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Two Million Dollar Portland Comic Collection Stolen After Owner Dies

Comic and book collector James Strand, with a collection valued at two million dollars died in July - and then his house was ransacked.

Steve Duin reported for The Oregonian about a comic collector James Strand, who kept himself to himself, living in Lents in Portland., And who taped black plastic to the windows to keep his rare books and comics safe in the dark. Included in his collection were Stephen King first editions. H.P. Lovecraft manuscripts, and Golden Age comic books in high grade, with an estimated value of two million, split evenly between the books and the comics.

But you can't take it with you. James Strand died at the end of July, just before his 88th birthday, his body was discovered a few days later. But by the time family members could come by the Portland house, it had been ransacked by thieves.

The house was boarded up, but the items were left inside, with family unsure if they could move anything, now it was a crime scene. But The Oregonian reports that thieves returned, with his niece saying,  "The house was broken into eight times that I know of. A neighbor would text me: 'They got in again last night.'"

And that included James Strand's collection, which in mid-August started appearing at bookstores and comic stores across Portland, including $5,000 Stephen King first editions, $10,000 pulps novels and the $20,000 Bernie Wrightson original art was sold, courtesy of a variety of different sellers described by bookstore employees when asked as "a bald guy on crutches, a woman in a nurse's outfit, a car without license plates."

Two Million Dollar Portland Comic Collection Stolen After Owner Dies
Lents, Portland, from Google Maps

Another local collector Scott Brown, noticed a flurry of new listings at a Portland bookseller inscribed to  James Strand. Learning of Strand and his death, he began compiling spreadsheets of what has been offered to stores and other collectors, and reported it to Portland Police without much interest, before calling the FBI's art theft crime team, who got straight on the situation. And quoting FBI spokesperson "The FBI is looking into this. We normally don't confirm that, but we have reason to believe this collection has made its way onto the market. We're alerting booksellers to be on the lookout."

And Brown is finding it hard dealing with some comic stores and collectors, The Oregonian quote him as saying "Part of my role has been to talk people who have bought things into coming clean about it. There are people I've spent many hours on the phone with. There's been a lot of comic-book theft in Portland lately – private collections, stores broken into – and part of the reason for that is dealers and collectors will buy stuff from sketchy people. Until they stop doing that, there's a lot of incentive to steal comics. They are easy to fence… James Strand collected unique material – letters, manuscripts, original artwork. Things that are irreplaceable. That's what book dealers and comic-book dealers are most upset about. If it's lost, it's lost. You don't get it back!"

Much of the two million dollar collection, however, still remains missing in Portland, including the likes of the original art to HP Lovecraft's horror novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by Frank Utpatel. Anyone who knows anything about such items is encouraged to contact the FBI.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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