Adventures in Art Collecting: Windycon XXX

Adventures in Art Collecting: Windycon XXX

Art from the Gordon R Dickson collection: Cover to Sleepwalker’s World
(DAW, 1972) and The Pritcher Mass (DAW, 1973). Art by Kelly Freas

When folks ask me for advice on how to collect original science fiction and fantasy art, I pass along some tips I’ve learned, but I also tell them that sometimes, you just have to get lucky. Case in point…

Classicon is a one day pulp and paperback show near Lansing, MI, generally held twice per year (at least when things are normal!). It’s organized by a friend of ours, Ray Walsh, who owns Curious Book Shop. Back in 2003, the fall edition of Classicon was to be held on November 9, and Deb and I planned on attending.

That same weekend, the Chicago area’s largest science fiction convention, Windycon, was taking place (Windycon XXX, which ran November 7-9, 2003). We weren’t able to go to Windycon that Friday due to work, but decided to make a short detour to it as we drove to Michigan on Saturday. We planned to just spend an hour or so there, to drop off fliers for the 2004 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, take a quick tour through the dealer room and art show and say hi to some friends.

All was going to plan until we made the last of our stops and entered the art show. As we walked in, we spotted two of our friends, Bob Weinberg and Alex Eisenstein, in close conversation. Walking over to them, they didn’t seem quite as excited to see us as we were to see them. They kindly remarked, quite insistently, that there was nothing to see here, and that our time would be better spent anywhere else other than at the art show. Not surprisingly, their helpful advice immediately raised our suspicions, and they soon came clean.

Analog October 1970 (cover by Freas) and Spacial Delivery (Ace Double F-119, 1961, cover by Emsh)

Well known science fiction author Gordon Dickson had passed away in 2001. Among the things he collected was original art relating to his stories, and in that Windycon art show was a portion of his collection, which was to be auctioned that night. There were around 8 cover paintings, mostly by Frank Kelly Freas, consisting of Analog covers, DAW covers and a few others. The only other artist represented with cover art was Ed Emshwiller, for one of Dickson’s Ace paperbacks.

The paintings were outnumbered by black and white interior illustrations, of which there were two dozen or so, I think all by Freas. The whole display took up several panels in the rear of the art show and really looked quite impressive. I wish I’d had a camera to take a picture of it all, but that was prior to cell phone cameras.

Bob and Alex had spent the previous day and a half ogling the art, figuring out how they were going to split it, and hoping that no other art collectors would show up. Unfortunately for them – but fortunately for me! – we’d decided to take this short detour on our way to Classicon. The only downside was that since the auction was being held that night, there was no way we could drive to Michigan afterwards, so I phoned Ray to give him the news that we weren’t going to be showing up at Classicon tomorrow. And then the art of negotiation began…

Analog interior illustrations (art by Freas)

At the auction later that evening, we each won most of the things we wanted. I ended up with two Freas DAW covers (including this one for Dickson’s The Pritcher Mass, published by DAW in 1973) and around a half dozen Analog interiors.

But while Lady Luck had mostly favored us, she also dealt a joker from the deck. One of Bob’s regular customers for vintage SF art, who lived in Chicago, should have been in Texas that weekend, attending his cousin’s wedding. Unfortunately, the cousin had called off the wedding a few days earlier, freeing this customer up to attend Windycon as well. He outbid each of us on several items, and Bob, Alex and I took turns heartily cursing this cousin.

But I can’t complain!


Doug is a collector of pulps, as well as of pulp, science fiction and fantasy art. He co-founded and co-organizes the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. For many years his Tattered Pages Press published the pulp fanzine Pulp Vault, as well as other books on the pulps. He was one of the authors of The Adventure House Guide to Pulps, and has edited several pulp anthologies, including the Best of Adventure series. His book, Uncovered: The Hidden Art Of The Girlie Pulps, an in-depth study of the spicy pulps and their art, was named ForeWord Magazine‘s 2003 Popular Culture Book of the Year. In 2013, Bob Weinberg, Bob Garcia and he collaborated on The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay, a collection of Finlay’s gorgeous art. The Art of the Pulps, which he co-edited with Bob Weinberg and Ed Hulse, won the 2018 Locus Award for Best Art Book.

Doug’s last article for Black Gate was The Discovery of Digests!

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John Traylor

Great article

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