Booming market for pop-culture memorabilia powered $2.5M result at Hake’s March 19-20 auction

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Top sellers: Aurora Superman/Spider-Man model kit combo, $54,516; Star Wars Tri-Logo General Madine figure, $42,242; 1860 Lincoln/Hamlin flag, $42,185; Godzilla’s Go Kart model kit, $36,344

Aurora Superman & Spider-man Rare Store Two-pack Factory-sealed Boxed Model Kit Pair.
Aurora Superman & Spider-man Rare Store Two-pack Factory-sealed Boxed Model Kit Pair.

YORK, Pa. – Hake’s highlight-packed March 19-20 auction of pop-culture rarities closed the books at $2.5 million and sent a resounding signal about the strength of the current market for high-grade, market-fresh memorabilia. The abundance of record-setting and estimate-defying prices attested to the growing demand for superhero toys of the 1960s and elusive figures from the Star Wars galaxy.

Like-new model kits with provenance from the renowned Janusey Brothers collection ran the table, commanding prices that were nothing short of astonishing. A boxed and factory-sealed Aurora model kit duo consisting of a ©1963 NPP Inc. Superman (second version) kit No. 462-100 and ©1966 Marvel Comics Group Spider-Man kit No. 477-100 topped the two-day event. Sixty years ago, the kits would have retailed for $1 apiece, but combined in a promotional package for WT Grant variety stores, they were factory-labeled with the pennywise price of $1.58. The superhero combo teamed up to achieve $54,516 against a pre-sale estimate of $2,000-$5,000.

A “monstrous” price was paid for another boxed and unused Aurora model kit with Janusey Brothers provenance. Copyrighted in 1966, “Godzilla’s Go Kart” was produced in low numbers and distributed to a mere handful of stores near Aurora’s Long Island (NY) headquarters, making it a very rare item from the get-go. The auction entry – the only boxed example Hake’s has handled in its 57 years of operation – raced across the finish line to a world-record $36,344 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.

Star Wars fans were in the fight for a 1984 Palitoy Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Tri-Logo 70 Back-B blister card containing a 3.75-inch action figure of General Madine. One of the rarest of all production Star Wars figures, its packaging includes text in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian. AFA-graded 60 Y-Ex and the first of its type to be offered by Hake’s in any condition, it sold for record-setting $42,242 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.

There was also intense interest in a 1978 Kenner Star Wars early bird mail-away kit, the trailblazing mini-collection that marked the beginning of action-figure production for the storied franchise. The kit includes a sealed baggie containing figures of R2-D2, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker with a Double-Telescoping Saber. AFA-graded 85 NM+, it clinched a world-record price of $25,960. 

In addition to action figures, Hake’s sale featured coveted pre-production one-offs, such as Kenner’s mock-up concept proof card for the 1982 Star Wars: Revenge Of The Jedi (later renamed Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi) toyline. It is a completely unique piece that was made by repurposing an Empire Strikes Back Bespin Security Guard 45 back blister card and adding a completely hand-done mixed-media design and logo. Accompanied by a CIB LOA, it sold above its high estimate for $22,066.

From the Disney empire came an extremely rare ©1979 Mego Series 2 The Black Hole blister card with a 3.5-inch action figure of “Humanoid.” Made in Hong Kong, the toy was shipped exclusively to Canadian and Italian retailers. The auction example was exported to Canada, hence its bilingual card with text in English and French. AFA-graded 80 Y-NM, and of a type never before offered by Hake’s, either carded or loose, it sold for $11,033 against an estimate of $2,000-$5,000.

Another highflier was the 1986 AFA NM Mattel Masters of the Universe Eternia Series 5 playset, the highest-graded of all known examples of this particular playset. With imaginative art by William George, the set includes three themed towers and three different battery-operated vehicles that run on its monorail system. It easily surpassed its high estimate to settle at $23,273.

Weeks before the auction, a quiet buzz started to build in sports circles about a 1910 Baltimore News baseball card depicting Orioles manager Jack Dunn (1872-1928). Hake’s experts could find no evidence of any other card like it, deeming it to be the only extant example. CGC-graded 1 Poor, it rounded the bases to slide home at $28,556 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.

Original comic book art also held strong. Dick Giordano’s (1932-2010) original pen-and-ink comic book cover art for DC Comics’ Batman #315 (Sept. 1979) was one of the category’s most notable works. It features the Caped Crusader airborne above Gotham with his Bat-Glider, ready to battle Kite-Man. The closing price was $14,278 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000. Also, Gary Frank’s original comic book cover art (with inks by Brad Anderson) for DC Comics’ Superman: Secret Origin #6, Oct. 2020, appealingly depicts a modern-era Superman with Jimmie Olsen and Lois Lane. Metallo is seen in the background, subdued by chains. The artwork rose to $13,240 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000. 

Duncan Eagleson was commissioned to create the 1983 original art for a pre-release one-sheet movie poster promoting the slasher classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. His original acrylic and airbrush artwork, artist-initialed and dated ’83, is an absolutely unique depiction with three overhead blades as opposed to four, as seen in subsequent iterations by other noted artists. Eagleson’s original sold for $15,340.

Perhaps buoyed by the fact that 2024 is a presidential election year, early campaign collectibles were hot sellers. An 1860 glazed cotton parade flag emblazoned For President Abram Lincoln For Vice President Hannibal Hamlin is considered a classic design and comes from the legendary 1980s “quilt find” – a long-hidden trove of two dozen campaign flags from the 1860-1868 elections. In excellent condition due to its having been sheltered from light for so long, the beguiling banner was chased to $42,185 against a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-$35,000.

A Theodore Roosevelt/Charles E. Hughes/William H. Taft ‘Security Harmony Justice’ 1916 campaign button with images of all three men came to auction with a historical footnote in tow. Along with any others like it that may have been produced, the button was supposed to be distributed at an Oct. 3, 1916 event in Hughes’ honor, but it was vehemently rejected by Roosevelt, who did not approve of Taft’s image being included. The button’s extremely fine condition makes it the nicer of two known survivors of its type. It sold for $25,960 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.

Provenance from the John Grossman collection speaks volumes and no doubt added a golden touch to a complete 1932 U.S. Caramel set of 30 portrait/bio cards depicting American Presidents and retaining its “American Heroes Caramel” wax-paper wrapper. Against an estimate of $1,000-$2,000, the set easily claimed victory at $12,338.

Collectors of vintage concert signage said, “Please, please, please” when a window poster promoting James Brown and the Famous Flames’ March 8, 1962 appearance at WC Taylor High School in Warrenton, Va., came up for bid. Its exciting graphics feature “Mr Dynamite” against a DayGlo orange background, together with several opening acts in a yellow vignette. The only example of its type known to Hake’s experts, it landed “on the good foot” at $8,697 against an estimate of $2,000-$5,000.

To discuss consigning to a future Hake’s auction, call 866-404-9800 (toll-free) or 717-434-1600; or email [email protected]. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential. Visit Hake’s online at


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