Life-size model of a mammoth, or mastodon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Florida ‘muck’ a factor in Daytona mastodon’s preservation

Life-size model of a mammoth, or mastodon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Life-size model of a mammoth, or mastodon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Workers recently stumbled upon remains of an Ice Age mastodon on a construction site, experts say Florida has a unique collection of natural conditions that make it one of the best places in the nation to find preserved fossils.

The dark black muck that surrounded the mastodon bones is nothing visually appealing, but it’s one of the key pieces of scientific magic that helped preserve the fossilized remains found in a half-built retention pond near the intersection of Mason Avenue and Nova Road.

The muck chokes off any oxygen that would cause decay and entombs whatever is in it, paleontology experts say.

The protective muck, mineral-filled natural springs with constant temperatures, low-lying swampy areas, abundant limestone and naturally occurring phosphate in Florida soils have all preserved pieces of history that would have otherwise vanished tens of thousands of years ago, those experts say.

The many layers of soils, steady warm air temperatures and low-lying coastal areas, where deceased animals can be covered up quickly, also help.

“We’ve probably all walked over fossils and skeletons and never known it,” said James “Zach” Zacharias, an education and history curator at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach. “This whole area up and down Nova Road must have been teeming with Ice Age mammals.”

Some have dubbed parts of Central Florida “Bone Valley” because of the fossils found here.

“In Florida we have a rich fossil layer that runs through the state,” said Russell Brown, president of the Orlando-based Florida Fossil Hunters group and an amateur paleontologist.

One of the only reasons animal bones and teeth thousands of years old aren’t found more often is because there’s usually no good reason to dig 10 to 15 feet down. But when workers creating South Daytona’s Reed Canal Park in 1975 started peeling away the layers of earth, they found the full skeleton of a giant ground sloth in muck there.

When workers building the city government retention pond near Mason and Nova were hitting that 10-foot level about a week ago, they stumbled on the mastodon’s jaw along with some other bone fragments.

Amateur paleontologists and volunteers from the Museum of Arts & Sciences were allowed to look around the 4-acre retention pond, and they started finding things most every day last week. They’ve unearthed most of the two tusks, parts of the skull, ribs, vertebrae, teeth, a partial leg bone, a joint of some sort and various bone pieces they haven’t identified yet.

The remains have been there for at least 13,000 years, when that type of mastodon went extinct, but the animal could have died as long as 130,000 years ago.

The paleontologists and museum officials say they think they’ve got an adult male mastodon — 100,000 years old by their best guess for now — but they aren’t confident they’re going to find its full skeleton. They’re afraid the retention pond workers might have unwittingly sent some mastodon remains through a rock crusher, not realizing what was in their piles of dirt.

The paleontologists and museum officials have had their kids helping sift through debris piles at the site, but Zacharias said most of those kids have been on sites before and they’d know enough to distinguish between remains and rocks.

They also say it’s possible the full skeleton wasn’t preserved there. Maybe other animals, ancient rivers or ocean tides carried off pieces.

They plan to make today their last day to search unless construction workers on the site stumble on more remains. At the city’s request, a St. Augustine archaeologist is tentatively scheduled to be on site Monday to look for Native American remains and artifacts.

Even if nothing else is found, the paleontologists will still count it as an incredible find.

“It’s pretty rare to find the full skeleton,” Zacharias said.

There are only about 12 known full mastodon skeletons that have been found in Florida, said Richard Hulbert, vertebrate paleontology collections manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

“Mostly we find pieces of mastodons and mammoths in rivers,” said Valerie First, a historian for the group Florida Fossil Hunters.

First said she also knows of small mastodon tusks found near New Smyrna Beach about 10 years ago when a road was being built.

Zacharias said the mastodon remains found in Daytona Beach have been put in locked storage at the museum. The next step will be cleaning them, examining them and seeing if some of the fragments fit together.

First cautioned the bones will need to be dried out gradually, or else they could “disintegrate into powder.”

