Introduction to Pulp Collecting by Timothy Ray Dill
Pulp Fiction Magazine Collecting as a hobby can be fascinating, rewarding, and challenging. Many hours can be spent reading and admiring the striking covers of pulp magazines such as The Shadow, Dime Detective, and The Spider. It is almost indescribable to express the joy that can be found when a collector purchases a copy of a character pulp, such as Secret Agent X, for the lead story and discovers afterwards that the issue contains a short story by a favorite author such as Emile C. Tepperman. The hobby can also be frustrating. The search is sometimes fruitless and the pitfalls are many. This article has been written with the intent of guiding the new collector around some of the pitfalls and away from the blind alleys that are so frequent an occurrence. But beware, many collectors find the search almost as rewarding as the treasure within the worn pages of a pulp magazine.
Where is the logical place to begin the search for pulp magazines? A variety of sources are available. Specialty bookstores in larger cities sometimes carry pulps. These bookstores are not the type to be housed in modern shopping malls. These stores usually are located in odd places such as the outskirts of the French Quarter in New Orleans. They usually specialize in collectibles or one genre' such as mysteries. These shops usually have the highest prices and are very hard to locate. They are definitely worth visiting just to see the wonderful covers of the pulp magazines which are sometimes displayed in newsstand type bookracks which are reminiscent of the original heydays of the magazines. These shops are usually listed in the yellow pages of a local phone directory under bookstores and comic books. Some comic book shops also carry pulps but this is infrequent. When visiting a city, a quick scan of the yellow pages and a few phone calls are definitely worth while. Many pulp collectors have turned a business trip into a pulp hunting adventure!
Since these specialty shops are hard to locate and usually only carry a very limited supply of pulps, most collectors rely on mail order collecting. The advantages of ordering pulps through the mail are the quantity available. Several dealers publish catalogues which are mainly lists of their current inventory of pulps and related material. These listings usually contain only the magazine name, the publication date, the condition of the magazine, and the price. Remember that all of these magazines are somewhat rare, and a dealer may only have one copy of a particular issue at any time. Once a catalogue is published, collectors order the pulps immediately. It can be a race against time. A pulp catalogue becomes out of date very quickly. Some dealers recommend listing second choices when ordering. A few accept orders over the telephone via a credit card. This allows the collector to know immediately if he has snagged the issue in question. These dealers are very busy and are much appreciative if a collector is organized before making the phone call. The credit card should be at hand along with a list of first and second choices.
An excellent source of finding these dealers is advertisements in comic book collector magazines and books. The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is readily available at comic shops and many chain bookstores such as Walden's. This guide is aimed at comic books, but it does contain items pertinent to the pulp collector. Several advertisements mention pulp dealers. The same is true about many publications dealing with comic books such as The Comic Buyer's Guide. Visiting a local comic book shop and purchasing a few of these magazines may be an easy way to connect with mail order pulp dealers.
A few pulp dealers now are available on the internet! The most notable are John Gunnison of Adventure House and J. Grant Thiessen of Padoras's Books LTD. Mr. Gunnison specializes in pulp related material and even received the coveted Lamont Award at Pulp Con one year. Mr. Thiessen has a huge inventory of books, pulps, and magazines all listed online. His online catalogs are updated almost daily.
Another source of pulps and pulp dealers online is the various newsgroups. These newsgroups are populated by die hard pulp fans who share their knowledge and information through postings. Reading the newsgroups for a few days to understand their idiosyncrasies before posting a message is recommended. A new collector sometimes posts a message requesting the location of pulp dealers. These postings are usually met with a quick response from old pro's to the collecting game. Two of the most popular newsgroups are alt.fan.docsavage which is dedicated to Doc Savage and alt.pulp which is dedicated to pulps in general with a strong interest in hero pulps. Posters to these groups are generally very helpful with any and all questions regarding pulps. The secret is to learn the etiquette and be polite. These newsgroups are also great places to buy pulps directly from another collector. Private collectors sometimes list pulps that they have for sale. The only drawback is that the purchaser normally has to send a check to the individual and hope that the pulp will be mailed to him. Scams are fairly uncommon on these newsgroups.
Another factor in determining price is the genre'. The more specialized the genre' the more expensive the pulp usually. Spicy pulps are usually more expensive because of their underground nature while Western pulps tend to be a little more affordable. Hero pulps were very common in the thirties and dwindled during the second World War while detective pulps were still being published in the fifties. Usually detective pulps are cheaper than hero pulps. Some of the most expensive pulps are the oddball one shots such as The Scorpion and The Octopus. Series characters are highly prized by collectors. Also, demand pushes the price on early issues of The Shadow. After a pulp is purchased, the collector should begin the preservation process in order to protect the investment. Pulps should be placed in Mylar or similar storage bags with an acid free cardboard backing for support. If the storage bag is taped to seal it, remove the tape completely before removing the pulp magazine. A common mishap is to stick tape to the cover of a pulp while removing it from its storage bag. Some collectors even wear surgical gloves while reading a pulp to prevent acid from the hands from damaging the pulps.
