The Legend of Pop Hollinger, first comic book distributor
It’s strange that most comic book collectors and distributors have never heard of Pop Hollinger. This 47-year-old retired teacher from Concordia, Kansas, was the first merchant to buy and sell old novels, pulp magazines, magazines, and comics. Hollinger ran his shop from 1939 in Concordia, during the deep economic depression, to 1971. Whether or not thousands of comic book merchants today have heard of Pop Hollinger, they are following in his footsteps: selling, buying and marketing.
Mr. Hollinger started his business selling periodicals in a basement below a grocery store. He sold almost everything he owned, including the classic pocket novels published by Pocket Books for 25 cents each. Soon, he grew his business, selling used pulps, paperbacks, magazines, and comics. He specialized in comics that were quickly becoming popular. After a few years, he ran a vibrant business, even expanding his business, which included 15-20 outlets in Concordia. Hollinger even popularized a mail order service for interested shoppers across the country. Selling via mail order made Pop realize there was a demand for back issues. For this purpose, it would store emissions for future business. For 20 or 30 cents a week, a person could receive five or ten comics, respectively. This was an unbeatable bargain when you could buy one at the local newsstand for 10 cents.
1939 was a special year for comics, which featured superheroes for the first time. Without a doubt he would have had the most famous ones, like: Action Comics # 1 (first appearance of Superman), Detective Comics # 27 (first appearance of Batman), Superman # 1, Batman # 1, Wonder Woman # 1, All-Star, All-Flash, Timely Comics (future Marvel Comics), and Fawcett Comics. These “Golden Age” comics became “super” sellers. But there were also many others on the market.
Hollinger used radically unorthodox methods to preserve each of her books, because she knew children could easily tear them and many mothers would throw them away. Pop soon discovered that comics didn’t get along with constant buying, selling, and trading. Therefore, he wrapped the books with brown or green tape around the spine and inside to prevent them from tearing. He also knew that comics were made of pulp that attracted insects, so he treated them with special chemicals that repelled them. He even took out the original staples and replaced them with new ones. Finally, he flattened them using a press of his own design that exerted several hundred pounds of pressure. Today’s collector or dealer would never use this preservation method because it would ruin the value of the book. Instead, dealers and collectors carefully place the books in Mylar bags and insert a cardboard base so they won’t bend or break. Still, Hollinger deserves credit for creating his own method of preserving them.
In 1942, there were approximately 50 comic book publishers. Each publisher produced at least 30 different posts, which totaled several thousand different issues circulating per month. So Pop felt the need to publish a comic book catalog. Comics came in all kinds of genres: science fiction, detectives, fantasy, spies, humor, romance, and many others. He had many of the same problems. So it’s no wonder he thought selling comics could be profitable. According to eBay’s website, their commercial ads read: “Old or used comics are worth money. We pay 1 cent to $ 1.00 each for certain old comics … Be one of the first in your community to collect old comics. ” In this same announcement, Pop affirmed “to carry a great variety of all the published comics”.
Unfortunately, in 1952 Hollinger’s supply took a turn for the worse. A flood had swept through their area of the state, inundated their stores, and ruined thousands of most of their inventory. Sadly, most of them had to be scrapped. To make matters worse, in 1954 many comics that were published earlier were withdrawn by the US government because their content was not suitable for children. But Hollinger persevered in his business.
Between 1961 and until he closed his business ten years later, Hollinger began selling new superhero comics created primarily by Marvel Comics. In November 1961, Marvel published the first issue of “The Fantastic Four,” a group of new superheroes that became very popular. Fantastic Four # 1 started the “Marvel Era” of comics. Soon other “Marvel Age” superheroes were introduced: Spiderman, Ironman, Thor, Hulk, Antman and Captain America (brought from WWII). All comics (not just Marvel) published from 1956 to 1969 became known as the “Silver Age” of comics. Today, many of the early issues published by Marvel are worth almost as much as those printed in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Pop Hollinger was an unusual businessman who had foreseen the value of comics. Who knew how you thought comics were valuable to read and collect, not read and throw away? No one would have thought of starting such a dealership, especially in the late 1930s during the Great Depression. In fact, it would have been “comical” to have started a comic book dealership. Pop beat the odds by starting a business that hardly anyone would have considered. If you ever come across an old comic with brown or green tape running along the spine, you probably have a classic pulp gem owned by the legendary merchant.