If you were to start collecting Golden Age comics from scratch today, it wouldn’t take long to run into “pedigree copies.”
Thanks to original owners who collected comics numbering in the thousands to tens of thousands during the late 1930’s to early 1950’s, high grade issues within long series runs or otherwise rare and difficult to obtain comic books were preserved. In other words, without pedigrees a lot of nice comics simply wouldn’t have survived.
Eleven thousand Crippen ‘D’ comic books were reveled to the collecting community in 2005 (relatively late in the pedigree time continuum). However, 15 years earlier approximately 2,000 comic books bearing the same distinct front cover ‘D’ and inside hand-written pencil codes had been selling on the comic market (possibly without the authorization of the original owner). The comic trove was big enough news to be written up in the Wall-Street Journal. As described by auction house Heritage “the depth and breadth of the collection is second only to the Edgar Church/Mile High collection, the most famous hoard in all of comics.” Crippen ‘D’ was also unique to pedigrees in that Heritage was able to bring the entire 11,000 copies direct to the comic collecting public via one large auction.
Davis Crippen began aggressively collecting starting in 1939 at the age of 9 – attempting to get every issue that hit the newsstands. Many of the comics were never even read. He was so dedicated he continued adding to his collection between 1949-1952 while in college at University of Michigan by mailing his comics to his parents in Washington D.C.. His accumulations slowed after graduation and joining the U.S. Army.
My Crippen ‘D” Police Comics #41 (April 1945) would have been purchased by a young Davis Crippen at about 15 years of age (shown here with its certificate of authenticity).
In addition to the covers commonly bearing the “Crippen D” distinguishing mark (a hand-written “D”) they also contain a coding system on the inside pages. My copy of Crippen’s Police Comics #68 (July 1947) for example displays in the top right first inside page the code “5772-QCC-628.” In this example, the comic was published Quality Comics, hence the “QCC.” Some speculate the first series of numbers represents the total number of books collected up to that issue. Hence this book would have been his 5,772nd comic book. The third set of numbers might be the number of books collected from each publisher (hence his 628th copy of a Quality Comics published book).
During the initial 2006 auction comics that realized the highest prices included Suspense Comics #3 ($47,800), Superman #1 ($35,850) and Detective Comics #31 ($17,327). There has not been a lot of turnover of these comics since then, as collectors are holding on to them tightly. The Detective Comics #31 did resell at auction just three years later (2009) for almost $10,000 more than the initial selling price. In today’s (2019) market, the Crippen ‘D’ Superman #1 (GCG grade 3.0) would likely fetch north of $250,000.