Eventually the museum would like to display them, possibly near the sloth.

When the sloth and mastodon were wandering Volusia County, the terrain was pretty different, various experts said. That would have been during the Ice Age, when sea level could have been about 300 feet lower, Florida would have been about three times as wide and Daytona Beach would have been nowhere near the coast, Hulbert said.

Glaciers would have expanded down to the Midwest, Florida’s temperatures would have been cooler and there could have been moderate amounts of snow in the winter.

Daytona Beach also would have been on higher ground relative to the ocean, and the plant life would have been a little different, experts say. There would have been savanna-like areas where animals could have grazed, they say.

The mastodons would have preferred to be near water, and would have been along rivers and the ocean.

The spot where the Daytona mastodon was found “was probably a drainage area like the St. Johns River, or a coastal lowland area,” Zacharias said. “It was very mucky.”

That muck was an ideal spot for preservation, as is water that also prevents the decaying effects of oxygen.

“There’s a good chance here for animals to land in rivers, springs, lagoons and muck,” Brown said. “Anything to keep out air.”

Over many thousands of years, layer after layer built up over the ancient animal remains, he said.

The muck surrounding the Daytona mastodon preserved much of the original bone material, Zacharias said.

“The bone still looks and feels like original bone,” he said. “There’s not much mineralization.”

Sandy marine layers with shells don’t do much for preservation, he said.

“You get more mineralization in the marine layer, and it would be really hard like rock,” he said. “Minerals will fill the cellular spaces and crystallize.”

The abundant phosphate found in Florida’s soil can strengthen bone, which helps preserve it, said Jimmy Waldron, a former president of Florida Fossil Hunters who’s still active with the group.

A few specimens of a more ancient type of mastodon than the one found in Daytona Beach have been found in the phosphate mines of Polk County in the middle of Florida, Hulbert said.

Those who examine the Daytona mastodon’s teeth will be able to determine its age and health, Brown said. Carbon-dating of bone samples is also planned.

Brown said “it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

“We may learn something about this one animal that changes what we know about this area,” he said.

Zacharias agrees, saying he’s excited to show off parts of an animal that haven’t been seen in 100,000 years.

“I’m very thankful it didn’t go to the rock crusher,” he said. “It’ll be an excellent educational tool.”

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Online: Daytona Beach News-Journal

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Life-size model of a mammoth, or mastodon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Life-size model of a mammoth, or mastodon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rare rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa, China, 19th to 20th century, on carved wood stand, 7 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Kaminski expects ongoing success with Asian auction Dec. 8-10

Rare rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa, China, 19th to 20th century, on carved wood stand, 7 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Rare rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa, China, 19th to 20th century, on carved wood stand, 7 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

BEVERLY, Mass. – Celebrating the success of their August Asian sale, Kaminski Auctions will showcase a stunning array of Asian porcelain, ceramics, furniture and fine art in their Fine Asian Art and Antiques auction on Dec. 8, 9 and 10 at their auction gallery at 117 Elliott St. LiveAuctioneers will provide Internet live bidding.

Top lots in this auction include a rare Chinese rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa of classical form with a circular stepped plinth supporting a double lotus throne with four seated Buddha, and a spiral carved with lotus petals surmounted by a tapered parasol. Standing at 7 1/2 inches high on a carved wood stand, it is estimated at $30,000-$50,000. There is also a strand of 19th century Chinese rhinoceros horn prayer beads, comprised of 108 beads interspaced with carved coral and ivory beads, with an overall length of 59 inches, which estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Some interesting entries in the sale include a pair of large recumbent enameled wood rams from mid 19th century. The rams are entirely decorated with auspicious animals and longevity motifs. They are estimated at $30,000-$50,000. From the Qianlong Period (1736-1795), there is an exquisite set of semiprecious stone ornaments, featuring jade, jadeite, lapis, coral, seed pearls and turquoise. Totaling 16 pieces, the delicate ornaments are in their original fitted silk-lined box and are estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Important porcelain pieces in the sale include a Ming Dynasty blue and white bowl decorated with scrolling floral design, ruyi motif and Sanskrit characters estimated at $20,000-$30,000. Another highlight of the auction is a collection of Rose Mandarin porcelain, including a pair of Rose Mandarin jars with covers, decorated with figures and auspicious emblems. Standing at 24 inches tall, they are estimated to bring $22,000-$26,000. Another is a pair of 18th century rose mandarin vases with square stemmed bases, decorated with figures in courtyard scenes. The pair is estimated at $18,000-$21,000. A large single Rose Medallion vase, 34 inches tall, with a flared and scalloped rim and gilt handles in the form of twin foo dogs, is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

