The A-Aabaca Book Bin used to boast it was “the home of a million books” on its sign on Vancouver’s Granville Street.
Owner Lloyd Cartwright might have still had that many when he died in Victoria on June 9.
Pallets and pallets of books from the stores he used to run in Vancouver and Victoria went up for sale last weekend at Able Auctions in Nanaimo, along with 25,000 records, and enough stereo equipment to start an electronics store.
Cartwright claimed to have had every edition of Playboy magazine, including issue No. 1 in 1953, featuring Marilyn Monroe, which sold for $1600 plus fees and taxes.
The sale closed Saturday, but the auction house would not reveal the sale prices for any of the items.
The Marilyn Monroe Playboy is one of the most collectible magazines of all time. But it isn’t quite as valuable as a comic in the Cartwright hoard, Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy No. 15, from August 1962, which sold for $6,000 plus fees and taxes.
The auction listing called it “the Holy Grail of all Marvel Comics.”
“It’s the first appearance of Spider-Man,” said Mike Daley of Able Auctions.
The value of a comic depends on its condition, and Cartwright’s Amazing Fantasy is rough — the front covered creased, tape holding it together on the edges. But it’s still quite pricey.
“If it’s a 9.2 grade and upward, they’re in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Daley said. “We had our comic specialist come over and look at it, and it’s not in that value. It’s probably closer to a $7,000 to $10,000 book, [which means] the range is probably $5,000 to $7,000 at auction.”
Somebody might well have traded it in for chump change at the A-Aabaca Book Bin, which Cartwright ran from the 1970s to 1987, when he moved the store to an old church at 1600 Quadra St. in Victoria.
Cartwright was quite a character, a Hollywood-handsome former city worker who claimed to have had flings with five Playboy playmates.
“He was married once, and that went down like a lead balloon,” said his old friend Vern Bethel. “He considered himself God’s gift to women, as a lot of ladies did.”
Bethel knew Cartwright for six decades, and knew he was a collector. But he was still stunned when he visited Cartwright last year in Victoria and saw how much stuff he had.
“He was a wheeler dealer in the flea markets,” Bethel said.
“He was able to buy low, sell high. But he also had a hoarding instinct, he wouldn’t let it go unless he got his price. His stock of stuff boggles the mind. Comic books, Playboys, original first editions, autographs, photographs, film, LPs, posters. You name it, he collected it.”
In recent years Cartwright seems to have been in constant battle with banks and the taxman. His house was seized in a bank foreclosure and after he died his collection was put up for auction by a bailiff to pay off more debt.
There are 757 lots in the auction, but he had so much stuff there will be a second auction on Sept. 14.
“This [first auction] is mostly the enormous record collection, the enormous book collection, guitars, antique furniture and decorative pieces, stereos, vintage turntables and receivers, that kind of thing,” Daley said. “The second is tools, a camera collection, outdoor stuff, crossbows, lots of binoculars, more magazines and books.”
Some stuff will sell for a fair bit — the first Fantastic Four comic from 1961 sold for $3,500. But other stuff seemed unlikely to fetch much. Three pallet lots of vintage Life magazines — hundreds, even thousands of magazines — had no bid Friday.
— With a file from the Times Colonist