3/28/05 - Was just going through some recent buys, last month or so, that have been piling up next to the computer.   And it looks as if my buying spree, started in the beginning of the year, hasn't slowed down any.  Why have I been in a buying glut lately?  No real reason other than I can, it's fun, and a load of great deals have come my way lately.  Might as well get it out of the way now as my back issue comic collecting will be seriously curtailed during my year in South Korea starting in October.  And the reason I took a picture and am posting it here?  Because I can, it's fun, and I won't be able to lay out a spread like this soon...


3/27/05 - One of my main collecting interests lately has been researching the National Diamond Sales and Mark Jewelers inserts that were sent in comics bound to overseas military bases for over 20 years; starting in the early 1970s.  Very little hard info has been collected concerning these inserts that I've seen.  So I've taken it upon myself to collect, collate, track, and make sense of these inserts as much as my time will allow.  There is a lot of info to cover though and it'll take many articles to completely cover the topic to my satisfaction.  Today I'll feature the first article.  Hope you find this topic as interesting as I.  If you have any questions or information that may further spread light on this topic, please feel free to contact me.  More information is better than no information in my opinion...

Military Insert Mania - Part 1

National Diamond Sales Inserts

April 1971 - April 1973

In the early 1970s, an insert appeared in Marvel Comics that most comic collectors in the States were unaware of.  Centerfold advertisements targeting American service members were inserted in comics bought from overseas military bases.  These inserts would become a mainstay of most all comics purchased by the military stationed overseas.  The inserts would continue until the early 1990s while changing layout frequently through the years.  These first inserts, printed on glossy cover weight paper, are affectionally known as the "lingerie inserts" due to a rather risqué ad for women's underwear.  More officially though they are referred to as the National Diamond Sales (NDS) inserts due to the large center wrap advertisement offering wholesale diamond rings to service members to buy for their girlfriends, wives, or other applicable female friends.

The oldest comic I've seen that contained the NDS insert is Thor #187 cover dated April 1971.  They could have started earlier but I and others have never seen one older.  Until such time as one is found, I'm going with this as the first.  It can be assumed that other Marvel comics released the same month could have the insert.  I have an Iron Man #37 with the insert which despite the May 1971 cover date is a semi-monthly that was released the same month as Thor.  Other April/May 1971 comics that may have the first inserts:

Avengers #87

Spider-Man #96

Thor #187

Fantastic Four #110

Incredible Hulk #139

Captain America #137

Daredevil #75

Iron Man #37 

Sub-Mariner #37

Amazing Adventures #6

Conan #5

Creatures on the Loose #11

Sgt Fury #87

Where Monsters Dwell #9

Rawhide Kid #87

Where Creatures Roam #6

Kid Colt #153

Two-Gun Kid #98

Ringo Kid #9

My Love #11

Astonishing Tales 5

Monsters on the Prowl #10

Outlaw Kid #5

Millie the Model #189

Our Love Story #10

Squarebound Issues, those held together with glue bindings, are missing from the above list.   I have never seen nor heard of an insert placed in a squarebound comic.  Only saddlestitched comics, those held by staples along the spine, have been noted with the inserts.  Also, the first insert did not contain any lingerie ads.  Wholesale stereo equipment and record/tape advertisements made up the first and last pages.

Below is a typical NDS insert taken from Incredible Hulk #150...

National Diamond Insert Page 1 National Diamond Insert Centerfold Wrap National Diamond Insert Last Page

Overall, there were 8 different NDS inserts used.  The different ads can be easily identified by numbering on the order form on the inside centerfold wrap.  The different ads were as follows:

MVL 1-71

MVL 7-71

MVL 1-72

A1-M-1

A M

M-2

2M-1M

2M

The National Diamond inserts ran consecutively every month from April 1971 to April 1973 except for a two month gap, November and December 1972, where the insert were replaced by the Mark Jewelers inserts.  The NDS inserts restarted in January 1973 until finally ending in April 1973; replaced by the Mark Jewelers inserts permanently from that point on.  Actually, it looks as if there is a two month gap and the Mark Jewelers inserts didn't restart until July 1973 but that's another topic to be covered in Part 2.  Regardless, the days of the comics lingerie ad were over...


