Even if you’re a casual reader of comic book news, you may have heard the tragic story of Gary Dahlberg‘s death. A retired bus driver in Minneapolis, Dahlberg was killed last year when the kitchen of his home caught fire. He’d been a comic book collector since he was a child, and somehow, almost impossibly, his extensive comic book collection escaped damage from both the fire and the fire fighters’ water hoses. 407 comic books from his collection sold for $1.38 Million at Heritage’s May Signature Auction in NY last week.
62 years old when he died in June 2010, Dahlberg would have been about 10 years old as the Silver Age was getting underway in the mid/late 1950s. An important and exciting time to be entering your prime comic book reading age. Imagine being a kid and picking up Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spider-Man), and Tales of Suspense #39 (first appearance of Iron Man), and all the rest off the racks as they came out. Gary did that.
The collection includes extensive runs of Marvel, DC Comics, and other publishers from the Silver Age and beyond. And as vintage comics sales expert Rob Larsen has noted in research he has in progress, the collection contains examples for a particularly impressive number of the top Marvel and DC Silver Age keys such as Adventure Comics #247 (first Legion of Super-Heroes), Showcase #4 (first Barry Allen Flash), Showcase #22 (first Hal Jordan Green Lantern), Incredible Hulk #1, Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, and more.
Dahlberg was an avid — and meticulous — comic book fan his entire life. Working for a bookstore while he was in high school in the 1960s, Dahlberg was able to choose his copies before they were placed on the racks for sale. That advantage and the great care he took in handling them, plus the cool Minnesota climate, makes his comics– designated by CGC as the Twin Cities pedigree –among the best-preserved Silver Age collections to ever surface. Many books in the collection are top-census copies (determined to be the highest grade of a given issue among copies certified by CGC so far) and even among those that aren’t structurally the best, observers have been impressed with the white pages and fresh, bright cover inks — the result of that cool northern climate.
Dahlberg’s family had little idea of his collection’s value. Bidders present at Heritage’s NYC auction venue last week noted that members of his family were quietly surprised at the prices realized and moved by the experience of watching other collectors affirm that what was important to Gary was important to other comic book fans as well. Dahlberg will be remembered for what he left his family and the comic collecting community for quite some time.
Special thanks to auction attendee Bob Siman for the above photo. Check out some selected hilights from the Twin Cities pedigree below (click through a couple times to get bigger versions):