The Detective Story Behind the Alfred Pennyworth Comic Book Collection

Any longtime collector will tell you that some of the most fabled comic books and comic book collections have some fascinating real-world drama behind them. Take the case of the Action Comics #1 CGC 9.0 from Nicolas Cage's collection, for example: stolen from Cage's home in 2000 during a party, recovered in 2011 in a San Fernando, CA storage locker.  Then there's the collection amassed by a subsequently-convicted embezzler which included a jaw-dropping Batman #1 CGC 9.2.  In that bizarre case, some of the comics were then subsequently stolen from storage by an investigator working for the Texas county prosecuting the original case.  The Alfred Pennyworth comic book collection now joins the ranks of these comics and collections with real-life detective stories attached. The first half of the collection is one of the highlights of the 2020 November 19 – 22 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions this week.

The Alfred Pennyworth Comic Book Collection
The Alfred Pennyworth Comic Book Collection, Batman #16 by DC Comics, scan via Heritage Auctions.

So, what's in a name?  The owner of the collection, Randy Lawrence of Boca Raton, Florida, recently told SyFy Wire, "It's called the Alfred Pennyworth collection because my name on the [CGC] registry was Alfred Pennyworth. I never wanted anyone to know it was me but also, I wanted the world to know that these books existed."

The comics that comprise what's become known as the Alfred Pennyworth comic book collection were first mentioned on Bleeding Cool on January 9, 2019, when we published a list of the stolen comics at the behest of their owner.  Days later, that post played a role in the recovery of the stolen comics:

Comic retailer Bill Ponseti of More Fun Comics of New Orleans is quoted as saying "One of comic book store owners said, 'hey, there's a guy who just got off the transit with a duffel bag full of very expensive golden age Batman comics. Is anyone missing any of these?' I send him a link to the Bleeding Cool story and said, 'I'm not, but this guy in Florida is.'

Lawrence recovered the collection, which in sum total is considered the best Batman collection on the CGC Registry — but the saga of their theft and recovery ultimately influenced him to let them go. "He was devastated when the books were stolen, but earlier this year he called me and said, 'I got the books back and I would feel more comfortable selling them now so it doesn't happen again.' I can totally understand," says Heritage's Aaron White. "He went through a terrible ordeal and worked really, really hard to recover the books. He was thrilled to get them back, and I'm excited we're getting to sell them. It's a really special collection."

As a Batman collector myself, I can confirm: the Alfred Pennyworth comic book collection is very special indeed.  The first half of the collection is one of the highlights of the 2020 November 19 – 22 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions this week.

About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.

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