A highly sought after item in the sale is a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) musical instrument. The top is decorated with calligraphy and inlays of mother-of-pearl and stones depicting musicians. The hardware is of jade carved with the ruyi design. A similar instrument in the August Asian sale brought $64,000.

This auction also features unusual brush pots. One is Chinese late Ming to early Qing dynasty brushpot of natural tree root form that is estimated at $18,000-$25,000 and a Yongzheng Period (1722-1735) coconut brush pot of cylinder form carved with intricate scrolling floral motifs and a base carved with dragons and lotuses estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

From a private collection in California comes a pair of 19th century Chinese Lokapala guardians, carved of Shoushan stone estimated to bring $20,000-$30,000. There are also several antique Buddhist stone panels in the sale, including one with a rectangular base decorated with the head of a mythical beast flanked by two seated Bodhisattvas, with a central panel carved with a seated Buddha, valued at $20,000-$30,000.

Antique paintings represented in the sale include a Ming Dynasty silk painting of a procession scene, estimated at $3,000 to $5,000, as well as an early Qing Dynasty landscape with calligraphy, signed and marked with two seals, valued at $10,000 to $20,000. Other highlights include a Song Dynasty (960-1276) silk painting of fruits, as well as a 19th century scroll painting signed “Lin Liang,” of a pair of eagles perched high on a mountain, with an estimate of $4,000-$7,000.

There will be over a dozen lots of remarkably carved Chinese stands and intricately carved jar covers from a private collection. These stunning pieces were acquired from the Frank Caro Gallery, Madison Avenue, New York, and originally purchased by the renowned Asian art dealer, C.T. Loo.

Ching Tsai Loo was the preeminent dealer of Chinese art and artifacts for the first half of the 20th century. Starting his business in Paris, C.T. Loo was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing early Chinese art—bronzes, jades, paintings—to the United States and Europe.

Because of Loo’s connections in Asia, he was able to obtain major pieces for such collectors as J.P. Morgan, Samuel Peters, Alfred Pillsbury, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Denman W. Ross, Richard E. Fuller and Henry Clay Frick.

By the early 1910s he had became an established art dealer in Paris. In the mid-1910s, Loo moved the center of his business to the United States, specifically New York City, where he emerged as one of the top international dealers of Chinese art.

C.T. Loo was a collector as well as a connoisseur, publisher, exhibitioner, organizer, and patron of art. Fifty years after his death, these objects still grace many art museums including the Arthur M. Sacker Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the St. Louis Art Museum.

In Kaminski’s August auction, wood stands from this important collection sold far above auction estimates and prices ranged from $1,700 to a high of $6,500 for a 19th century, carved sexfoil form wood censor stand with intricate foliate designs. A 17th century wood vase cover with a jade finial in the form of Buddha’s hand symbolizing longevity and good fortune sold for $5,500. And a 19th century wood incense stand, the trefoil tiered form elaborately carved with scrolls and flowers sold for $4,500.

There are over a dozen lots of these prized stands and vase covers in the December Asian sale, from the same private collector. Perhaps the most important lot is a pair of rosewood stands with pierced ruyi and scrolling foliate design estimated at $1,500-$2,000. There is also a rare Kangxi Period blue glazed hexagonal porcelain stand with a monster mask surmounting each of the six feet. It is estimated at $1,200-$1,500. This collection includes stands and covers made of zitan, carved teak, rosewood and porcelain.

