Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention 2023, Part I
Some of the eye-popping pulps from the Bob Weinberg collection auctioned at Windy City
This weekend was the Windy City Pulp & Paper show, an annual gathering of about 600-800 pulp and vintage paperback enthusiasts in Lombard, Illinois. Founded by Doug Ellis and run by a dedicated and talented team, Windy City has gradually become my favorite convention. Back when Black Gate was a print magazine I used to get a table and sell back issues, but these days I spend my time more productively. Namely buying stuff, but also hanging out with friends and attending the auction.
And gawking at amazing sights. If you’re interested in rare and unusual items — such as mint-condition pulps, rare first editions, signed volumes, original art, and letters and esoterica from pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and countless others — Windy City is the place to be. It’s a chance to hang out with like-minded individuals, gossip, and (especially!) find incredible treasures.
Reader, I found some treasures.
[Click the images for pulp-sized versions.]
The Cave of Wonders…. er, the Windy City Pulp & Paper Show
Windy City was founded in 2003, and I’ve been attending since the very early days. It’s grown considerably, but in many ways it’s still a small and very friendly gathering. There’s an art show, a film festival, a con suite, some light programming (usually focused on new pulp writers), and an auction on Friday and Saturday night.
But the main draw is the Dealer’s Room. A few hundred sellers fill a vast hall with pulps, paperbacks, original art, magazines, rare books, movie memorabilia, comics, science fiction and pop culture collectibles, new books (fiction and non-fiction), and much more.
The catalog for the 2023 Robert Weinberg auction and estate sale — fascinating
reading all on its own — and the annual Windy City Pulp Stories program/souvenir book
One of the big draws this year was the auction, which included (for the third year in a row) high-grade pulps from the vast collection of Robert Weinberg, a legendary Chicago writer and collector who died in 2016. I met Bob a handful of times after I moved to Chicago — he was, in fact, the first person to sell me pulp magazines in the US, from his garage in Oak Forest, Illinois.
Bob was a friendly and gracious guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of the pulps, and he spent decades building a nearly unrivaled collection. The only folks I know whose collections came close were all older than Bob — Forrest J. Ackerman, Frank M. Robinson, Sam Moskowitz, and Jerry Weist.
The auction was spread over two nights, and included hundreds of items, including the best collection of Weird Tales I have ever seen.
There was an auction preview room, which allowed buyers (and the curious) to browse the items on offer, and after dinner on Friday and Saturday I spent plenty of time wandering through the room with Rich Horton, looking at the gorgeous pulps.
Here’s a few snapshots I took before the auctions began (click for bigger versions).
See a lot more Weird Tales pics from the auction in my article on the new Weird Tales posted yesterday.
When I was buying pulps fairly heavily in the 1990s, in the early days of eBay, I focused mostly on Astounding and Amazing Stories — for the simple reason that Weird Tales was grossly overpriced. I was able to assemble very nearly a complete set of Astounding without paying much more than $10-20 per issue, including the highly-sought issues with Lovecraft covers.
But Weird Tales? Issues cost $40-$50 and up in good condition, and the early ones commanded well over a hundred bucks — absolutely ludicrous for a pulp magazine that had originally sold for 25 cents. I wisely gave up collecting Weird Tales until prices became more reasonable.
I brought home a few hundred magazines from Windy City. This copy of the
October 1933 Weird Tales (with an early bid of $11,000) was not one of them.
As anyone who collects pulps will tell you, prices on Weird Tales did not become more reasonable.
When I ran into Bob Weinberg at the 2001 World Fantasy convention (the same con which we launched the first issue of Black Gate), I asked him what was going on — why had prices suddenly skyrocketed, after decades of general stability? What the heck had happened to pulps?
“eBay happened to pulps,” Bob told me. And he was right. eBay allowed an entirely new generation of collections to dip their toe into pulps — and it opened up a vast new market. Pulp prices headed north, and they haven’t come down since.
Weird Tales is the most important American fantasy pulp, the publication that published virtually all of the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, and the most important work by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and numerous other early 20th Century fantasy writers. The Weird Tales set auctioned on Saturday night — originally owned by Bob and other collectors — was without question the most beautiful I have ever seen. Issue after issue was in immaculate condition, and many sold at auction for record-breaking amounts. Early bids for the October 1933 issue (above) reached $11,000 and Randy Broecker told me it sold for $13,000.
Believe it or not, that’s not a record for Weird Tales. Here’s what Randy told me when I asked:
I believe that [October 1933 issue] went for $13k. I think the Dec. 1932 issue with the first Conan story recently sold at a Heritage Auction for around $19k. And the same issue in Saturday’s Windy City Auction went for $14k!!!
If you’re in the market for collectible fantasy pulps, Weird Tales is where the action is.
