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Antiques & Collecting: Tons of bumper fun go up for grabs.

Byline: Harry Hawkes

Cartoonist and comics collector Denis Gifford whose huge collection of material is being sold in a series of sales starting tomorrow. This study, completed in 1990, shows Denis amid his comic heroes and was drawn in ink and watercolours by a fellow cartoonist, Rob.

By Harry Hawkes

In the 'wham, bam' world of children's comics the name of Denis Gifford stands supreme. An obsessive collector, newspaper cartoonist, comic strip artist, archivist, author and chronicler, he amassed Britain's biggest collection of comics, an accumulation which at his death last year was found to weigh no less than 12 tons.

Now, having sorted, classified and catalogued them all, this heavyweight archive of children's wit, humour and amusement has been sectioned into a series of auction sales which will continue right through this year - six sales which together have been described as The Greatest Comic Show on Earth. The first is being held tomorrow.

The comics are being sold by Hamer Auctions at Station House, Carlton Road, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Well known for its expertise in valuing, buying and selling books of all descriptions, Hamer is also noted in the field of children's comics.

With such a vast amount of material going under the hammer during 12 months, it is difficult to forecast what final figure the Gifford collection is likely to achieve by the end of the sales in December. However, guesstimates in excess of pounds 50,000 have been suggested.

Denis Gifford was born in 1927 and attended Dulwich College where he got to know one pupil particularly well and with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. That pupil was the future radio and television comedian, compere and showbiz star, Bob Monkhouse. The two of them were to work together on scripts later for a host of radio and television shows.

In a foreword to the catalogue for tomorrow's sale, Bob Monkhouse writes of his schooldays' friendship with Denis in which they both drew countless strip cartoons for Dandy, The Beano, Knockout and Radio Fun. He said: 'Denis was conscripted into the RAF in 1945 and he became well established as a newspaper cartoonist, drawing regularly for The London Evening News, Reynolds News and various comic magazines of the day. However, his passion remained fixed on kids' comics.

'You cannot begin to imagine his grief when he completed his National Service to return home to find that his mother had thrown away his huge collection of Film Fun, The Joker, Merry and Bright and a dozen other titles.'

He continued: 'Denis was to spend the rest of his life trying to replace those lost copies.'

Denis Gifford also wrote some 30 books including The Complete Catalogue of British Comics and Price Guide: The International Book of Comics; Test Your Nostalgia Quotient; A Pictorial History of Horror Movies; The Encyclopedia of Comic Characters and Eric and Ernie's TV Fun Book.

And he has lectured on the subject of comics to audiences in New York, Spain, Italy, Oxford and Cambridge. For many the sale will bring back fond memories of childhood pleasures, untried worlds of adult wonders, long hot summers, and, of course, innocence and lots of laughter. Without television and just Children's Hour from the BBC on the wireless, the early comics were well worth the penny, or twopence, which they cost.

Ah, I hear you say, Gran, if only I had saved my weekly Magnet, Hotspur, Beano and Dandy. Indeed. The twopence spent on the latter titles I found was money well spent for each gave hours of amusement - even though my parents tried hard to convert me to the more educational Boys Own.

Never mind. I suspect that like thousands of other pre-war schoolkids I thrived on that magical diet of adventure and fun provided by Big Eggo, the ostrich, Korky the Cat, Desperate Dan and the myriad adventures of their friends, in the comic strips which supported them.

When DC Thomson published its first copy of Beano on July 30, 1938, it cost two old pence. Tomorrow, a very desirable copy of this No 1 with very little damage despite its age, is expected to make at least pounds 2,500, despite the absence of its free gift, a giveaway whoopee mask.

Although the No 1 Dandy in the sale is not an original, this copy is still expected to fetch pounds 30. Others from a long list of first issues of comics include: Radio Fun, October 15, 1938 (pounds 150); Film Fun, January 17, 1920 (pounds 100); and Knock-Out, March 4, 1939 (pounds 400).

The sale also includes a large amount of original artwork drawn by Denis Gifford's heroes, the fellow cartoonists whose talents and professional ability he had long admired. Rarest and most expensive of these is a George Studdy original painting of Bonzo the Dog, expected to make about pounds 2,500.

Billy Bunter, Teddy Tail, Pansy Potter, Uncle Oojah, Ally Sloper and Felix the Cat are all featured here, drawn by their creators.

For further details of this first sale of The Greatest Comic Show on Earth and for dates and information about subsequent sales of the Denis Gifford collection contact Hamer Auctions, tel: 01909 569428 or 479989.

COLLECTING DIARY: Tomorrow, Profile Promotions holds an antiques and collectables fair at the King Edward VI Camp Hill Schools, Vicarage road, Kings Heath, Birmingham from 9.30-4.30pm.

On Wednesday, Spring Stampex 2001 begins at the Business Design Centre, Upper Street, Islington, London, ending on March 4.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 24, 2001
Words:912
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