Kaminski‘s Fine Asian Art and Antiques auction will be held at their auction gallery at 117 Elliott St. in Beverly, Thursday, Dec., 8 starting at 6 p.m. Eastern and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9 and 10 at 9 a.m. Preview are daily through Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Dec. 8, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Dec. 9 and 10 at 8 a.m. until sale time. For more information, register to bid, or order an auction catalog please call 978-927-2223 or view the sale online at www.kaminskiauctions.com.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Rare rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa, China, 19th to 20th century, on carved wood stand, 7 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

 

Rare rhinoceros horn Buddhist stupa, China, 19th to 20th century, on carved wood stand, 7 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Pair of rosewood Imperial stands, China, 19th century, entirely carved with pierced ruyi and scrolling foliate design, 2 1/4 inches x 4 1/2 inches. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

 

Pair of rosewood Imperial stands, China, 19th century, entirely carved with pierced ruyi and scrolling foliate design, 2 1/4 inches x 4 1/2 inches. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Pair of Rose Mandarin jars with covers, China, 19th century, on gilt wood bases, jar with cover 24 inches high x 14 1/2 inches wide, stands 3 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $22,000-$26,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

 

Pair of Rose Mandarin jars with covers, China, 19th century, on gilt wood bases, jar with cover 24 inches high x 14 1/2 inches wide, stands 3 1/2 inches high.Estimate: $22,000-$26,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Pair of recumbent rams, China, mid-19th century, of enameled wood, 28 inches high x 11 inches wide x 25 inches long. Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

 

Pair of recumbent rams, China, mid-19th century, of enameled wood, 28 inches high x 11 inches wide x 25 inches long. Estimate: $30,000-$50,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Carved stone Buddha, China, 31inches high x 15 inches wide x 5 inches deep. Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

 

Carved stone Buddha, China, 31inches high x 15 inches wide x 5 inches deep. Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions.

Pair of rose mandarin urns, China, 18th century, decorated with figures in courtyard scenes, 14 3/4 inches high x 8 3/4 inches wide. Estimate: $16,000-$21,000.

 

Pair of rose mandarin urns, China, 18th century, decorated with figures in courtyard scenes, 14 3/4 inches high x 8 3/4 inches wide. Estimate: $16,000-$21,000.

Closeup of stitchery on a Shenandoah Valley, Va., white-work quilt. Image courtesy of Virginia Quilt Museum and Beverley and Jeffrey S. Evans.

Va. Quilt Museum exhibit focuses on Shenandoah Valley designs

Closeup of stitchery on a Shenandoah Valley, Va., white-work quilt. Image courtesy of Virginia Quilt Museum and Beverley and Jeffrey S. Evans.

Closeup of stitchery on a Shenandoah Valley, Va., white-work quilt. Image courtesy of Virginia Quilt Museum and Beverley and Jeffrey S. Evans.

HARRISONBURG, Va. – In a groundbreaking exhibition to run from Feb. 1 through May 12, 2012 at the Virginia Quilt Museum, guest curators Beverley and Jeff Evans will examine white-work bedcovers produced in the Shenandoah Valley during the first half of the 19th century. The Evanses own and operate the Virginia auction house Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and are renowned experts in early Americana.

Embellished with a variety of stitched and woven ornamentations ranging from formal and structured to naïve and whimsical, the examples included in the exhibit represent the diverse cultural tendencies of the region. By their very nature, these domiciliary works of art have been underappreciated in the larger discipline of textile collecting and study. This exhibition will endeavor to remedy those prior failings by bringing to light a variety of well-documented examples drawn from private and institutional collections, most of which have not been previously displayed in a public venue.

The Evanses will define and compare the terms counterpane, coverlet (coverlid) and white-work quilt (wedding quilt) by delineating the characteristics of each style including construction aspects, decorative techniques, and original usage. They will also explore the cultural background of the three styles including the overall and specific symbolism seen in each. By surveying original source materials like court records, estate inventories, diaries, ledgers and daybooks, the curators desire to present a compelling context for white work within the material culture of bed coverings in the Shenandoah Valley.

