Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Article from the Sydney Morning Herald on Frew Comics

For the ghost who walks
By James Cockington; Jim ShepherdApril 5, 2006
http://www.smh.com.au/news/money/for-the-ghost-who-walks/2006/04/03/1143916462088.html


Enter The Phantom ... the first edition of the Australian-produced Phantom comics. Yours for sixpence in 1948, it's now worth $6000-plus.
It's one of the more curious accidents of the collecting world that The Phantom comic books published by Frew, a small independent Sydney publisher, are now among the most sought after in the world. More so than equivalent editions produced in the United States.
Shortly after World War II Frew was formed by a consortium of four businessmen to exploit the sudden popularity of comic books, at that stage a controversial medium subject to strict local censorship laws. Frew soon secured the Australian comic book rights to The Phantom, a successful American newspaper strip by noted New York writer Lee Falk, also famous for creating Mandrake the Magician.
The first Frew Phantom comic was published in September 1948 without much fanfare. The story inside - The Slave Traders - was not even named on the cover because it had already appeared in 1939 in serialised form in, of all things, a weekly magazine called The Australian Woman's Mirror.
Frew's degree of confidence in its new venture is reflected by its decision not to number its first edition. Instead, an illustrated sign - Enter The Phantom - stands as a more cryptic announcement. It's as if the publisher wasn't sure there would be a second edition.
In fact there was and many more after that. Frew was pleasantly surprised by the response of Australian readers and, close to 60 years after his Australian debut in comic book form, the adventures of The Phantom are still being published by the company.
Issue No 1441 (in fact the 1469th produced, but there was some confusion with numbering early on) hit the newsagents on March 24. The 1500th Frew Phantom is scheduled for publication next year.
The Australian publications are now the longest-running in the world and comic book collectors respond accordingly whenever early examples of Frew Phantoms appear for sale. A mint copy of that first issue is now worth about $6000, although some experts say that's a conservative estimate as examples in any condition appear so rarely. It's worth noting that when this comic first appeared, it sold for sixpence.
Any of the first 50 or so Frew Phantoms fetch $300 or more in good condition, the price rising in inverse proportion to the number of the edition. Even those in the 100 to 200 range are worth about $100 each. No 121 is estimated at $90 to $110 in this year's Carter's Guide. And judging by the last few years' results, prices are still going up.
This is largely fuelled by strong recent interest in early Frew Phantoms from US and overseas collectors. The irony is that American compilations (published by Ace, Gold Key and Harvey Hits, among others) are considered less valuable than those published in Australia. The Phantom's adventures in comic book form were not very successful in America, perhaps because of the competition from the daily newspaper strips.
The attraction of the Frew publications is their longevity and consistency, plus their relative rarity. Although these comics sold in huge numbers by Australian standards, the figures are small by American standards.
So how much would a complete collection of Frew Phantoms be worth?
Frew publisher Jim Shepherd says he has been offered about $95,000 for one of his two complete sets. He politely rejected the offer. He knows of only four complete sets in mint condition in the world, although several more must be approaching completion judging by the feeding frenzy whenever an early issue is offered on eBay. Most recently a copy of No 30 appeared and was snared by an American collector for $US500 ($706).
Also in demand are the original series of novelty Phantom rings produced by Frew in 1949-1950. These were widely promoted on the back pages of the comics. The most valuable is the rubber stamp ring, designed to leave a skull imprint on the jaw of some unsuspecting villain. These rings are now worth about $150 to collectors.
There's a considerable cult following for this character in Australia. Prominent fans include cricket commentator Bill Lawry (whose nickname is Phantom), rugby league legend Wally Lewis, actor Jack Thompson, singer Doc Neeson and several past and present political figures, allegedly including Bob Hawke. Large numbers of academics and medicos are also unashamed devotees of The Ghost Who Walks.
My collection: Jim Shepherd
A former radio announcer, print journalist, author and sports director for Channel Ten, Jim Shepherd took over Frew Publications in 1991. As a childhood fan of The Phantom, part of the appeal was the complete set of Frew Phantom comics he would inherit or so he thought. He was dismayed to find that someone had punched holes in them so that they could be stored in binders. This unwitting act of vandalism rendered them near worthless.
