Old Books & Letters

Batman Comic


            In February 2010 an original copy of the first Batman comic series sold for over one million dollars.  Prior to that, an original of the same comic had sold for over $300,000.  A Superman comic has also sold for over $1,000,000.  I had no idea a comic could be worth that much to anyone.  What’s going on?  I’m not sure anyone has the answer.

            An article in the Washington Post by Michael Cavna dated 27 Feb 2010 tries to explore a few possibilities but it sounds all like speculation to me.  One argument is that investors leery of the stock market are open to investing in other areas such as art works or rare collectibles.  While a rare painting was the thing to collect for some of the super rich in the past, some of the new wealthy want to acquire something that is more akin to their culture.  It would be hip so to speak to own something more modern but still valuable such as a rare comic rather than another 18th century famous painting.  After all, comics started in America, an American art form so to speak.

            A simpler argument is that some of the present super rich enjoyed comic books as kids and are collecting something of value that reminds them of some happy moments during their youth.  They would rather have an original Spiderman than a Monet painting.  The recent splurge in popularity of super action heroes at the box office doesn’t hurt the value of their investment if indeed that is what they were purchased for.  As you can see we can only guess as to why certain things auction at such value.      

            The Christian Science Monitor ran a story by Marjorie Kehe on August 2,2010 about an original Batman comic that was soon to be auctioned at a Dallas auction house expected to bring about $40,000.  The individual selling the comic has been a collector most of his life and bought the comic in 1974 for $300.00. The story behind this particular comic was that the person who sold it found it in a dresser he had purchased years before. The comic was actually found years later underneath one of the drawers.  That’s got a nice ending for the comic book collector, to see his passion and love rewarded in a profitable way.  I don’t know the exact date, but also in the latter half of 2010 the Heritage Auctions house in Dallas sold an original Batman for $492,937.  That’s also a nice figure, but also has a nice story.  The man who sold the comic was 84 years old, but bought it for 10 cents when he was 13.    

            What is my take on the story.  I really enjoy hearing others success when things like this are auctioned.  I also get a chuckle when I think of my comic book experience.  I used to like Hot Stuff, Archie, Sgt. Roc, and a couple of western comics called Kid Colt and Two Gun Kid.  My younger brother got all the comics, not that those would be of much value today.  But I came close.  In 1964 I went to a summer camp and while I was there I traded for a Spiderman comic.  I was proud when I found out that it was the first issue of Spiderman.  I think  the first issue was in 1962 or 1963.  I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my older brothers.  I hid the comic underneath my bunk.  Unfortunately, the next day it was gone.  Who knows if I had been able to hang onto that original Spiderman until I’m 84, let’s see, that will be in 2038.  It very well could have been worth something.  I look forward to waiting and finding out the answer to that.  In the meantime I will treasure everyday I have left.

10-2-4 Treasure


                In 2009 I read an article in the local newspaper about a man who recently purchased an old ledger book at a Texas antiques store.  Believing the book could be worth more than the 200 dollars he purchased it for, to his pleasant surprise it turned out to be worth possibly much more.  The late 19th century book actually came from a Waco, TX, drugstore and contains a number of pharmacy formulas one of which could be very valuable.  This particular druggist book belonged to the pharmacy store where the well known soft drink Dr Pepper was first introduced.

                One recipe was titled “D Peppers Pepsin Bitters” thereby raising speculation as to whether or not it is possibly a list of the original ingredients for the soft drink.  Now that the ledger book has had some time to be revieved by others it is now thought that that particular reciepe was a concoction for settling stomach ache with some, “Dr Pepper syrup,” added to help with the flavor.  The original recipe or secret ingredients of the Dr Pepper soft drink are probably not in the ledger, however the book seems to be dated to around 1880.   It is known that Dr Pepper was first served to customers around 1885. 

The pharmacist at the time was Charles Alderton and a number of the formulas in the book have his name on them, although not his personal handwriting.  The man who bought the book at the antique store says, “I began feeling like I had a national treasure.” Early speculation was that the book could be worth over $50,000.  That may never happen but it is for sure to be of interest to Dr Pepper collectors.  It will also make it a little more fun for me to rummage through old books when my wife makes another one of her occasional stops at Texas antique stores.

                When I first heard about the Dr Pepper story several thoughts came to mind.  First was the old logo on the Dr Pepper bottles that had the numbers 10, 2, and 4.  I remember asking someone what that meant and they said a Dr Pepper at 10 am, 2 pm, and 4pm, would get you through the day.  My parents never allowed us much soft drink growing up, maybe two or three a week.  The idea of someone drinking that much all day seemed silly to me.  No one would drink that much I thought.  Well, I actually had a roommate in college in the early 1970’s that admitted he was addicted to Dr. Pepper.  It was the first thing he drank in the morning and averaged 8 cans of the soft drink each day.  His trunk and closet were filled with cases of the 12 oz cans.  For him 10, 2, and 4 was a reality.  I did not keep up with him and have not seen him in over 35 years. 

A friend of mine helping reading with my blog asked me, “do you remember the old advertising tune sung by Dr Pepper commercials?”  For a moment I forgot until she reminded me:

                                                “ I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper,

                                                   She’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper,

                                          Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?

                                                   Be a Pepper, Drink Dr Pepper.”

