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Dough rises as ex-baker's rare Spider-Man comic heads for auction

Published 15/02/2016

Walter Yakoboski holds an auction guide featuring one of his comic books, Amazing Fantasy No 15, which features Spider-Man (AP)
Walter Yakoboski holds an auction guide featuring one of his comic books, Amazing Fantasy No 15, which features Spider-Man (AP)

Walter Yakoboski scraped together nearly every penny he made as a cook to begin buying a small collection of rare comic books for 10,000 dollars (£6,900), hoping his boyhood passion could one day become an investment.

That was in 1979 and at last his pay day could be looming.

Mr Yakoboski's copy of Amazing Fantasy No 15 from 1962 - which introduced the world to Spider-Man - could fetch 400,000 dollars (£276,000) or more when it goes up for auction later this month.

"This is the first time I really sold anything," said Mr Yakoboski, 60, who wants to use the proceeds to buy his late father's 17-acre vegetable farm in Calverton, on eastern Long Island, New York.

He insists that the fact that he was recently made redundant as a supermarket baker after more than 27 years is not the reason he is selling now.

"I have had it for 36 years and it's just time," said Mr Yakoboski, who is also is selling a 1963 Spider-Man, as well as two Fantastic Four editions and a Justice League of America which, combined, could bring an additional 75,000 dollars (£52,000).

But the crown jewel is the Amazing Fantasy issue, which Mr Yacoboski originally bought individually for 1,200 dollars (£827) in 1980. Its cover, featuring a price of 12 cents, shows Spider-Man clutching a villain in one arm and swinging from his web with the other.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko co-created the web-slinger and his alter ego, the educationally-gifted but awkward Peter Parker, whose life changed forever when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. It paved the way for Spider-Man adventures on television and the big screen.

Lon Allen, managing director of the comics department at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which is conducting the sale on Thursday, said there were probably 4,000 to 5,000 copies of Amazing Fantasy No 15 in circulation, but Mr Yakoboski's copy was in nearly mint condition.

"It was graded 9.4 on a scale of one to 10, that's what makes it super desirable and really special," Mr Allen said. "Whoever buys this comic will be joining an elite club."

Mr Allen said a private collector reportedly paid 1.1 million dollars (£758,000) for a near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy No 15 in 2011, but estimated the amount Mr Yakoboski's edition may fetch could be a record for a public auction of the comic book.

Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of New York-based Metropolis Collectibles, said the 1.1 million-dollar sale, which he was involved with, involved a comic book graded higher, at 9.6.

"This book will do great; it's an incredibly important book," he said. "When you have a sale like this there is a residual effect on the entire market, so that also makes it very exciting. It's definitely a special book."

Mr Yakoboski admits he never thought about such a pay day when he began reading comics as a child, sometimes sneaking away from trips to the library to visit a nearby comic book store.

The collecting of rare editions continued as an adult and Mr Yakoboski says his mother thought it was a crazy way to spend his hard-earned money.

His most cherished copies were stashed in a bank safety deposit box - he still has 38 prized editions left - while lesser comics fill cabinets in his Middle Island, New York, home.

Heritage Auctions' Allen credits Mr Yakoboski for having a good eye for what might become valuable. He said while others sought to buy entire collections Mr Yakoboski targeted what he thought were the highest quality and rarest comics.

"The best stuff always outpaces the market and he bought the best stuff," Mr Allen said. "That was genius."

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