The pulps can be placed in storage boxes and stored in a dark, dry area. The ideal temperature for storage is 40 to 50 degrees F; however, most collectors don't have a temperature and a humidity controlled library for storage. A closet will suffice. Storage and archival supplies can be obtained at comic book shops and sometimes stores that specialize in stamp collecting. Other sources are mail order companies that advertise in The Comic Buyer's Guide, The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, etc. When purchasing materials make sure the size is correct. Pulps will not fit into modern day comic storage bags.
What should a pulp collector purchase? He should purchase items that he likes! A good place to determine what to collect is in fanzines. Fanzines are small press publications usually lovingly published by die hard pulp fans. These amateur fan magazines contain very interesting articles about a multitude of pulp genre's. Some of the foremost authorities on pulps such as Will Murray and Nick Carr regularly publish articles in different fanzines. Lesser known pulp enthusiasts also contribute on a regular basis. These magazines are also usually filled with new art inspired by the pulps. Many insightful details about pulps and the pulp authors can be gleaned from these magazines. They are highly recommended to the serious collector. These magazines are also a great place to advertise for specific merchandise. Some of the magazines are listed below. Please include a self addressed stamped envelope when inquiring to them.
Aces - Primarily articles and art with an occasional pulp fiction reprint. Covers mainly pulp heroes. Published once per year. Paul McCall, 5801 West Henry Street, Indianapolis, IN 46241.
The Bronze Gazette - Dedicated to Doc Savage. Published three times per year. Green Eagle Publications, 2900 Standiford Avenue Suite 136, Modesto, CA. 95350.
Echoes - Primarily articles and art. Covers all genre's of pulps. The longest running fanzine in publication. Published six times per year.
Tom Johnson, Fading Shadows Inc., 504 E. Morris Street, Seymour, TX. 76380. Pulp Adventures - Primarily articles and art. Covers all genre's of pulps. Published four times per year.
Pulp Adventures Publications, 104 Pine Cone Trail, Medford, NJ. 08055. Rwharvey@eworld.com (Rich Harvey)
The Pulp Collector - Primarily articles and art with some pulp fiction reprints. Covers all genre's of pulps. Published irregularly.
John Gunnison, 4704 Col. Ewell Court, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772.
Pulp Vault - Primarily articles and art with some pulp fiction reprints. Covers all genre's of pulps. Published irregularly.
Tattered pages Press, 6942 N. Oleander Avenue, Chicago, IL. 60631. firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Ellis)
Secret Sanctum - Primarily fan fiction, art, and articles. Covers mainly pulp heroes. Published six times per year. Ron Hanna, 10811 Columbus Ave. #13, Mission Hills, CA. 91345.
Many of these same publishers reprint pulp fiction in different magazines. Some of these magazines are printed on a regular basis while others are published on a project to project basis. A few of these publishers are listed below.
Behind The Mask - Classic pulp fiction reprints. Mainly hero pulps and detective fiction. Published six times per year. Tom Johnson, Fading Shadows Inc., 504 E. Morris Street, Seymour, TX. 76380.
Paul McCall - Classic pulp fiction reprints. Mainly hero pulps and detective fiction. Published irregularly on a project by project basis. Paul McCall, 5801 West Henry Street, Indianapolis, IN 46241.
Pulp Adventures Publications - Classic pulp fiction reprints. Mainly hero pulps and detective fiction. Published irregularly on a project by project basis. Pulp Adventures Publications, 104 Pine Cone Trail, Medford, NJ. 08055. Rwharvey@eworld.com (Rich Harvey)
High Adventure - Classic pulp fiction reprints. Mainly detective, weird menace, and hero pulps. Published six times per year. John Gunnison, 4704 Col. Ewell Court, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772.
Vintage Library/Pulp Fiction Central - Classic pulp fiction reprints. Mainly hero pulps, all in electronic format. New material usually released every two weeks at its web site. Vintage New Media, Inc., 3655 West Anthem Way, Suite A109, PMB #102 Anthem, Arizona 85086
Besides the small press publishers above, a few larger mainstream publishers occasionally reprint pulp fiction in the form of anthologies. Many of these anthologies are carried at Barnes and Noble bookstores. Past anthologies have covered vampires, hard boiled detectives, Westerns, and Weird Tales. Another publisher of literary books concerning pulp fiction as well as classic pulp fiction reprints is the Popular Press of Bowling Green State University. The Popular Press has printed reference material by the late Robert Sampson as well as collections of Dime Detective stories and Dan Turner tales.
Pulp collecting can be a thrilling and rewarding hobby. The hunt for elusive pulps can be as exciting as reading the classic adventures of characters such as The Spider, Operator 5, and G-8 and His Battle Aces that are reprinted in electronic format here! No matter how many original pulp magazines you own, you will always prize them and marvel at their beauty.