3/19/05 - The "pressing is/is not restoration" debate has continued in the hobby over the last couple of months with really nothing of substance emerging other than people spinning the same rhetoric over and over again.   For those keeping score or haven't been keeping up, here's a quick update: 

- The act of pressing comics to remove defects such as spine roll or non-color breaking creases, once not truly believed to be occurring, is now widely known and being preformed by various restorers and at-home hobbyists to improve a comic's appearance.  

- Comics that have undergone this procedure are being submitted for grading to CGC.

- CGC's stance on the matter is pressing is not restoration and as a result will not annotate the fact the comic has been pressed regardless whether they know it has or not.  The conventional wisdom is pressing is not detectable 100% of the time so no comic will be labeled as such.  CGC is not a totally unbiased party as they've explored starting a new restoration service headed by CGC's restoration expert.  Pressing would undoubtedly be a major part of this service.

- This revelation has galvanized collectors into a number of camps.  Those who say pressing is or is not restoration and those that aren't necessarily taking a stance as long as there's some type of disclosure upon a comic's sale.  The last group are a little naive in my opinion as very very few dealers will knowingly reveal pressing if they think it will hurt a sale.  

-  I am firmly in the pressing IS restoration camp and think CGC's current stance is irresponsible.  If you missed it the first time, I outlined my disapproval in much greater detail here.

Again, this debate has continued unabated for the last couple of months with nothing new to add to the discussion.  Until yesterday...

Susan Cicconi, one of the most well respected restorers in the hobby and head of The Restoration Lab, released a statement on the CGC Forums outlining her stance on pressing:

- She will no longer press comics.  It was a service she previously offered.

- She considers pressing to be restoration

- She considers undisclosed pressing to an unethical and deceptive practice.

Understandably, her statement has brought the pressing issue back to the forefront.  Steve Borock, CGC Head Grader, quickly responded with a poorly worded statement which attacked Susan's credibility while apparently glossing over her announcement.  Borock later clarified his statement saying he wasn't attacking Susan per se but found her announcement to be contrary to what he believed previously while again not addressing the announcement.

Susan's announcement causes serious problems for CGC.  She is the first well known and respected restorer, who stands to lose a good chunk of change, to come out and say, definitively, pressing is restoration; an opinion contrary to CGC's stance.  Her position in the hobby gives her a level of credibility with collectors; especially those who don't want to get burned again because views on restoration have changed.  

It will be interesting to see where the pressing argument goes from here.  I suspect people, to include CGC, will try to minimize Susan's reputation in the hobby.  Doing so will backfire in my opinion.  Borock's first statement on the matter did not go over well with collectors on both side of the argument.  Personally, I applaud Susan.  It's refreshing to see someone, anyone, in this hobby willing to take a stand based on principles and the best interests of the hobby and not on how much money it'll make them.  CGC would do well to take a close look at Susan's announcement and reflect on whether their own principles stand up as well...


3/13/05 - As mentioned below, the Mannheim comic Show was last Saturday and as was the case last year, I had a great time.  Me and my son left Casa de AWE4ONE early than normal due to waking up to a rather heavy snowfall.   My truck, a Dodge Durango, is great in all weather except snow.  Snow causes the vehicle to become a rolling Slip and Slide.  Fun to drive but a hazard to others.  I shouldn't have worried though.  The efficient German snow removal crews were out in force and  the roads were generally snow-free for most of the trip.  In fact, we arrived earlier than I expected and was one of the first dealers to set-up.

