The Captain's Veranda by Joe Sarno


When it comes to " one-upmanship" one of the best was worked by Gene Kousek againest Acme in the mid 1960's. Uncle Gene, as he was affectionately known, is a legend in his own right, and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to tell you some great Gene Kousek stories in the near future. Gene was great at finding old paper, but he often by-passed the book stores. His thrust was mostly in old magazines, suck as Life, Look, Collier's and Liberty but he got into comics and big-little-books in a most unusal way. One day he was at the Acme book store purusing through their comics, but especially their big-little-books.

During the course of his visit he was treated qutie rudely by Noel Roy, as was often his wont. Gene didn't take it lightly. Now Gene was from Racine, Wisconsin originally, and at that time was living with his wife and family in Palatine, Illinois. But his folks still lived in Racine, and once a year he would stay with them about a week to help his Dad around the house and just relax and enjoy life. Now, in case you didn't know, Whitman had a big printing plant in Racine and a quick study of ant B.L.B. always bore the indicia: "Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin". Well in planning his next visit home Gene placed a classified ad in the Racine newspaper several weeks before that he was buying big-little-books. When he got up there for his usual visit there were a number of calls that his mom had taken that looking promising. One was a bonanza!1 He went to a fella's house who eas retired, but had worked at the Whitman plant for a number of years. Practically every day he took a number of Whitman items that he had printed that day home with him in his lunch box, ostensibly to give to relatives as a birthday and Christmas presents. The gentlemen didn't have any kids himself. But the guy ended up selling Gene 1,700 mint pieces that included over 1,000 B.L.B.'s as well as other Whitman publications such as colering and activity books. Now Whitman only published around 400 B.L.B.'s for the entire run, and goodly number of them were represented in the collection, so there were multiple copies of virtually every title. Now before we get to the Acme situation I sould let it be known that Gene paid approimately $500 for the collection.

Several months later the same guy sold 1,700 more pieces to Dale Manesis of The Good Old Days, so he'd been holding out on Gene. After selling off a few pieces (including a complete set of 12 Flash Gordon B.L.B.'s to Rich Hauser, which I got to see one day -- and boy were they MINT!), Gene sold most of remaining books to Collectors Book store in Los Angeles, for $1,000; so he doubled his money, which is what Gene tired to do most of the time. Collector's pulled one each of all the B.L.B.'s and sold them to The University of Minnesota for their dime library for $3,000. Now comes the fun part of our story.

One day shortly after buying the books, Gene took all the best titles form the collection, the Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon's, Dick Tracy's, Mandrakes, Shadows, and Phantoms, and put them in a box and took them down to Acme. He dropped the box on Noel Roy's desk at the front of the store, and let Noel and Sam salivate over them for a considerable time. He then packed them back into the box and walked out of the store. He got his one-upmanship, and couldn't have been happier. Actually, they became pretty good friends after that, but I don't recall that he sold them much stuff over the ensuring years. Not sure why?

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Originally published in the C.B. WEEKLY (Comic Book Collectors Bulletin) Vol3 #58 February 07, 2001 copyright Joe Sarno and respective copyright holders 2003.