Plans are in the works to produce an accompanying catalog to document the exhibit. An opening reception will be held at the museum on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 from 4-6 p.m.

Visit the museum online at www.vaquiltmuseum.org.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Closeup of stitchery on a Shenandoah Valley, Va., white-work quilt. Image courtesy of Virginia Quilt Museum and Beverley and Jeffrey S. Evans.

Closeup of stitchery on a Shenandoah Valley, Va., white-work quilt. Image courtesy of Virginia Quilt Museum and Beverley and Jeffrey S. Evans.

Memorial Chapel on the campus of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Image taken by Mexican Villains, May 24, 2008.

Next legal step uncertain for O’Keeffe art at Fisk

Memorial Chapel on the campus of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Image taken by Mexican Villains, May 24, 2008.

Memorial Chapel on the campus of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Image taken by Mexican Villains, May 24, 2008.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Fisk University’s decade-long quest to generate cash from a 101-piece art collection donated by the late painter Georgia O’Keeffe is one step closer to fruition.

But it is unclear how quickly the historically black university in Nashville will be able to complete a $30 million deal to sell a 50 percent stake in the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The artworks would move between Fisk and the museum every two years.

An appeals court ruling Tuesday threw out a judge’s requirement for Fisk to reserve two-thirds of the proceeds to pay for future upkeep of the collection.

The state attorney general’s office, which has fought to keep the collection from leaving Nashville, has not yet decided whether to seek an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Memorial Chapel on the campus of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Image taken by Mexican Villains, May 24, 2008.

Memorial Chapel on the campus of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Image taken by Mexican Villains, May 24, 2008.

Under current South Carolina law, sweetgrass baskets such as this one of Charleston origin, do not incur state sales tax. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Ivy Auctions.

Sales tax exemption lawsuit heard by SC high court

Under current South Carolina law, sweetgrass baskets such as this one of Charleston origin, do not incur state sales tax. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Ivy Auctions.

Under current South Carolina law, sweetgrass baskets such as this one of Charleston origin, do not incur state sales tax. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Ivy Auctions.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges the state’s $2.7 billion in sales tax exemptions on things ranging from portable toilets to sweetgrass baskets.

State lawmakers have stitched together a patchwork of sales tax caps and exemptions so large that it undermines the statute that is supposed to fund education and brings in only $2.2 billion in revenues, argued attorneys seeking to end the practice.

“We have a state sales tax statute for education and then we have exemptions that have nothing to do with education,” attorney Camden Lewis argued. Such “special legislation” is considered illegal in South Carolina, Lewis argued.

But attorneys for the state argued the Legislature acted properly in approving such exemptions.

“These are policy matters for the General Assembly. These are political questions,” said Assistant Deputy Attorney General Emory Smith.

Smith and lawmakers who joined in to argue against the suit said the case is a political maneuver and not a legal matter for the high court to decide.

All of the justices joined in repeatedly questioning attorneys arguing against the exemptions, asking whether there was any legal standing to even bring such a case.

Chief Justice Jean Toal queried the state’s attorneys why sales from the state’s 300-year-old tradition of making sweetgrass baskets were exempt, but not the pottery made by the state’s Catawba Indians.

Another justice wondered why one of the attorney’s arguing against the exemption only pays a $300 sales tax on his “six-figure car” because of a cap, while his legal secretary pays the same $300 tax on a vehicle that costs less than $20,000.

“These exemptions are constitutional,” insisted attorney Milton Kimpson. Every exemption has a rational basis and for the court to find otherwise would intrude upon the Legislature’s lawmaking role, he added.

The exemptions exist on items like prescription drugs, residential power and water bills, groceries, guns, lottery tickets, and the sale or rental of portable toilets.

