LIGHTNING RELEASES 05/12/14 — By now, everyone knows that Archie Andrews is a marked man, doomed to meet his end this July in the futuristic “Life with Archie” series. But does anyone know how that will affect vintage Archie comic book values?

 The experts predict prices will skyrocket. And that theory is about to be tested, because a very rare copy of the first Archie comic book, Archie #1, is going up for auction. It will take place on,  the online auction house that already holds a Guinness World Record for selling the world’s most expensive comic (a $2.1 million Superman Action #1).

“We’re not happy that Archie is getting killed off, but we can’t help but be happy about the timing,” admits Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of and Metropolis Collectibles, the world’s largest vintage comic book dealer. “We planned this auction with the seller, Donald Lem, months before the news broke.”  

Archie #1, the 1941 comic that introduced the quintessential American teen, is zealously sought by collectors because of its scarcity. Despite a large print run, the issue survives in astonishingly low numbers. Archie collectors tend to hold onto this treasure, so when a copy does surface, it shakes the collectibles world. 

This particular copy surfaced out of Toronto, part of Donald Lem’s unprecedented collection of 175 rare, beautifully preserved vintage comics. He grew up in the city’s Riverdale neighborhood. Ironically, Archie live in a town named Riverdale, too.  

“What’s so unique about the Toronto Riverdale collection is the variety,” says Zurzolo. “Donald carefully curated the best issues, in the best condition. It’s rare to see so many iconic and influential keys and classics in one collection.”

Lem, a bookkeeper, began collecting in his early teens. He bought, sold, traded, and upgraded constantly, seeking the rare cross-overs and first character appearances on his personal ‘want list.’

“I wasn’t into completing runs,” Lem recalls. “I just wanted single issues that appealed to me. And since my parents taught us to cherish our belongings, I kept my books in great condition. It just so happened that the stuff I liked ended up being valuable 25 years later.”

Although his passion for collecting never wavered, it was derailed at times by battles with bone cancer and depression. He drew inspiration from the struggles faced by his comic-book heroes.

“I’m personally a big fan of Archie,” says Lem. “It’s like Peanuts and Charlie Brown, a timeless classic. It has a certain heartwarming innocence, yet it’s so clever.”

This particular Archie #1, a fine, 6.0 graded copy, is valued at $19,000 by the Overstreet Guide, the industry bible. However, because of the fervor swirling around it, Zurzolo predicts bidding—which starts May 12 and runs through early June—will be fierce and the selling price may skyrocket.

Of course, the Archie character isn’t going to disappear entirely. While the “Life with Archie” series, which is set in the future, will end, present day Archie stories will go on. In fact, it’s likely that Archie will be featured in an upcoming movie…perhaps even with a supernatural element, based on an offbeat but successful comic series, “Afterlife with Archie.”

Part of the appeal of vintage comics is the treasure-hunting factor. Even Lem, a 25 year collector, never anticipated the value of his collection.

“I never knew my books would have such resale value. It wasn’t until last year when my wife and I went house hunting that I did a valuation. It’s been life-altering on a monetary level.”

And so Archie isn’t the only one whose life is about to be forever altered.

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