I couldn’t afford any of these gorgeous issues of Air Wonder Stories either (*sob*)
Once again, Weird Tales was outside my price range (you think I’d be used to it by now). I set my hopes more modestly, on a handful of pristine Air Wonder Stores, one of Hugo Gernsback’s early SF magazines. I have many of these issues, but none that look anything like this. Bob’s copies look like they were plucked off a newsstand early this morning.
Alas, my hopes were in vain. Most of the issues above sold for $200-$300 and up, twice what I was hoping to pay.
Rich Horton had more luck, buying a pair of Science Adventure pulps for $20.
I did have one bit of luck in the auction. I was very interested in a complete bound set of the companion magazine to Air Wonder, Science Wonder Stories. I had to leave the auction early on Friday, but I ran into Doug Ellis on the way out, and he offered to bid for me.
The complete 2-volume bound set of Science Wonder Stories I purchased in the auction
turned out to have been originally owned by the editor, Hugo Gernsback. Pretty cool!
Rich texted me at 10 pm to let me know that the Science Wonder set had sold for $230, well under my maximum bid. Doug had come through (thanks Doug!!), and I was able to pick up my treasures on Saturday morning.
When I did, Doug told me a little more about the set. They were part of Bob’s collection; he had purchased them from Sam Moskowitz, who had bought them directly from Gernsback’s office. They were likely file copies. It was thrilling to hear they had come from the publisher themselves — talk about a nice piece of science fiction history! They now occupy a place of pride in my modest pulp collection.
Steven H Silver and Rich Horton in the Dealer’s Room at Windy City
My general bad luck in the auction wasn’t the main story, however. I had far better luck in the Dealer’s Room, and ended up bringing home seven heavy boxes of magazines, comics, and paperbacks — a glorious haul, all things considered.
In Part II of this report, I’ll go into a lot more detail, and cover a few of the fascinating vendors I had the chance to speak with.
In the meantime, check out our previous coverage of the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show:
Windy City Pulp and Paper — 2007 — Report by Howard Andrew Jones
Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis) — 2012
Tales From Windy City Pulp and Paper — 2013
A Triumphant Return from Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2014
Celebrating Pulp Fiction Magazines at Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2015 (video)
A Report on Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part I — 2016
A Report on Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part II — 2016
Capturing the Elusive Nifft the Lean — 2016, by Doug Ellis
How to Assemble an Instant Science Fiction Collection — 2017
DMR Books Brings Pulp Sword & Sorcery Back Into Print — 2018
The 19th Annual Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention — 2019 by Doug Ellis
Total Pulp Victory: A Report from Windy City Pulp & Paper 2019
A Mecca for Book Hunters: Windy City Pulp & Paper — 2022
See all of our Convention coverage here.
Ah yes, it’s that time of year, when i walk into my classroom and my students exclaim, “Mr. Parker – you’re GREEN!”
What accounts for this bizarre change of shade? I’ve been reading John’s annual Windy City post, of course! SEVEN boxes?! I’m at the point where when a single book arrives in the mail, it’s a major problem finding a space on the shelf for it, and you come home with seven boxes.
I said I brought home stuff… I never said I had ROOM for it.
Sorry to miss you, John. Though I did see you in the distance going out the door with what must have been one of those seven heavy boxes of books. Only bought one box of old paperbacks myself, but they were all in great shape and quite reasonably priced. Of course, purchasing four paintings and four illustrations by George Barr did a lot more damage to my wallet.
Chuck! I apologize for not making more of an effort to track you down.
I am instantly envious of your glorious art acquisitions, however. Send us pics!!
Congratulations John on your Acquisitions.
However. in the second paragraph of your report, you bring up the very interesting word of notaries adjacent to the word pulp.
Is this the company that goes around to pulp shows and verifies that your pulp acquisitions and esoterica are indeed the real deal and not some fakes that people have recycled from less than authentic sources.
And therein lies a tale…..
LOL! I changed the sentence from “pulp notaries” to “pulp writers”, though I think it lost something in the translation. 🙂
I look forward to these annual reports, although with a touch of jealousy that I cannot attend. That Weinberg collection must have been impressive to see. Looking forward to seeing the interesting books you came back with in part 2.
Thanks for the article. “I believe that [October 1933 issue] went for $13k. I think the Dec. 1932 issue with the first Conan story recently sold at a Heritage Auction for around $19k.” Per Randy Broecker. The Weird Tales December 1932 issue at approx. 19k was pulled by and resold at Heritage for $5640.00 as a qualified Fine minus (coupon cut from last page).
Thanks for the additional detail, Vince! I want to get that stuff right, because when it comes to pulp pricing, things can get quoted and taken as gospel pretty quickly.
Unfortunately prices on Heritage and Comicconnect are approaching ludicrous, bearing in mind nearly 30% of Heritage’s price is commission. Comicconnect is all about pumping up prices. Near asking price offers on there don’t seem to be accepted, at least from what I’ve seen. In my opinion, given looming problems we are in for price drops and static prices for some time.
It is my hope that you will edit this information. I’m sure that Heritage and or others here can confirm as much.
Wow! the prices are stunning to say the least.