a figure for a set in this condition. Perhaps a lower figure would have encouraged some beginning action and the final bidding might even have reached a high level. Perhaps a minimum bid of $20,000 would have been better but then again, you run the chance of the set going for such a figure and I guess the seller would consider that unacceptable.

   I used to have a set of Weird Tales for many years but that was back in the days when you could buy issues for $5.00 each. Back in 1968, when I was discharged from the army, I had two big goals in my life: to get a complete set of Black Mask and a set of Weird Tales . I managed to do both within a few years. Since then I’ve seen many extensive runs of WT and I’m not even sure that it’s that rare. It seems that everybody, like many SF collectors, saved their copies! It’s really a pretty magazine, a thing of beauty.

   My present set is not complete because I no longer care about the early issues of 1923-1925, most of which I find not that readable. My present set is a bound set from 1926-1954. I’ll tell the story about this set and it will illustrate the differences between the old time pulp collectors and the newer pulp collectors who never really bought any of the magazines off the newsstands.

   In the 1980’s, Harry Noble, who had been buying pulps since the early 1930’s, decided to put together some bound sets of his favorite SF and fantasy magazines. He did this with such titles as Astounding, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels, Unknown Worlds, and of course, Weird Tales . He had trouble finding an inexpensive binder but finally found someone who would bind several magazines into one volume for a low price. Harry didn’t really care about the early issues, not only because they were not that readable, but also because they were too expensive for him to buy. But 1926-1954 he could handle and he started to his project one volume at time.

   But some of his issues were coverless and he borrowed copies from my set of individual issues and made color Xerox copies of the covers. There were at least a dozen, maybe more issues that were bound with Xerox covers. As a second generation pulp collector, I tried to talk Harry out of binding the pulps. Some of the issues were in really nice shape and it was a shame to see them bound with trimmed edges. But Harry was from the first generation of collectors and he liked the look of the bound volumes.

   Harry worked on this project for almost 20 years, up until his death at age 88 in 2006. He had prior warning that his illness was terminal and at the 2006 Pulpcon he told me and several other friends that he was dying. He welcomed us to visit his house and buy his extensive collection of pulps, books, and vintage paperbacks. Which we did. I made four such trips buying his sets of Western Story, Astounding, Short Stories and other items.

   One day, at dinner at my house, a group of us were having dinner and the subject of the Weird Tales set came up. Harry said he wanted $10,000 for the bound in red years of 1926-1954. I pointed out that not only were the most expensive issues missing, but the set was bound which was a problem as far as value was concerned. Also I knew from personal experience that at least a dozen issues had Xerox color covers. I also remembered that there were a few other issues with pieces missing out of the covers.

   However, I said I was willing to pay $5,000 considering the flaws, etc. Another well known, veteran collector also said he thought it might be worth $5,000 but no more. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even sure it was worth the 5 grand. Harry, who loved bound sets, was justifiably upset of course. In fact, he said he would throw them in the dumpster before selling them for $5,000. One of our friends got a laugh by saying to tell him which dumpster because he would be there.

   I figured that was that but a couple weeks later, I got a call from Harry. He had tried several other collectors and bookstores and no one would pay the $10,000. I’m pretty sure they would not even have paid the $5,000. Harry said if I still wanted them I could have the set for $5,000 and I accepted. He didn’t last much longer and died in December of 2006. So ended a 40 year friendship.

   But I still have Harry’s bound set and it looks beautiful bound in red in the master bedroom. But I’d still rather have them unbound!

Editorial Note: This video produced by Adventure House of the Weird Tales collection they were offering may not stay online for long, but at least for now, it is still up:

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