However, he did have access to the Frew warehouse and was surprised to find some early issues stored there, often in mint condition. This was like finding buried treasure. After researching these comics Shepherd realised that many of the stories had been savagely edited at the time and he has since been able to reprint them in their original format. He also released a replica of the first Frew Phantom to celebrate the 1000th edition in 1991. This is now collectable in its own right.
Shepherd remains a collector as well as a publisher. Over the years he has built up two complete sets of his company's product by tracking down missing copies and buying them back. He notes that the fact that he is The Phantom's current Australian publisher does not necessarily give him any special bargaining power. It's a jungle out there.
Starter guide
$90+Frew released a special 1000th edition in 1991, which included a reprint of the first issue of The Phantom. It's now worth about $90 to collectors.
$300+The first 50 issues of Frew Phantom comics are considered very desirable. Issue 50 is worth about $300. The lower the number, the greater the price.
$2000+Rarities such as this first Italian edition - complete with The Phantom in red suit - are keenly sought after by global collectors.
This is largely fuelled by strong recent interest in early Frew Phantoms from US and overseas collectors. The irony is that American compilations (published by Ace, Gold Key and Harvey Hits, among others) are considered less valuable than those published in Australia. The Phantom's adventures in comic book form were not very successful in America, perhaps because of the competition from the daily newspaper strips.
The attraction of the Frew publications is their longevity and consistency, plus their relative rarity. Although these comics sold in huge numbers by Australian standards, the figures are small by American standards.
So how much would a complete collection of Frew Phantoms be worth?
Frew publisher Jim Shepherd says he has been offered about $95,000 for one of his two complete sets. He politely rejected the offer. He knows of only four complete sets in mint condition in the world, although several more must be approaching completion judging by the feeding frenzy whenever an early issue is offered on eBay. Most recently a copy of No 30 appeared and was snared by an American collector for $US500 ($706).
Also in demand are the original series of novelty Phantom rings produced by Frew in 1949-1950. These were widely promoted on the back pages of the comics. The most valuable is the rubber stamp ring, designed to leave a skull imprint on the jaw of some unsuspecting villain. These rings are now worth about $150 to collectors.
There's a considerable cult following for this character in Australia. Prominent fans include cricket commentator Bill Lawry (whose nickname is Phantom), rugby league legend Wally Lewis, actor Jack Thompson, singer Doc Neeson and several past and present political figures, allegedly including Bob Hawke. Large numbers of academics and medicos are also unashamed devotees of The Ghost Who Walks.
My collection: Jim Shepherd
A former radio announcer, print journalist, author and sports director for Channel Ten, Jim Shepherd took over Frew Publications in 1991. As a childhood fan of The Phantom, part of the appeal was the complete set of Frew Phantom comics he would inherit or so he thought. He was dismayed to find that someone had punched holes in them so that they could be stored in binders. This unwitting act of vandalism rendered them near worthless.
However, he did have access to the Frew warehouse and was surprised to find some early issues stored there, often in mint condition. This was like finding buried treasure. After researching these comics Shepherd realised that many of the stories had been savagely edited at the time and he has since been able to reprint them in their original format. He also released a replica of the first Frew Phantom to celebrate the 1000th edition in 1991. This is now collectable in its own right.
Shepherd remains a collector as well as a publisher. Over the years he has built up two complete sets of his company's product by tracking down missing copies and buying them back. He notes that the fact that he is The Phantom's current Australian publisher does not necessarily give him any special bargaining power. It's a jungle out there.
Starter guide
$90+Frew released a special 1000th edition in 1991, which included a reprint of the first issue of The Phantom. It's now worth about $90 to collectors.
$300+The first 50 issues of Frew Phantom comics are considered very desirable. Issue 50 is worth about $300. The lower the number, the greater the price.
$2000+Rarities such as this first Italian edition - complete with The Phantom in red suit - are keenly sought after by global collectors.

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PocketRocket said...

I have a #3 phantom comic title("smashing the crime ring")
mr. Hog,chief blacketeer,
gets his!

not sure what year, it says 6d can any one give me a price on it cos I am stumped ta.pc_mansfield@hot mail.com
paul creaser
2/5/2010

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