Steve Borock: A Collecting Original… Reinvented

Posted: 12/21/2007

This article is copied with permission from Scoop

Even before we launched Scoop five years ago, we have been involved in profiling noted collectors in a number of venues. One of the main outlets for these efforts has been the pages of Diamond Dialogue, the news monthly produced by Diamond Comic Distributors for their retailing customers. In March 2000, Steve Borock was presented in Dialogue's regular "Star Collector" feature. Since then, circumstances have changed dramatically for him.

At the time, he had been a noted collector specializing in high-end comic books for years, acquiring the likes of the Mile High pedigree copies of Flash Comics #1, Flash Comics #86, and Flash Comics #92. While he eventually worked part-time as a dealer, it was definitely different than his current profession. Now, as President and Primary Grader of CGC, he refrains from trading in comics and has turned his attention to original comic book art. He attacked his new hobby with a familiar vengeance and quickly established himself as an enthusiast in this area as well.

Scoop: The last time we interviewed you about collecting, you had just begun working as Primary Grader for CGC. How has life for you changed in the past seven years?
Steve Borock (SB): Wow, what a way to start! I guess I would say that it has been a real roller coaster ride; lots of ups and downs.

Helping to create a safer environment for comic book hobbyists is probably, aside from having my daughter, Rachel, the greatest achievement of my life. I mean, I sure wish something like CGC was around my first 10 years of collecting, I would have learned about our hobby, grading, and restoration much faster and would not have been taken advantage of by as many unscrupulous people as I did. Another great thing is all the new friendships that I made by being in the position I am in. I have made friends with some amazing people!

The friends who have become family at CGC such as Mark Haspel, Paul Litch, Shawn Caffrey, Steve Eichenbaum, Dave Couillou, Chris Friesen and many others. Heck, I even met my significant other, Pam Kesten, when she was working for the Certified Collectibles Group in our coin division; NGC.

I have become great friends with some collectors like Rich Henn, John Dolmyan, Kevin Boyd, Chris Moore, Min Vu, Bill Cox, Scott Bonagofsky, Jerry Stephen, Kenny Sanderson, Ron Murry, Bryan Neely, Maggie Thompson, Steve Sibra, Stacy Sibra, Dave Melvin, Dave King, George Pantela, Michelle Nolan (even though, she knew me when I was just a young boy going to the early Phil Sueling shows in NYC), and too many others to remember at this moment that will be mad at me. These people really love our hobby!

I have also become friends with many more of the sellers and creators in our hobby then I knew before CGC as well. There are way too many to name, but the fanboy in me cannot believe that I have become great friends with Bob Overstreet! Pam and I now consider he and his wife Carol friends for life. They are just down to earth, great and kind people. Bob had a vision, saw it through even when many people fought against the first few price guides, and made it work to keep our hobby healthy and strong for almost forty years now. Not just that, but he only did it out of the love he has for this amazing hobby. He has and still is very humble about this great achievement. If it were not for Bob, there probably never would have been a CGC and, if it was not for CGC, I would probably never have met this great man and his wonderful wife! This hobby has truly been a wonderful thing to me in so many ways.

The down side, besides my hair getting grayish and thinner, was finding out that way too many people care about the “politics” of this hobby. They forget or have forgotten that the reason we got into this in the first place is: we just love comic books! We love to read them, we love the thrill of hunting down those issues we need for our collection, we love talking to our fellow hobbyists about comic books, and many other things. Sadly, too many forget all this and ruin the hobby for themselves and take others with them.

Another downer was finding out how many people could not be trusted. Heck, some were even considered the top in our hobby! Luckily, between CGC, the CGC chat board and its collector members, as well as many upstanding hobbyists, many of those people are now gone.

Scoop: How do you stay interested in the hobby given that the comic book industry is also your profession?
SB: Like I mentioned before, it’s the people I become friends with. This is probably why I love this hobby so much. The other thing is that I also love reading the new comics that come out every week! I can’t get enough of them. Some of the best stuff I have ever read is being published as we speak. Do not get me wrong, like all forms of entertainment, you have to wade though some dreck, but I will take almost all of the Vertigo comics being published now over most of the T.V. shows, or American movies being put out today.

Scoop: What was behind your change in collecting interests?
SB: I gave up collecting vintage comic books so that there would never be a perceived conflict of interest by the people whose books I was grading. My reputation, among collectors and sellers, is what got me nominated for the position at CGC and I was not going to ruin that for me, or for that matter, CGC and our employees.

I really did miss collecting comic books. Like many or all of us, I have the “collecting bug.” I missed the buying, selling, trading, talking and such that came with collecting comic books, so I found the next best thing with no conflict of interest: original comic book art.

Scoop: Was it a difficult transition?
SB: Oh, yeah! Think about it; I have been studying comic books (restoration, page counts, writers, artists, grading, etc.) and the comic book market (pricing trends, what is common, what is not, what is “hot”, what is not, etc.) since I was a kid and then I decide to jump into a part of the hobby I knew nothing about. The only piece of original art I owned at the time was the cover to Starman #7 by Tony Harris and the only reason I even owned it was because many years ago, before Ed Jaster was a comic book dealer, let alone the “head honcho” of the Heritage Auction Galleries' comic department, he and I were walking around a convention when I spotted that cover at Scott Eders' booth. It was just beautiful! Water color, pastel, and other materials making the painting seem alive. Not only that, but Starman by DC was in my top five comics being published at the time. The piece was priced at $750, but Scott said he would do it for $700. I looked at Ed and said, “I don’t know, it seems kind of steep at that price and I don’t know anything about art.” Ed just looked at me, laughed, and said, “Do you love it? Would you like to hang it in your home?” I said I would and he replied ,“Then don’t be an idiot. You just spent $22,000 on a single comic book that you are going to put in your vault! Why not just plunk down the $700, frame it, and look at something you love every day?” That made sense to me, so I bought it, and it has made me happy every time I look at. I will probably never sell that cover.