Overall, I'd say attendance was down a bit from last year.  The weather may have been a factor causing a number of attendees to stay home.   There was still a healthy crowd though.  I was pleased to see more US comics were available at this show than any other I've attended to include last year's Mannheim show.  The comics available ranged from current comics being blown out at a Euro apiece to some Bronze gems if you took the time to searched for them... 

My sales were quite good.  Having some of my inventory priced at 50% off obviously helped.  Some actual sales:

Runs of mid-late 80s Captain America, Incredible Hulk and Thor for 2 Euro apiece.

Marvel Two-In-One #11 VF 20 Euro, #12 NM- 40 Euro

Adventures into Fear #10 VF+ 68 Euro

Fantastic Four Annual #5 GD+ 20 Euro

Marvel Feature #3 VF 24 Euro

DC War comics in low-mid grade for between 3-8 Euro each sold out.

Any DC or Marvel low-medium grades cover priced 25 cents or below most all priced under 10 Euro sold out.

Run of Batmans in the low-300s  VF 5 Euro apiece.

Spider-Man 2099 NM 3 Euro

But what didn't sell at 50% off is notable:

Early 80s High Grade X-Men comics - X-Men have never sold well other than one show.

 

Mid-High Grade Amazing Spider-Man 110-150 - Just sit there with no action whatsoever.

 

High Grade SGT Fury #30-60 - When I first started selling, I couldn't keep these in stock.  The last couple of shows though I haven't sold one.

This proves to me once again that Germans aren't as anal about condition as US collectors.  They are just as happy in buying a low grade comic for 2 Euro than a high grade example for 10.   That's OK by me but those unaccustomed to selling in the German market must take this into account, and adjust their inventory accordingly, if they want to be successful.

And no show would be complete without me buying a fair number of comics for my collection.  And buy I did...the most of any show I've attended...

Shortbox of late 80s/90s Marvels with Mark Jewelers inserts (thanks Roland and keep them coming!)

Runs of high grade Lois Lanes in the 120s, Marvel Tales in the 50s, and associated Marvel 20 centers, all with Mark Jewelers inserts, from the same dealer I bought the Marvel Triple Actions and Lois Lanes last year.

I was offered a walk-in High Grade collection which I gladly bought.  The collection, bought by a single owner (German national working for the military) straight from the military newsstands, included 70s Marvel and DC (with MJ inserts) as well as Atlas Seaboard and a small sampling of Charltons.  The collection also had a Gold Key comic with the MJ insert; the first I've seen.

Once again, the Mannheim show has proven itself to be my favorite show in South-Central Germany.  But sadly, it was my last Mannheim show.  I'll be busy moving when the next show is held in August.  I'd love to show you pictures but forgot my camera this trip.  A fact which I'm pretty annoyed about due to the pictures I took last year not coming out clearly.  

My next show, and last in Germany, will be Stuttgart in June.  The Stuttgart shows are great but don't have the number of US comics available that Mannheim does.  Mannheim is the place for US comics.  And I'll miss it...even after I leave Germany...


3/1/05 - Quick rant to tell you all the next Mannheim Comic Show is this Saturday, 5 Mar 05 from 0900-1500.  It's still  located in the church annex, Jakobus-Pfarrei, Domstiftstrasse 40.  Actually the show is closer to Ludwigshafen than Mannheim but I'm not the one organizing it.  Regardless, this was my favorite show I attended last year.  You can read about the great time I had here.  One of the main reasons I enjoy it was it's one of the few in South/Central Germany that collectors can buy Silver/Bronze US comics from someone other than me.  So I can do some serious shopping for a change.  As far as my selection, and you all that my inventory is to die for, I'll have 12 long boxes available.  I will only be doing one other show this year, Stuttgart in June, before I leave Germany in late Aug.  I can definitely say I'll have some duplicates of the comics pictured in the rant below, and more not pictured, with me.  Won't be long before I ship them back to States where they'll sit in storage for the next year and a half.  So now's the time to buy them if you want them...


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