Brings back memories does it not?

Speaking of memories I have some good ones from Waco,TX.  First , we have some good friends there that we occasionally touch base with.  We do not live in that part of Texas but my son was on the school tennis team and they won a state title there.  His school also won a state football title there just a few years ago.  I like museums and my wife and family visited the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco a few years ago.  It was worth the visit.  Waco also has the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Museum, the Texas Ranger Museum, and an excellent zoo.  A visit to Waco can bring some good times.  Go to the zoo at 10 in the morning, a museum at 2 in the afternoon, and another museum at 4.  All very close to each other and very easily done in the time frame.  It would be fun. For me Waco has good memories.  I’m ready for a break and some refreshment.  I think I’ll see if there is a Dr Pepper in the fridge.  I confess at my age and tying to watch my weight I still don’t drink very many soda waters.  When I do get my hands on a Dr Pepper it is a tasty treat, along with some memories that are treasured.


The U.S. Patent Office recognizes December 1, 1885 as the first time Dr Pepper was served. It was introduced nationally in the United States at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition as a new kind of soda pop, made with 23 flavors. Its introduction in 1885 preceded the introduction of Coca-Cola by one year.

Like many early sodas, the drink was marketed as a brain tonic and energizing pick-me-up, so another theory holds that it was named for the pep it supposedly gave to users

Dr Pepper Time,” according to one promotion, was at 10, 2 and 4 o’clock. During World War II, a syndicated radio program, The 10-2-4 Ranch (later titled 10-2-4 Time), aired in the South and other areas where Dr Pepper was distributed. The show featured the Sons of the Pioneers and Dick Foran.

Big Red is a soft drink that was created by Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark in Waco, Texas (1937)[

To learn more about a board game that will bring you and your kids many good memories in your search for world’s famous treasures visit www.TreasureTroveGame.com


Abe Lincoln Letter

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Timbuktu Treasure


Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu

treasure troveWhen I was growing up, I often heard the phrase, “way out in Timbuktu.”  I just assumed it was somewhere a long way away.  I asked my older brother one day, “where is Timbuktu?”  He said, “Africa”.  I guess I didn’t give it much more thought, but it sounded cool.  Decades later when I was creating a board game to play with my children the term came to my mind.

The game involves players traveling around the world collecting treasure.  In the process of crisscrossing the world’s continents I wanted strange and exotic places to be encountered.  These would include tales of fabled lost cities such as Atlantis and Shangri-La. I thought of Timbuktu but had convinced myself that there was no such place.  It was a cute phrase that I heard as a child (way out in Timbuktu), but had grown to doubt any such place actually existed.

 Timbuktu on the TreasureTrove board game

The word “Timbuktu,” in several languages, including English, does refer to something such as, “a remote destination.”  In the past, the word Timbuktu was used more often than it is today.  During the 17, 18, and 19th centuries the people of Europe had a fascination with this legendary desert city of wealth. They had heard it was in Africa but did not know exactly where it was, or if it was indeed true or not.  It was not officially discovered by Europeans until almost the middle of the 1800’s.

Timbuktu is indeed a city located in the sands of the Sahara desert in the country of Mali, the northwest portion of Africa.  There are about 20,000 people living there today.  It remains a difficult travel destination.  Camel caravans still trek in and out of the city. Founded a millennium ago, by the 13thcentury, the city was a crossroads for trade caravans with salt and gold as important trading commodities traveling from West Africa to Egypt and the Middle East.  Because of the gold it was sometimes referred to as the African El Dorado.  This allure attracted European explorers who for centuries failed to reach the fabled city and return to tell of their exploits.  Many died trying to discover it due to disease or attacks by desert nomads.  By the time French explorers actually reached Timbuktu in 1828 they found it was anything but a city of gold.  There was not much wealth of any kind.  Mostly just mud huts with thatch roofs, much as it is today.  Time had passed the fabled city by and the desert sands were slowly reclaiming it.

One-Humped Camel

At its height in the 16th century Timbuktu had been a mecca for literary scholars within the Islamic faith.  The population at that time was as much as 60,000.  Many libraries with thousands of books existed in the city hundreds of years ago. These ancient writings and texts are the true Treasure of Timbuktu. Near the middle of the 20th century some literary scholars realized thousands of old books and manuscripts had been hidden in old  boxes and trunks among the homes of Timbuktu.  Many of these ancient documents had been passed from generation to generation buried in the sands as many of the residents consider these family heirlooms not to be sold.  As the centuries passed many were indeed lost to the sands of time.  Fortunately, almost 30 thousand manuscripts have been found and are being cataloged, stored and preserved at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu.  Some are 800 years old.  The writings cover the full gamut of topics including science, astronomy, medicine, Islamic law, and history.  Old writings and manuscripts continue to this day to be discovered by the residents of Timbuktu and throughout the desert area of Mali.  This has created some renewed historical and archaeological interest in the quiet and remote village of today.  Scholars are hopeful many thousands are still to be found but are concerned it may be too late for a number as many that are being found are almost too fragile to study.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       sOral history has always been an integral part of the peoples of the desert; however the number of ancient texts that have been found and continue to be unearthed in the desert sands around Timbuktu reveal a rich cultural history that needs to be preserved.  These priceless manuscripts are a true treasure to the African people of the Sahara.



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