Superman: Cool or Cruel?

Aug 08

action2.jpgThis is the kind of story that makes you feel good to be alive. Or slit your wrists.

A family in the south had fallen on hard times. They were out of work, out of money, but — hold on to your Kryptonite — not out of luck.

As they were cleaning out the attic, because the house they had owned for 60 years was now in foreclosure, they came across a pile of old comics. And, yes, you guessed it! They found a copy of Action Comics #1. Holy Phonebooth! That’s the first, and very valuable, comic featuring The Man of Steel.

One of these babies sold for $1.5 million, although the copy in question isn’t in pristine condition, and will probably fetch “only” about a quarter to a half million.

No one is complaining! Superman literally saved the day, just as you always dreamed he would.

So cool.
And yet so cruel.

Because you just know that sometime, somewhere, you had something you didn’t realize was valuable and threw it away in a fit of feng shui gone terribly wrong. Or maybe, like someone I know, your mother tossed out an actual copy of Action Comics #1 just to tidy things up. Ouch!

And what about The Antiques Road Show? Sure, most of the stuff people bring in turn out to be just that, stuff: fakes, frauds or just plain old junk. But the items they show on TV tend to be real, and are worth real money.

You could have something like that hiding somewhere at this very moment . . .

Something like that old, rather plain-looking striped blanket an ordinary guy brought to the Roadshow. He knew it was am antique and that it was a Navajo design, but had no idea that he had a “national treasure.” The appraiser was hyperventilating so badly that he could hardly get out the words: it’s a valuable piece of art worth $350-$500,000 on a good day. On a bad day? A measly quarter of a million. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had days a lot worse than that.

Then there was that weird looking china from China a woman had in her family. (My family heirlooms consist of pizza tins from my uncle’s restaurant in Coney Island.)  Actually, the “china” was pure jade made for the emperor of Japan and was worth $1,070,000. Who knew? Not her. Not us. And how do they come up with these figures?

I like headlines with nice, round numbers, like “Million Dollar Painting Found In Garage.” Or the one about the Ansel Adams negatives that someone bought at a garage sale for $45 (haggled down from $60), which may be worth 200 million dollars. Yes. 200. Million. Well, this one is under investigation as a possible fraud because some carbon dating diddling may be involved. But still. And how about the genuine copy of the Declaration of Independence found under a worthless painting bought in a dusty old antique shop? Priceless.

These things give you hope on one hand, and pull out the rug from under you with the other.

What are the chances that you will ever have  — and realize that you have — one of these treasures?

One in a trillion (inflation, darling, inflation)? Slim to none? About the same as winning this week’s lottery?

SupermanLet’s face it. You probably have a better chance of having Superman himself swoop down to save you from the baddies, then fly you up to his rent-controlled penthouse in midtown Metropolis. No wait. It was Lois Lane who had the penthouse. On a reporter’s salary. Yeah, right. Maybe she found a copy of Action Comics in the attic. But will you? Or perhaps the Superman stamp you got from the Post Office for 39 cents will end up being worth a fortune.

Unlike the appraiser of the bountiful blanky on Antiques Roadshow, don’t hold your breath.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt to check your garage . . .



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