Lewis argued that since the law was set up to fund education, only exemptions that deal with education would be proper _ such as for textbooks. The General Assembly has the prerogative to set a proper system of tax laws and specific exemptions to those laws, but it has chosen not to do so, Lewis said.

Noting that House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who joined in against the suit, was sitting in the courtroom, Lewis said, “He can do that if he has enough nerve.”

Harrell, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom after the arguments, called the suit a backdoor ploy by the Democratic Party to raise taxes.

“This is clearly a Democratic Party attempt to use the court to force Republicans to raise taxes and I hope the court sees through that,” the Charleston Republican said.

Dick Harpootlian, who sat next to Lewis and helped bring the lawsuit, said his position as chairman of the Democratic Party in the state had nothing to do with his work as an attorney on the case.

“This is a matter of great public interest,” he said.

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Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


Under current South Carolina law, sweetgrass baskets such as this one of Charleston origin, do not incur state sales tax. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Ivy Auctions.

Under current South Carolina law, sweetgrass baskets such as this one of Charleston origin, do not incur state sales tax. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Ivy Auctions.

Gallery Report: December 2011

An original 1910 oil painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, titled Le Bouquet, sold for $657,250 at an American & European Signature Art Auction held Nov. 8 by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. Also, Daniel Ridgway Knight’s Young Woman Knitting realized $143,400, Martin Johnson Heade’s Red Roses in a Japanese Vase on a Gold Velvet Cloth, circa 1885-1890, topped out at $53,775, and Edmund Henry Osthaus’s sporting painting English Setter With Grouse changed hands for $41,825. Prices include a 19.5 percent buyer’s premium.

Read more

This CGC-certified 9.0 copy of 'Action Comics' No. 1, the highest-graded specimen featuring the first appearance of Superman, was sold by ComicConnect.com for $2.2 million in 2011. The copy found in the Minnesota home recently is graded 1.5. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

Action Comics #1 with Superman’s debut sells for record $2.16M

This CGC-certified 9.0 copy of 'Action Comics' #1, the highest-graded specimen featuring the first appearance of Superman, was sold by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000, the top price ever paid for a comic book. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

This CGC-certified 9.0 copy of ‘Action Comics’ #1, the highest-graded specimen featuring the first appearance of Superman, was sold by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000, the top price ever paid for a comic book. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

NEW YORK (ACNI) – In a story worthy of a comic book adventure itself, a highly graded copy of Action Comics #1 has set a world record price for a comic book, selling yesterday for more than $2.1 million. The 1938 comic book, stolen a decade ago from a high-profile collector and thought lost forever, was rediscovered earlier this year in an abandoned storage unit.

Certified by independent third-party grading firm Certified Guaranty (CGC) as a 9.0 (out of 10) – the highest-graded, publicly certified copy of Action Comics #1 – the book featuring the first appearance of Superman was auctioned by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000. It was the culmination of a journey that amazed many.

The bidding for the issue closed at 7:25 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, after 50 bids. The keenly watched offering had cleared the million-dollar mark earlier, joining only four other comic books that have achieved such heights.

ComicConnect sold the first of them, a CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Action Comics #1, February 22, 2010, for $1 million. Three days later, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions sold a CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Detective Comics #27 – the May 1939 publication heralding the first appearance of Batman – for $1,075,500. ComicConnect reclaimed the top spot on March 30, 2010 with the sale of a CGC-certified 8.5 copy of Action Comics #1 for $1.5 million.

Additionally, the company sold a CGC-certified 9.6 copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the August 1962 first appearance of Spider-Man, for $1.1 million in March 2011. ComicConnect does not charge a buyer’s premium.

In the days leading up to the record-setting auction session, the mainstream media latched onto the story of this particular copy. It was reported stolen from the home of a prominent West Coast collector in January 2000. While ComicConnect did not name the former owner in promoting their auction, it was widely noted by sources ranging from comic industry websites to The Hollywood Reporter and MTV to have been actor Nicholas Cage. Known as an enthusiastic collector, Cage even took his stage surname from Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage, Power Man and went on to christen his son Kal-El, after Superman’s Kryptonian name.

