SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY COLLECTIBLES
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A Slightly Weird Adventure
There was one small collection I purchased that was a slightly weird experience all the way through. I was contacted by mail from someone who lived halfway between Ann Arbor and Detroit. He had a small collection of Weird Tales. The return address was a post office box, which is not unusual, but fit into a pattern that was to emerge as things developed.
There were two requests that were turnoffs. One, he had a fixed, non-negotiable price in mind, and two, he insisted on cash. The fixed price mentioned was reasonable enough, so if condition was as advertised, price would not be an issue. But I still need room to negotiate. Occasionally I encounter what many refer to as the "Roadshow Effect". So many people watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS and seeing the fabulous prices they put on items, come away with unrealistic expectations. They automatically assume anything a few years old is worth big bucks, and won't believe $1 is a good offer for a 1951 digest magazine.
The cash only was the bigger issue. For security reasons, I don't like to carry cash. And there is a tax issue. If there were ever an IRS audit, cash payments might present an issue of proof. I decided to make an exception in this case, as the Weird Tales were ones mostly missing from my personal collection, and included some I had always wanted- namely about a dozen of the Margaret Brundage covers from the 1930's.
If you are not familiar with Margaret Brundage, she was an artist best known for her nudes that made the covers of Weird Tales and other magazines of the era. See some examples scattered throughout this article.
This brings up an interesting subject I would appreciate input on, as I am not old enough to have first hand experience on the subject. I have been told that most pulps were sold openly on newsstands, but a few were kept under the counter and had to be asked for. Tijuana bibles, while not pulps, is an example of an under the counter product. I have been told Weird Tales were sold above the counter. That is hard to accept because of the racy nature of the Brundage covers. If anyone reading this has first hand experience, please drop me a line using the email link below.
To make a long story short, we agreed to a Saturday afternoon meeting at his place. One of the strange elements was that he would not tell me his address ahead of time. An express mail letter with a map arrived on the Friday before.
As I said before, his place was between Ann Arbor and Detroit Michigan, actually closer to Detroit. I did not expect there would be that much undeveloped land between the two, especially that close to Detroit. But, following the map, we turned off a main road onto a side road that led into the woods. At some point we turned off on another unpaved side road and finally onto another unmarked unpaved road. The road ended at a cabin in the woods. There was no car in sight, and stacked around the cabin were large piles of firewood. We got the immediate impression he heated with wood, but the way the wood was stacked, it looked like some sort of fortification.
We (myself and my now terrified small sons) knocked on the door. No answer. We expected at least Goldilocks would answer the door. We waited a bit, knocked again, and walked around the place. We were beginning to think we had been stood up. We waited about 10 minutes and decided to go have lunch as we were running late and had to skip it earlier. As we were going back to the van, a bearded man in a red flannel shirt suddenly appeared from somewhere. It was obvious he had been hiding, but apparently decided we were harmless and showed himself.
We went inside. The cabin was fairly spacious, maybe 20ft by 20 ft- all in one room. There was a kitchen area along one wall, and a single bed along another, and a large woodstove along another wall.
The only other furniture in the room was a small table and a single chair. On the table was a 2 foot high stack of Weird Tales. He obviously lived alone.
The only other items in the room were a huge number of LP vinyl record albums in plastic milk crates. When asked, he admitted to over 5000, but he had lost count long ago. He also admitted to having no record player.
So I hope you are not disappointed after reading this far, as I am not going to clear up any mysteries... Was he a hermit who lived alone and liked it? Was he on the outs with his wife, and this was the "dog house"? Was he in witness protection for witnessing a mob hit in Detroit? We will never know.
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