Scoop: What were your early favorites?
SB: Besides the Starman cover, still one of my favorites, they would be an Elektra pin-up from Marvel Fanfare by Akin & Garvey and the other is a two panel H.G. Peter Wonder Woman piece given to me by my friends Joe and Nadia Mannarino.

Scoop: How did your collecting develop from that point?
SB: In the beginning, I was all over the place. I was buying anything I thought was cool and could afford. I was buying panel pages, unpublished amateur art, splashes, sketches, covers, and prints. It was so different than how I collected comic books. With comic books I had set goals and followed them, that was not the case here and I decided to make a change. The goal I set was one I could never finish: get one splash page or cover by every artist I like. I had a lot of help from many of the top sellers and collectors in our hobby and that was going really great for a few years. I would frame and hang every splash and cover I bought or traded for. I am very lucky because there is so much wall space at the CGC offices that I get to view and share my collection everyday.

Scoop: What is your daughter's involvement with you in collecting at this point?
SB: She is really not collecting as much as helping me pick out which pieces to buy next. Being a 10 year old girl, of course she loves Catwoman, Supergirl, Spider-Woman, Wonder Woman, Phantom Lady, Storm, and even DC’s new Bulleteer. She just started a gallery in my CAF ( called “Rachel’s favorites.” This is such a great thing! We get to share a hobby, she learns about art and comic books and also loves that we can show it off to her friends and the world on the Internet. At the moment, she is so excited that we just won the Catwoman # 31 cover by Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti on Heritage, as well as D.C’s Countdown: Wildstorm cover featuring Donna Troy and Gen 13’s Fairchild among many other characters by Arthur Adams from eBay.

Scoop: Do you have other collecting habits, too?
SB: In original art, I also collect at least one piece of everything that Rich Koslowski has done that he has created, such as Three Geeks, The King, The List, Three Fingers, and Geeksville. He is a real talent, one of my favorite creator/writer/artists and he has just started writing for the new Marvel Comics Presents as well! I also collect Grateful Dead comic art by Tim Truman another great artist and, like me, a huge fan of the band. They were also a big fan of his art as well. Outside of the “comic book arena,” I also collect old movie posters, concert posters, and rock’n roll memorabilia; sometimes they cross-over and that’s kind of cool.

Scoop: What are the prizes of your art collection?
SB: Besides the ones mentioned above, The most dear and near to me is the “Standing on the Moon” piece Tim Truman did for the Grateful Dead Almanac. He actually put my daughter in it! I could not believe my eyes when I saw it published. It is hanging up in our home for everyone to see. Some others are the Spider-Woman #32 cover by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. It’s a killer cover featuring not only Spider-Woman, but Werewolf By Night as well. The background is photos of the Universal Monsters, my Moon Knight #8 cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, my Batman and the Monster Men #2 painting by Matt Wagner, my Haunted #1 page #1 spash by Steve Ditko, my Deadman piece from Kingdom Come: Revelations by Alex Ross, The Spectre #14 by Charles Vess, Blue Ribbon Comics #5 by Jack Kirby and many more. I could keep going because if I don’t think it’s a prize, I don’t want it.

Scoop: What art are you collecting at the moment?
SB: While I am still only collecting one piece by every artist I love, as I mentioned before, because my daughter is getting into it, I am letting her help me pick some pieces. I am also being a bit more picky about which pieces and artists I get. In other words, the piece has to be iconic of the character, one of the best examples of that artists' work, or a mix of both. I am also moving more towards painted/color/mixed media pieces, as I feel they have a special “pop” to them once they are framed.

Scoop: Do you have any stories about the one that got away?
SB: Two pieces come to mind, but only because I was outbid. They where both covers for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. One was by Bill Ward and the other was by Alex Schomburg.

Scoop: Do you have any specific pieces that you have sold that you wish you had kept?
SB: Almost everything, but the biggest regret was selling a Gil Kane pencil prelim of Giant Size Thor #1.

Scoop: What do you find the most rewarding about original art?
SB: Looking at my collection every day and sharing it with my fellow collectors as well as having my daughter enjoy the experience of collecting.

Scoop: Is there much of a concern in the original comic art market in regards to counterfeit artwork?
SB: Not that I have noticed. It’s more of a concern in the comic book collecting community about signatures on their comic books. In original art you can usually trace back to many of the owners of a specific piece.

Scoop: How is restoration viewed in the original comic art market? Is it the same as the comic book market?
SB: Oh boy! What a difference in restoration and grading! Some art collectors I have met, don’t even care if a quarter of the piece was replaced while some comic book collectors think that a pressed book is restored or, even worse, de-acidified comic, which would prolong its life, is restored. I like playing in the original art arena better when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Scoop: Do you think that comic book collectors should become open to original art and other related comic memorabilia?
SB: Sure, but only if they want to. I collect comic book related toys, posters, drinking glasses, buttons, and many other types of comic book memorabilia because I enjoy having them. I also have about 500 trades and graphic novels. My “war cry” has always been “Collect what you love,” because if you do not love it, why collect it? Do not buy something because someone says “You will make money on this or that,” just buy what you love and hope it does not lose its value.

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