When Robert Letscher bought his first X-Men comics as a boy growing up in the ‘70s, little did he know it would impact his daughters’ lives many decades later.
Back then, the Air Force brat with a “passion for mutants” couldn’t foresee that he’d become a preeminent collector of Silver Age comics, amassing the highest-rated X-Men collection in the world. Or that he would start selling his cherished collection at the age of 54, while battling Stage 4 cancer.
Later this summer, Letcher’s prized collection of more than 500 comics will be auctioned individually by ComicConnect.com, the online auction arm of Metropolis Collectibles, the world’s largest vintage comic book dealer.
“Robert’s collection is astounding,” says Vincent Zurzolo, Metropolis’ co-owner. “It includes the highest CGC registry set for X-Men, issues 1-544, with grades ranging from 9.2-10.0. Plus, other rarities, including an Action Comics #1, which marked Superman’s first appearance and is perhaps the most coveted comic book of all time.”
“Vintage comics make terrific investments, something Robert figured out early on.
As a child, Letscher’s family moved frequently, making Robert the perennial new kid. Upon discovering X-Men—a group of superheroes once reviled as outcasts and mutants—he was enthralled.
“When I read my first X-Men comic, it resonated with me, as they too were ostracized. Yet, they had special powers and could exist and thrive…I immediately sought out more issues.”
And he never stopped. Over the years, Letscher systematically upgraded his collection, selling lower-grade issues to finance increasingly higher-grade copies. The strategy paid off, and today his collection is valued at about $500,000.
For example, of the 10 copies of X-Men 45 that hold a CGC rating of 9.8, he owned seven of them at different times, always upgrading.
Fortunately, Silver Age comics—those published between 1956-1970—are in demand right now, and values are rising. Comics that mark a character’s first appearance are often highest in value.
“Part of the reason Silver Age books are so popular is that the characters and storylines keep turning up in movies and TV shows,” notes Zurzolo. “Each time they do, comic values jump.”
Some of the highlights of Letscher’s X-Men catalog include an X-Men #1 CGC 9.2 (first in the series), X-Men #14 CGC 9.8 (introducing the Sentinels) and X-Men #94 CGC 9.8 (first appearance of the new X-Men, featuring Wolverine). Other gems include the Action Comics #1, an Amazing Fantasy #15 CGC 7.5 (Spider-Man’s first appearance), a Superman #1 CGC 1.0, and the world’s highest-graded copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #1 CGC 9.6, from the famed Mile High collection.
The auction will be spread over five sessions, starting August 9 and ending September 9-13. Bidding for most items starts at $1, creating opportunities for sharp-eyed collectors at every level. According to Zurzolo, Silver Age collectors see this as a rare opportunity to upgrade their own collection.
For Letscher, it’s bittersweet.
“I had no intentions of using auction house services, until I was elderly,” says the Arizona native, who has endured chemotherapy, radiation and surgery in the last two years. “I love collecting, and it deeply saddens me to think about stopping.”
“But I have a wonderful family, with a loving wife, Cathy, and two daughters. It would be irresponsible not to liquidate my collectible investments, in case things go badly.”
“Obviously, I hope I will survive and resume happily collecting.”