A quick note from Ben, publisher of the Rare Comics Blog: Hi everyone, I am excited to be publishing the incredible story of the Wawa Collection, as shared by the team who discovered and acquired it: Craig Foxhoven and Philip Standhart. This collection is practically “famous” in the CPV niche, because it encompassed the full 1980’s price variant window, and is thought of by many as the first “pedigree” ultra-high-grade CPV collection to ever hit the market — many of us were lucky enough to acquire CBCS-graded copies which were consigned to MyComicShop. When Conan Saunders of MyComicShop joined our CPV price guide team last year, he was able to put me in touch with Craig & Phil. I commend them for not only recognizing what a once-in-a-collecting-lifetime-type opportunity they had come across, but having the guts to seize the opportunity and having the fortitude and follow-through to see it across the finish line! What follows is their amazing story, followed by a “Q&A”…
The Wawa Collection
By Philip Standhart and Craig Foxhoven
Craig and I worked together and were both comic collectors. I suggested the idea of buying raw books off Ebay and sending them for grading. We combined some cash together and picked a couple of key books to bid on. We won a few from the same seller, one of which was X-Men 141. We graded 2-3 of the books and all came back 9.6-9.8.
Craig suggested that we email the seller to see what else he had. I started an email conversation with Clarence, the owner of the collection to see what else he had. He told us he collected all different titles over 40 years and had almost anything we were looking for. Then, the bombshell – he had about 50,000 books!
Craig and I asked if we could fly up and see his collection to buy more from him. Clarence agreed and 2 weeks later we were on a flight to Detroit.
After an 8 hour car ride north from Detroit into Canada, we arrived at the small town of Wawa, Ontario. (The Wawa Goose Monument pictured at right is a landmark there).
We walked into a modest single level home and Clarence took us into the basement. He had built a room there complete with de-humidifier to protect the books. When he opened the door, Craig and I were speechless.
Inside the room, There were 4 rows of shelves with books stacked on either side from floor to ceiling! We went crazy!
Craig and I spent 2 days going through literally thousands of books and hand picked about 200. Some of the gems were Conan #1 and Luke Cage #1. As a token of his appreciation, Clarence gave us Incredible Hulk #271 with Rocket Raccoon. (That graded 9.8 later on.)
We returned to Florida with our short box of treasure and took it to Steve Borock who recently started CBCS. We sent those books off to be graded and started discussing options for a return trip. After negotiating back and forth over phone and email, we struck a deal to buy the ENTIRE collection.
We prepared by ordering plastic bags and boards along with long and short boxes for the transportation of the books. 4 weeks later, we flew back to Detroit and had a panel truck rented to collect our loot. Back to Wawa we drove and spent 3-4 hours the first night loading boxes. That night in our hotel room, Craig and I celebrated by looking at about 15 copies of Ms. Marvel #1 and Star Wars #42 while putting boxes together.
We went back the next morning and began packing. 144 long boxes and 10 hours later, we left Wawa and got to the border. We waited inside customs as the truck was x-rayed and inspected, all the way to the back of the truck, middle box on the bottom row!
We spent the night in Sioux St. Marie and left at 6 am the next morning because of snow. We drove 17 hours and spent the following night in Atlanta. Sunday, we made it to CBCS. Many thanks to Steve Borock, who allowed us to store the collection at the CBCS offices.
Over the next 6-8 months, Craig and I went through each and every book looking for the best books to grade. Once all the boxes were gone through, Craig went through many of them again to make sure nothing was missed. I was posting graded books and many raw runs on Ebay in the meantime and doing a lot of packaging.
The whole project took about 3 years. In the end, we graded approximately 10,000 books and moved the rest raw.
We went to many local comic cons including Tampa Con. At one point, I knew some of the books went as far as Australia.
The highlights of 50,000 books? Some overall highlights included two 9.9s of Uncanny X-Men #153 and #181, a 9.6 of G.I. Joe #21, a Daredevil #66 double cover graded 9.6, and a lot more. 95% of what we graded were 9.6s and 9.8s.