Perhaps ironically, Cage’s Action Comics #1 had been purchased from Metropolis Collectibles, the sister firm of ComicConnect.com. Company representatives including Chief Executive Officer Stephen Fishler and Chief Operating Officer Vincent Zurzolo immediately recognized the copy when it was rediscovered in April 2011 after an as-yet-unidentified man purchased the contents of an abandoned storage locker in southern California.

Given the high market profile of the copy even before the days of seven-figure comic books, the issue would not have been an easy sale for the individual who stole it. It was readily identifiable to those who were familiar with it, causing some to believe it had been discarded, or worse, during the more than a decade it was missing.

Noted as holding the highest grade on the CGC Census, the copy is believed to be the second-best copy in existence. The top spot, according to some, would belong The Edgar Church Collection (also known as The Mile High Collection) pedigree copy, which has been estimated in the 9.4 range by experts in the hobby. However, it has not been publically graded, meaning that ComicConnect and the undisclosed buyer can enjoy their record-setting moment for now.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think as a kid that my business would be selling vintage comic books, let alone the most expensive comic book in the world. After selling the Action #1 8.0 for a million, the Action #1 8.5 for $1.5 million, I couldn’t figure out how we could top it,” Zurzolo told Auction Central News. “Then to recover the copy of Action #1 stolen from one of our very best customers 11 years ago, we knew there was a possibility. $2,161,000. We made history today.”

Given both the supply and demand for the issue, the price might not be as astronomical as it seems.

“It may seem shocking to those who haven’t been following the comic book market in recent years, but after a protracted period of six-figure prices, this progression is very logical,” said Robert M. Overstreet, author and publisher of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, now in its 41st edition. “Following the sale in 2010 of a CGC-certified 8.0 specimen for $1 million, and that of an 8.5 copy for $1.5 million, the continued demand across all grades practically guaranteed that the highest-graded copy certified to date would attract spirited bidding.”

“Every existing copy of Action Comics #1 is a pop-culture treasure. There were reportedly 200,000 copies originally printed in 1938, of which roughly 70,000 were unsold and subsequently destroyed. 130,000 copies were sold when the U.S. population was approximately 130 million. Now in a nation of 305 million there are by most accounts only 100 copies extant of this issue, the origin of one of the two most recognized characters in the world (the other being Mickey Mouse). It’s great to see the scarcity and importance of this comic recognized in such a public way,” said Melissa Bowersox, Executive Vice-President of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore.

“The natural attrition of paper products, accelerated by World War II-era paper drives and the general low esteem in which comics were held for many years, contributed to the scarcity of this issue today. In the case of some Golden Age comics, there are many copies available, and the only shortage is for high-grade copies. In recent times with Action Comics #1, though, the market has witnessed demand even for poor condition examples or restored copies, which under most circumstances have long been taboo with most collectors,” Bowersox said.

The ComicConnect.com auction continues through Sunday, Dec. 4, including a Friday session featuring items from the collection of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.

Copyright 2011 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


This CGC-certified 9.0 copy of 'Action Comics' #1, the highest-graded specimen featuring the first appearance of Superman, was sold by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000, the top price ever paid for a comic book. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

This CGC-certified 9.0 copy of ‘Action Comics’ #1, the highest-graded specimen featuring the first appearance of Superman, was sold by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000, the top price ever paid for a comic book. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

The back cover of 'Action Comics' #1, originally published in June 1938, features the ubiquitous Johnson Smith & Co. ads that would populate comic books for generations. Even on the back cover, the superior condition of this 9.0 copy is obvious. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

The back cover of ‘Action Comics’ #1, originally published in June 1938, features the ubiquitous Johnson Smith & Co. ads that would populate comic books for generations. Even on the back cover, the superior condition of this 9.0 copy is obvious. Image courtesy of ComicConnect.com.

