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updated: 12/23/2013 7:35 AM

Comic book auction nets Kildeer man with rare disease $570,000

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  • Video: Dentist sells comic collection

  • Steven Landman of Kildeer has auctioned a portion of his comic book collection. Landman suffers from a rare autoimmune disease and the money will help with medical expenses.

       Steven Landman of Kildeer has auctioned a portion of his comic book collection. Landman suffers from a rare autoimmune disease and the money will help with medical expenses.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Steven Landman of Kildeer has auctioned a portion of his comic book collection. Landman suffers from a rare autoimmune disease and the money will help with medical expenses.

       Steven Landman of Kildeer has auctioned a portion of his comic book collection. Landman suffers from a rare autoimmune disease and the money will help with medical expenses.
    Photos by Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Landman looks through boxes of comic books he's collected since he was a kid. The auction, which finished last week, raised $570,000.

      Landman looks through boxes of comic books he's collected since he was a kid. The auction, which finished last week, raised $570,000.

 
 

An online auction of classic comic books raised $570,000 for a Kildeer resident battling a rare autoimmune disease.

Key comics included in the auction featured the debuts of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk and Thor. Those and many of the others that sold in the auction were from publisher Marvel Comics' output in the early 1960s, the much-beloved period fans and industry historians call the Silver Age.

The books belonged to dentist Steve Landman, who is closing his Lake Zurich practice because of his illness. The proceeds, minus auction fees and other costs, will give him some extra savings and could pay for potentially expensive treatments and any related travel.

"The money will help for a time once my income stops," Landman, 62, told the Daily Herald.

Gary Colabuono, former owner of the Chicago-area Moondog's Comics chain, helped arrange the auction, which was conducted via comicconnect.com and concluded last week.

"This collection is the finest Silver Age collection I've ever seen in my nearly 40 years selling comics," Colabuono said in an email.

Landman has been collecting comics since he was a kid. He had planned to sell the stash of more than 15,000 books after he retired.

Those plans changed after Landman was diagnosed about two years ago with anti-MAG IgM peripheral neuropathy, a disease that attacks the nerves. Symptoms include muscle weakness, sensory problems, trouble walking and other motor-skill issues.

A cure hasn't been discovered, and treatments -- including an aggressive form of chemotherapy -- aren't always effective. Additionally, Landman's case is progressing more quickly than expected.

Landman decided to sell some of his comics after an inquiry from an East Coast collector. He worked with Colabuono to set up the sale and to select books for the auction block.

"I imagine that this is a good enough time as any to sell a comic collection, what with all the superhero movies out there," Landman said.

More than 400 of Landman's comics were sold. Among the most expensive sales were copies of:

• Fantastic Four No. 1, which went for $60,000.

• Tales to Astonish No. 27, which featured the first Ant-Man story and sold for $40,000.

• Incredible Hulk No. 1, which sold for $26,055.

• Journey Into Mystery 83, which had the first Thor story and sold for $26,000.

As often is the case with auctions, the buyers' identities haven't been made public, even to Landman.

"I'd love to meet the people and (ask) why they bought them and what they plan to do with them," he said.

Some of Landman's comics fetched high prices in the auction not because of their content but because they were from that era and were in pristine condition, an important quality for any art or book collector.

Comics are graded on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being perfect or "gem mint." Five of the 10 top-selling Landman comics received grades of 9 or higher, with three given 9.8 marks.

But condition wasn't everything in the auction. A copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which had the first Spider-Man story, sold for $13,400 even though it was graded a relatively low 5.

"Any key Silver Age Marvels in even lower-graded condition are always going to have good collectibility and resale value," said Charlie Balicki, manager of the Dreamland Comics store in Libertyville.

None of the Landman comics approached the $2.1 million price paid in 2011 for a copy of Action Comics No. 1, a 1938 comic featuring Superman's first appearance.

Even so, Colabuono called the auction "a huge success."

"I wasn't really surprised by the results, though, since this collection was truly special," he said. "Collectors were quick to realize that, too."

In addition to raising money for his medical bills, Landman hopes the auction will raise awareness of his disease. He's already heard from a few people who are similarly afflicted, and he hopes someone out there has a key to a reliable treatment or cure.

"Who knows when someone is going to say something that's magic," Landman said.

• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.

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