Paintings by Carl Barks, longtime Disney artist and creator of the character Uncle Scrooge, have long been among the most sought-after comic art items. Few have been offered for public sale, and those that have were almost always saddled with a six-figure reserve price.
On Friday August 6, however, Heritage Auctions will be auctioning 10 original Barks paintings without reserves in a special session devoted to the collection of Maryland radio executive, Kerby Confer.
"It's been common knowledge in the hobby for years that Kerby Confer owned most of the best Barks paintings, which is why they've been off the market so long," said Barry Sandoval, Director of Operations of the Comics category at Heritage.
Though his name never appeared in a Disney comic, Barks wrote and drew Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge in some of the bestselling comics of the 1950s and 1960s.
His rollicking adventure tales have been cited as an inspiration by the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and mystery writer Janet Evanovich.
As Leonard Maltin once wrote in the Disney News, "… the most popular and widely read artist-writer in the world - by at least one educated estimate - is a man whom most people have never heard of: Carl Barks."
The lavish oil paintings feature Scrooge Middeck, the wealthy miser who loves to swim in his enormous money bin.
They began setting comic art auction records when the first were sold in the 1970s. Barks died in 2000.
Confer discovered Uncle Scrooge as an 8 year-old in Williamsport, PA, at a time when he was lucky if he even had a quarter in his pocket.
"We weren't dirt poor," he said, "but Daddy was gone, Momma worked at the paper plate factory and I had two little sisters."
He recalls opening his first Uncle Scrooge comic: "The very first panel is Scrooge diving off the diving board into the money," he said, "and the next panel he's burrowing through it like a gopher… I was totally captivated!"
Years later, Confer's successful career as an owner and operator of radio stations gave him the means to acquire elite pieces, and when he happened to see a print of the Carl Barks painting An Embarrassment of Riches - one of the oil paintings in this auction - pictured in a catalog, his collecting quest began.
Confer previously made international news in the collecting world when his block of four "Inverted Jenny" stamps was sold in 2005 for $2.9 million. He says he has a much stronger emotional connection to the Barks art, however.
"The joy of owning the Inverted Jenny when you put it in a safe deposit box and it sits there for years, it's like 'whoopee,'" he said, "but when you walk into a room and you see Scrooge McDuck diving off a diving board into his money and you get a giggle, I just can't describe what the difference is."
Meanwhile, if you're keen to discover what that 'difference' is, a rare and historic signed Walt Disney photograph is currently on the market and for sale to collectors.