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Going on a beano for rare comics
[March 11, 2006]

Going on a beano for rare comics

(Daily Post (Liverpool) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)WHICH favourite British children's comic came first, Dandy or Beano? Here's a clue: the year was 1937. I can clearly remember reading both (though mine were 1960s editions) and I had no idea either was as old as they are.

I found the answer on a newly-launched auction website this week - - the only one in existence specialising solely in online auctions of vintage comics and children's annuals.

It's the brainchild of inveterate collector Ashley Robinson. His aim is to save collectors the hassle of hunting around car boot sales for years to find just one comic, usually in poor condition. It's a niche market but one that Scarce Comics looks set to dominate.

With the first edition of the Dandy selling in September 2004 for pounds 20,000, the market is also a rich one. Ashley points out that vintage British comics are fast being snapped up and it is no longer possible to buy piles of them from charity shops.

As more people realise the true value of vintage comics, it becomes increasingly important to locate the people prepared to pay the heady prices some can fetch. Scarce Comics is fast becoming the first port of call for dealers and collectors, and with its online search and selling tools, the site is simple, secure and professional. It's also inexpensive. A basic auction listing with single image costs just 30p, and extras such as fixing the reserve price (always essential) and each further image a further 30p each. Specials such as icons (50p), boldface titles (50p) and highlights (pounds 2.50) are add-ons.

Buying is even easier, though not necessarily as inexpensive! Having registered to bid, which is free, the site recommends you learn about the seller by reading feedback and ratings left by others.

Read the item description and payment and shipping terms closely. If the seller has guarantees or a return policy, make sure you know the terms. If there is anything you are uncertain about, contact the seller before you bid. By bidding, you enter a contract between you and the seller.

Comments from past customers augur well. They include "very happy with the service and the site is fantastic"' "looking forward to buying from you again" and "this is the most user-friendly Internet auction I have ever used".

To find the answer to the which-came-first question, has some fascinating pages giving the history of some favourites.

Scottish newspaper publishers D C Thomson were already publishing boys' annuals but on December 4,1937, in response to comic strips in English newspapers, they launched The Dandy. The Beano was launched on July 30, 1938.

Ashley says: "The humour in both comics was basic - the fun stemmed from the idiosyncratic and often larger-than-life characters which were carefully designed to allow readers to relate to and sympathise with them.

"The serious side of the papers was given over to text and picture adventure stories featuring strong and heroic personalities.

"Readers might question the credibility, but not the behaviour. There was a strong moral code. Parental and school authority might be challenged in the cartoons, but the establishment always won through. Similarly in the 'straight' stories, good always triumphed over evil."

D C Thomson published a third comic, The Magic, in July 1939 in the same style as Dandy and Beano and a slightly simpler approach to appeal to a younger reader. However, the Second World War caused a shortage of newsprint and Magic closed, while Dandy and Beano were published on alternate weeks.

"Had the Nazis managed to invade, not only would these comics have been closed down immediately, but their editors probably would have been thrown in prison or shot as the comics were strongly propagandist," Ashley says.

D C Thomson launched The Topper in 1953 and its companion The Beezer three years later, the four comics dominating the market with such unforgettable characters as Korky The Cat, Desperate Dan, Biffo The Bear, Beryl The Peril, Lord Snooty, The Badd Lads, The Bash Street Kids, Minnie The Minx and, of course, Dennis The Menace.

Other launches followed including Sparky (in 1965), Buzz (1973), Cracker (1975), Plug (1977), Nutty (1980) and Hoot (1985) but all eventually faded until only Dandy and Beano remained, as they do today.

A surf through turned up one copy of Beano, number 149, dated 1941, which had been found in an old air raid shelter. The starting bid was pounds 50 and at the time of writing, there were 14 days to go in the auction... time to check the attic, I think.

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