Welcome back to Hammer Drops! Each week, Back to the Past looks through its recent auctions to help you navigate the world of collectibles sales. Today, we’re looking back to our April 23rd auction. Lot #280 in that session was a sealed copy of “The Art of Thor: Ragnarok”, and it sold for $110. What does that price mean, though?
What Are “Art Of” Books Anyway?
Blockbuster movies are massive artistic undertakings. Costumes, props, and sets all need to be designed before they’re created (even if they’re digital). Scenes have to be sketched out before they’re shot. Photos must be taken to make sure that costumes and makeup stay consistent across scenes shot weeks apart. Posters must be designed. Hundreds of of pieces of art are created in the service of creating the world you see on screen.
Coffee table books featuring the “Art of” the movie collect those behind-the-scenes pieces in a format that fans can enjoy. They’re a bit of a niche category for hardcore movie fans, but they definitely have their audience. Most superhero and science fiction movies will receive one, as will the movies of visually distinctive filmmakers like Wes Anderson.Taika Waititi is a visually distinctive filmmaker and the director of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, so this book is particularly desirable to movie fans.
When Media Goes Out Of Print
This book is so desirable, in fact, that it is sold out everywhere. Niche special interest books like this tend to get one, admittedly large, print run. Once it sells out, it is gone (unless the publisher chooses to print it again, of course). That appears to be the case with The Art of Thor: Ragnrok. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the book was $50, so obviously $110 is a pretty good return on investment here.
When a piece of media – be it a movie, book, whatever – first goes out of print, it experiences a jump in value. Well, as long as the piece still has collectible value. There are plenty of items that are technically out of print on the shelves of discount stores around the country. The key is that the run has to sell out, then not be reprinted (at least not right away). This usually affects higher-end pieces of media that were manufactured with collectible value in mind.
One example we sold a couple of years back was Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic. It included every one of long-running musician “Weird Al” Yankovic’s albums on vinyl and presented in a case shaped like his iconic accordion. It originally retailed for $400 and was produced in VERY limited quantity. Originally released in 2017, we sold one for $550 in 2020.
Knowing The Difference
We admit, most of the time collectors know the difference between a piece that’s common on the secondary market and one that has become rare. But not always – if you bought a book or boxed set on the day it was released, you may not know that it has since become rare. If it has, you might end up making a more generous donation to your local library or goodwill than you planned.
That’s why it’s a good idea to let people with trained eyes like ours look at your collection before you decide how to dispose of it. We’ll be honest with you about what is and isn’t valuable, and help you to bring all of it to market. Or, if you’d prefer to do your own research, Hammer Drops will be here every Wednesday offering Back to the Past’s expert insight.