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy. Photo by Matthew Field, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Venice’s Bridge of Sighs restored to former glory

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy. Photo by Matthew Field, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy. Photo by Matthew Field, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

VENICE, Italy (AFP) – The painstaking restoration of Venice’s famed Bridge of Sighs and the facade of the adjoining Doge’s Palace is finally finished after three years of work, officials said on Thursday.

The restoration project — which was launched after a piece of marble fell off the Palace and hit an elderly German tourist on his leg in 2007 — included cleaning off pollution and restoring the limestone.

Built at the beginning of the 17th century, the small bridge links the palace to a prison, and folklore has it that prisoners crossing to the cooler sighed in despair at seeing the city’s lagoon for the last time.

One of the most famous jailbirds to have crossed over was Latin-lover Casanova, who was arrested in 1755 but managed to escape the confines of the prison 15 months later, with the help of a monk.

The bridge, a hotspot for enamoured couples, has inspired many poets, including Lord Byron who coined the name in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” in which he said: “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs.”

Two similar bridges stand in England’s Cambridge and Oxford universities.

The restoration cost 2.8 million euros ($3.7 million), at least half of which was raised through giant billboards draped over the bridge and adjacent building, causing no little controversy in the city of gondolas.

“It is clear that no-one likes to see the city’s buildings covered up and used for publicity. But if it allows us to save them, no-one can deny it is useful,” mayor Giorgio Orsoni said before the restoration was finished.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy. Photo by Matthew Field, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy. Photo by Matthew Field, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

James Wille Faust's 'Chrysalis,' which was installed at the Indianapolis International Airport terminal in 2008, was dismantled and placed in storage . Copyrighted image appears by kind permission of the artist's management.

Indianapolis airport removes artwork for advertising

James Wille Faust's 'Chrysalis,' which was installed at the Indianapolis International Airport terminal in 2008, was dismantled and placed in storage . Copyrighted image appears by kind permission of the artist's management.

James Wille Faust’s ‘Chrysalis,’ which was installed at the Indianapolis International Airport terminal in 2008, was dismantled and placed in storage . Copyrighted image appears by kind permission of the artist’s management.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indianapolis International Airport officials have taken down a three-story sculptural painting from its prominent spot and will replace it with a large video screen showing both artwork and advertising.

Crews removed the glass-and-canvas piece called Chrysalis on Monday night from its spot over the passenger terminal’s main escalators, where it had been since the terminal opened in 2008.

The unannounced removal came about three months after airport officials said they were reconsidering their plans following criticism from arts patrons.

The airport says the new $300,000 video screen will be 22 feet wide and 7 1/2 feet tall and is being provided to the airport by Sharp Electronics and advertising firm Clear Channel Airports. The new screen is expected to be installed in early December.

Airport director John Clark said he regretted the removal of the artwork, but that additional revenues are needed.

“I guess the fundamental difference with using digital art is it will allow the (airport) authority to do some advertisement,” Clark told WRTV. “From a commercial standpoint, that means revenue.”

The airport expects the ads that will accompany the video screen will generate $250,000 to $500,000 a year.

The airport had paid $150,000 to artist James Wille Faust for Chrysalis, which is made from 14 shaped canvases, aluminum and six glass panels and weighs more than a ton. It is being placed in storage until a decision is made about its future.

Martha Faust, the artist’s wife and business manager, told WTHR-TV that the artwork’s removal was “an injustice to the artist, to the community.”

“It’s a very selfish act because we feel the monitors could be placed anywhere,” she said. “There are many places those monitors could go.”

Clark said the airport remained committed to public art, with hundreds of pieces throughout the terminal.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-29-11 1943GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


James Wille Faust's 'Chrysalis,' which was installed at the Indianapolis International Airport terminal in 2008, was dismantled and placed in storage . Copyrighted image appears by kind permission of the artist's management.

James Wille Faust’s ‘Chrysalis,’ which was installed at the Indianapolis International Airport terminal in 2008, was dismantled and placed in storage . Copyrighted image appears by kind permission of the artist’s management.