Here are some of the CPV highlights specifically, first from DC:
Batman 354 9.6
Batman 357 9.4
Batman 358 9.8
Batman 359 9.8
Batman 366 9.6
Batman 368 9.8
Batman 386 9.8
Batman 400 9.6
Batman 404 9.6
Blue Beetle 1 9.8
Brave and the Bold 200 9.2
Detective Comics 523 9.8
Detective Comics 525 9.8
Detective Comics 566 9.6
Doom Patrol 1 9.8
Flash 324 9.8
Jonah Hex 92 9.4
Masters of the Universe 1 9.8
New Teen Titans Annual 2 9.6
Suicide Squad 1 9.2
Saga of the Swamp Thing 20 9.4
Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 9.6
Saga of the Swamp Thing 25 9.8
Saga of the Swamp Thing 32 9.8
Saga of the Swamp Thing 37 9.6
Tales of the Teen Titans 44 9.6
Some of the Marvel CPV highlights:
Amazing Spider-Man 238 9.6
Amazing Spider-Man 239 9.8 x2
Amazing Spider-Man 252 8.5
Amazing Spider-Man 265 9.6
Avengers 257 9.8
Fantastic Four 281 9.8 DOUBLE COVER
Ghost Rider 81 9.8
G.I. Joe 21 9.6
Marvel Movie Showcase 1 9.6
Marvel Movie Showcase 2 9.6
Marvel Team-Up 141 9.6
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars 8 9.8
New Mutants 1 9.8 x8
New Mutants 25 9.8
New Mutants 26 9.8
Power Pack 1 9.8
Punisher 1 9.4
Punisher 2 9.8
Rocket Raccoon 1 9.6
Star Wars 68 9.8
Star Wars 81 9.8
Thing 1 9.8
Thor 337 9.4
Transformers 1 9.8
Transformers 8 9.8
Web of Spider-Man 1 9.8 x3
Wolverine Limited Series 2 9.8 x4
Wolverine Limited Series 4 9.8 x3
X-Factor 6 9.8
Uncanny X-Men 181 9.9
Uncanny X-Men 201 9.6
Outside of Marvel and DC, a CPV highlight was Voltron 1 9.8
Notably missing from our list of graded copies were Batman 423, Booster Gold 1, Legends 3, and Unknown Soldier 268. These were probably there in the collection but were not selected to be sent for grading by CBCS (my gut says they were there in the collection but I couldn’t find them listed on any invoices).
Here is a sampling of pictures of some of the CPV highlights mentioned above:
I know for Craig and I, the Wawa collection was the comic find and adventure of a lifetime. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t do it again, but I bet if an opportunity arose, I could talk Craig into it!
Philip Standhart & Craig Foxhoven
Q: Thank you guys, so much, for sharing your incredible story! And I appreciate the opportunity for this Q&A. Can you share anything about Clarence and how he came to collect comics?
A: Clarence, the original owner of the collection, worked at a copper mine up in Canada. He began buying comics in the late 60’s and planned that those would be his retirement plan. He started posting individual books on Ebay, and we bought them up. After seeing the condition in person, we scheduled our first meeting with him!
Q: You mentioned he had collected for 40 years; what were the approximate start and end dates of the collection?
A: The start/end date of the collection is 1969-2009 ish.
Q: From the CPVs we saw consigned to MyComicShop, it seemed like Clarence acquired 100% of his comics from a local newsstand: Is that true, or were there direct editions in the collection too? [What makes CPVs so relatively rare as a percentage, is their newsstand exclusivity, crossed with Canadian exclusivity, plus the fact that most collectors in the 80’s were taking home and preserving direct editions from comic shops — it seems Clarence may have been the exception to that norm and preserved newsstand comics even well into the 80’s?].
A: Clarence acquired at least 90-95% from the newsstand during those years from 10/82-9/88. He bought everything that was available to him which means he had multiple copies of these newsstand issues, sometimes up to 15-20 ea!!! That’s how he ended up with 45,000+ books.
Q: Was the collection newsstand all the way through to the 2009 end?
A: Almost all of the collection was newsstand, so basically yes it was nearly all that way, through to the end.
Q: Was the collection mostly intact when you acquired it (did you catch him at the beginning of his online sales) or had he already sold off substantial parts of it by the time you found him?
