FSU confirms the theft of nearly 5,000 rare sci-fi and comic book items
The Florida State University Libraries has a real thriller on his hands.
Between March 17, 2020 and February 10, someone stole nearly 5,000 items from the Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection hosted by FSU Special Collections & Archives at Strozier Library, the university confirmed on Friday.
A total of 4,996 items are missing from the collection, which consists of comics and series on superheroes, science fiction, fantasy and horror, the university said in an email to the Democrat.
Over 1,200 serial titles are featured, mostly from the 1950s to the 1970s. Publications include those of Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground publishers, foreign language titles and pulp magazines.
According to one list, the collection includes:
- Avengers # 068 Publisher: Marvel Comic Group
- Avengers # 069 Publisher: Marvel Comic Group
- Avengers # 070 Publisher: Marvel Comic Group
- Avengers # 071 Publisher: Marvel Comic Group
- Avengers # 072 Publisher: Marvel Comic Group
- 80 pages. Giant – Batman (Silver Anniversary Issue) # 5 Publisher: National Periodical Publications
- 80 pages. Giant – Batman # 12 Publisher: National Periodical Publications
- 80 pages. Giant – Jimmy Olsen # 13 Publisher: National Periodical Publications
- 80 pages. Giant – Jimmy Olsen # 2 Publisher: National Periodical Publications
- 80 pages. Giant – Lois Lane # 14 Publisher: National Periodical Publications
It also includes several Big Little Books, “little texts” containing stories and illustrations involving popular characters, such as Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, according to Illuminations, an FSU Special Collections blog.
What was stolen:Read the list of missing items (PDF)
“These little tomes cost around 15 cents and were popular with young readers,” the post said. The collection, which is part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository, was stored in Strozier but was not on display.
The university first made the theft public by informing the Antique Booksellers Association of America. The association was founded in 1949 to promote interest in rare and old books and book collecting, and to foster collegial relationships, according to its website.
It was first reported online Tuesday in The New Antiquarian, a blog by the Association of Antique Booksellers of America.
The FSU Police Department said the theft was under active investigation. The Tallahassee Democrat applied for public registration on Friday for the theft report.
“We really want to get these items back. We are releasing this information now in the hope that it will produce credible leads that can help us recover these valuable materials for research and teaching purposes, ”said Gale Etschmaier, Dean of Academic Libraries at FSU, in an email.
Missing items may have appeared on the secondary market as early as March 2020, the university said. The exhibits are not likely to include an FSU identification, and the university said photos were not available.
FSU’s website on the collection says the content was stored in more than 50 containers. “FSU Libraries immediately alerted the Florida State University Police Department and opened an investigation,” the university said in response to the Democrat’s questions.
“The procedures in place at the time of the flight allowed for a rapid response and delays in processing information to facilitate the investigation. FSU Libraries conduct additional internal audit (based on professional practices for special collections and archives) of security protocols and practices to improve the integrity of collections areas and help protect against future theft.
The collection was donated by the late eminent Tallahassee lawyer Robert M. Ervin Sr. and his late wife, Frances Anne, in 1981. It is named after his son, Robert M. Ervin Jr., who continues to practice the right to Tallahassee.
Ervin Jr. said he was briefed on the theft during an in-person conference in June with Etschmaier.
“As I’m sure you can imagine, even though I no longer owned the collection, it’s a pretty devastating loss, both for me and for the libraries at FSU,” Ervin said in an e- mail. “I am saddened that anyone commits such a crime, a crime that will deprive prospective students of the research opportunities that so many students have enjoyed over the past decades.
“Of course, I still hope that some, if not all, of the stolen collection can be recovered. After speaking with the staff at Strozier, I am confident that they, as well as the investigating authorities , do whatever they can. “
Ervin, 68, said the collection was accumulated during his pre-teens and teenage years and then donated to FSU by his parents, with his permission, after he moved from his home.
“I don’t know the value, except I imagine it’s a lot more than it was when it was offered to FSU almost 40 years ago. However, the real value is the value of the research, which is invaluable, ”he said.
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Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at [email protected] or on Twitter @byrondobson.
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