A: The collection was mostly intact and he was very particular and had everything cataloged. I tried to get those log books from him but surprisingly he would not part with them. I even took pictures of the contents because it was so interesting to me. He priced every book according to Overstreet and gave the “mint” books a 9.2 price which as you know is not indicative of the true market value of these gems. He had sold off some key books such as Batman 232, Amazing Spider-man 129 and Iron Man 55 for example. We caught him near the beginning of his online sales.
Q: I’m wondering whether all Marvel and DC titles of 10/82 to 9/88 were represented in the collection — were there any noteworthy titles absent that you recall?
A: All Marvel and DC titles were represented and I don’t recall any titles that were absent.
Q: Do you know if every issue number was represented in the collection for the titles he collected, or were there any issues absent that he missed that you noticed?
A: Mostly every issue number was represented that I recall. What we did was box every book as carefully as we could and brought approx. 140 long boxes from his basement up the steps and onto a rental truck in the course of one night and the next morning. Time was of the essence because a winter storm was coming and Clarence said we would be stuck up there for awhile!! This was the end of October 2014. As a result the books and titles weren’t as neatly cataloged as he had them. We also separated them according to grade, etc for encapsulation.
Q: I’ve got to ask about one specific issue that we believe should exist but has still never been confirmed to date after all these years: Did he have a Zatanna Special #1 CPV (with $2.85 cover price) from 1987?
A: No, he did not have the Zatanna Special #1.
Q: In the CPV niche many have observed that there are more Marvel books out there than DC; was that reflected in Clarence’s collection? Do you have a sense of roughly what proportion of the collection was Marvel and what was DC (and did he also collect books from other publishers as well)?
A: You are correct that there are more Marvel CPV’s than DC. Approx. 60/40. He had extensive Charltons and Gold Key as well.
Q: Was the collection considered “too modern” to be an official pedigree at the grading company level?
A: It’s funny because I pleaded with Steve Borock to get the WAWA pedigree on it but he shot it down every time. Because the scope of the whole collection was not high grade which was the only thing keeping it out of pedigree status. In the beginning I think neither of us had a clue of the CPV goldmine we discovered. In hindsight the CPV aspect of this collection would easily have garnered pedigree status. I believe Doug Schmell from Pedigree Comics, who has the remaining books from the WaWa collection, is working on getting what’s left some designation.
Q: Can you share a little bit about why you chose CBCS over CGC for grading?
A: We chose CBCS because they were a startup and Craig knew Steve Borock, one of the founders of CGC (and CBCS). They offered us a deal on their services and let us store the books there.
Q: Can you share a little bit more about yourselves, and what you do for a living?
A: Craig and I are both physical therapists who grew up with a love for comics. My older brother Ed taught me how to read with comics and I was hooked ever since – especially Spider-Man because I felt I could associate with a teenager like Peter Parker! Craig’s brother actually owned a comic shop at one time, so Craig had access to a lot of comic swag and even original art. He’s more a DC guy, I’m the Marvel guy. Both of our wives start to sweat when we start talking comics, especially after the Wawa find!
Q: So did you guys sell everything from the WaWa collection, or did you keep a few books for yourselves?
A: Yes of course we held onto a few of the books! The beauty of the Wawa collection was there were multiple copies of many of the titles, allowing us to keep some.
Q: Thanks so much Craig and Phil, I really appreciate you opening up about this incredible adventure, sharing your story, and answering these questions!
A: Thank You for your interest!
One thought on “The Story of the Wawa Collection”
Hi Ben, long time? I hope this message finds you and yours healthy, well and productive during this pandemic. I was one of your earlier readers and beneficiaries of your site from back in 2015/2016. Based on what you had written on your blog, I began buying up several key high grade 9.8 newsstand and CPVs while they were still under the radar. As you can imagine I am sitting pretty now. Interestingly enough, I purchased several key cbcs 9.8 CPVs on Mycomicshop from the Wawa collection! 🙂 I was even lucky enough to pick up an ASM 238 CPV in cgc 9.8 for a bargain on eBay! If life ever allows us to cross paths in real life I will owe you a nice steak dinner! Cheers!
LikeLiked by 1 person